Nov 28 2017

Update: Mystery Foto #47 Solved: Long Island Estate of Virginia “Birdie” Graham Fair Vanderbilt

This holiday weekend's Mystery Foto was a never-before published aerial of a Vanderbilt estate.

Updated 12/15/2017: Aerial dated October 12, 1933 and pool discovered.

Mystery Foto questions:

  • Identify the owner of this estate and the relationship to William K. Vanderbilt Jr.

The 100-acre estate was built for Virginia "Birdie" Graham Fair Vanderbilt, the wife of William K. Vanderbilt, Jr from 1898 to 1927. Willie K. and Birdie separated in 1909 and did not divorce until 18 years later. The estate was sold to Henry William Sage in 1927 and then to Edouard LeRoux who named the mansion Cottage Normandy.

  • Link the architect of the estate's residence to the Long Island Motor Parkway

 John Russell Pope was the architect for the first six Long Island Motor Parkway Gate Lodges (1908-1911) and Petit Trianon (1911).

  • Identify the location and orientation of the aerial.

The estate was located east of Cedar Swamp Road (Route 107) in present day Brookville (then Jericho). The intersection of Hemlock Drive and Cedar Swamp Road was the entrance to the estate. The  aerial was look north-east.

  • What is the approximate date of the aerial?

Update: The aerial was dated October 12, 1933 when it was owned by Henry Sage.

Comments (11)

Congrats to Greg O., Steve Lucas, Dave Russo, Tim Ivers, Art Kleiner, Dick Gorman,  and Frank Mendyk for identying the estate of Birdie Vanderbilt in Brookville.

Kudos to Art Kleiner, Frank Mendyk, Steve Beck and Frank Femenias for providing supporting infoemation and jpegs for the Mystery Foto.


Howard Kroplick

Update 12/15/2017: 1938 Aerial

Brian McCarthy:This image displays what I believe is the former swimming pool on the estate. It's definitely not in the 1926 aerial...possibly visible in the 1950 aerial. It must have been installed by either Mr. Sage or Mr. LeRoux, even though it's described as the Vanderbilt Swimming Pool. If still existing, it would be in the front yard of  the current home.

Frank Femenias: I saw the pool in an earlier aerial, mistaking it for an additional garden within the yard. A pool that far from the house seemed incorrect, prompting me to measure the distance. Are you ready for this? A whopping 550' (1/10 mile+) wet walk back to the house! That's almost two football fields. Lol. Visitors were guaranteed to be dry upon reentering Cottage Normandy.The size of this yard is still vivid in my mind. Unforgettable!


Background on the Estate

Source: Long Island's Prominent North Shore Families: Their Estates and Country Homes Vol. II

Source: John Russell Pope: Architect of Empire

Source: John Russell Pope: Architect of Empire

New York Times, May 20, 1941

Submitted by Art Kleiner

New York Times, September 30, 1951

Submitted by Art Kleiner

Other Views of the Estate

Circa 1930

Submitted by Frank Mendyk

Submitted by Frank Mendyk

Current view of the estate's location looking north.

Submitted by Frank Mendyk

Virginia "Birdie" Graham Fair Vanderbilt (1875-1935)

Biography of Birdie Vanderbilt

New York Social Diary on Birdie's NYC Mansion

Life of Virginia Graham Fair Vanderbilt

Strange But True: Birdie Vanderbilt's NYC mansion was eventually owned by the sister of the owner of Chrysler's Chrysler- Thelma Chrylser Foy.

Im 1899, 21-year old Willie K. married 24-year old Birdie. Their mothers were neighbors in Newport, Rhode Island.

Birdie at the 1905 American Elimination Trial.

In the winter of 1907, Willie K. (left) and Birdie went on vacation at the most luxurious hotel in Florida, The Breakers in Palm Beach.

Birdie at the 1908 Vanderbilt Cup Race.

Maps of Jericho and Brookville

1906 The estate consisted of several land parcels.

1914 Submitted by Art Kleiner

Note: Birdie also owned property west of Cedar Swamp Road.



Submitted by Art Kleiner


Submitted by Art Kleiner

"Then & Now"

1926 aerial  Source:

Submitted by Frank Mendyk, Art Kleiner and Steve Beck (see below comment on how to use the amazing Nassau County map/aerial website)

Showing present day Hemlock Drive and Quaker Ridge Drive.

1950 aerial Source:

Submitted by Art Kleiner

Location of mansion and gardens in current Google Earth aerial. Note: The property extended to Route 106.

Submitted by Frank Femenias.

A garden wall of the estate is apparently still standing as highlighted in Wikimapia.

Submitted by Art Kleiner.

Submitted by Art Kleiner.

Submitted by Art Kleiner.

1950 Aerial  Source:

An outbuilding is circled It was likely the residence of the estate's manager.

The outbuilding was torn down around 2008.

The outbuilding as seen  on May 12, 2006. Note: The Tudor features matched those of the main house.

I took a photo of this building not knowing it was part of the Vanderbilt estate.

Femenias' Findings (Submitted by Frank Femenias)


Nov 23 2017 Greg O. 11:22 PM

Awesome! What’s better than an aerial of a LIGC estate linked to the LIMP?! Zach from has some great info on this estate.

-Identify the owner of this estate and the relationship to William K. Vanderbilt Jr.

The Virginia Graham Fair Vanderbilt estate. She built this house following her separation from William K. Vanderbilt Jr. and kept the estate until moving to ‘Fairmont’

-Link the architect of the estate’s residence to the Long Island Motor Parkway
The great John Russel Pope, architect for some of LIMP lodges, Petit Trianon and other LIMP buildings.

-Identify the location and orientation of the aerial.
The estate was located just East of Rout 107 in Brookville. This aerial is looking Easterly over the formal gardens

-What is the approximate date of the aerial?
Built in 1911, she stayed until 1927, so this could have been at any time within that range, but I’d guess closer to 1927 since that’s when many other Fairchild aerials are from.

Nov 24 2017 Steve Lucas 9:22 PM

That’s the Brookville estate of Virginia Graham Fair (Birdie) Vanderbilt, first wife of Wiilie K. Jr. It was built around 1911 not long after their separation and designed by John Russell Pope who also designed the first six toll lodges on the LIMP (Meadow Brook, Massapequa, Bethpage, Garden City, Great Neck, and Roslyn). I believe Birdie stayed there until shortly after her divorce from Willie K. was final (1927) then moved to Manhasset while her new home on East 93rd. Street in Manhattan was being built. So I’ll guess the photo is from around that time: 1927-1928. Also a guess but I think we’re looking north or northeast.

Nov 24 2017 Joe Oesterle 11:18 PM

This photo is looking east from the Shelter Rock Rd, toward the Vanderbilt Strathmore property, in Manhasset.  There were many prominent owners, and part of the property was meant to resemble the original Petite Trianon in France.  The vast estate once included what is now the old Jock Whitney estate.  The original building still exists today, but the lawn and gardens are now suburbs.

Nov 25 2017 Dave Russo 10:34 PM

This is the Virginia Graham Fair Vanderbilt Estate in Brookville designed by John Russell Pope, built in 1911 which is now between Hemlock Drive and Quaker Ridge Drive. The estate was demolished. A portion of the formal garden wall still remains. I know this because I’m crazy. Somebody’s pool basically sits exactly where the estate stood.

Prior to her separation from LIMP Willie K’s dad, she lived in Deepdale in Great Neck. After splitting up, she had this nice little cottage built in Brookville. This was ok for about 15 years when she then purchased Fairmont in Manhasset and lived there until she died in 1935. Not a bad trio of residences!

Nov 26 2017 Steven Vilardi 9:51 AM

I used to teach sailing at the old Jacobsen’s Shipyard, Oyster Bay, NY.  Along the southern portion of Shore Rd is a similar house with high pitched roofs. The home is only visible from the bay. I would scare and tease my students by telling them the house was haunted. Whenever we got close the wind would suddenly gust up. Of course the wind was only a result of the shape of the hills in the harbor but it sure scared the heck out of those that heard the “Sailors yarn”!

Nov 26 2017 Tim Ivers 11:15 AM

Virginia Fair Graham Vanderbilt estate in Brookville.
She was the ex of William K (Jr.)
It was off Cedaar Swamp Rd (107)
Photo about 1927

Nov 27 2017 Art Kleiner 7:08 AM

Identify the owner of this estate and the relationship to William K. Vanderbilt Jr.
Estate was the residence of Virginia Graham Fair (Birdie), wife of Willie K. who lived there during their separation between 1910 and 1927, when they were officially divorced.  After 1927 Birdie moved elsewhere and the estate changed hands a couple of times before finally being sold to developers in the early 1950s for housing starting at around $50,000.

Link the architect of the estate’s residence to the Long Island Motor Parkway
John Russell Pope was the architect who also built many of the Motor Parkway Lodges.

Identify the location and orientation of the aerial.  Brookville, area near today’s Cedar Swamp Road and Hemlock Drive.  North, northeast.  According to, part of a wall of the estate remains on the property of 7 Hemlock Drive (see photos being sent to Howard separately). 

What is the approximate date of the aerial?  early - mid 1920s. 

Nov 27 2017 Dick Gorman 2:37 PM

Mystery Friday Foto #47… Virginia Graham Fair Vanderbilt, first wife of William K Vanderbilt Jr., was the owner of this estate. The architect was John Russell Pope who designed six of the LIMP Toll Lodges. The estate was located in Jericho or possibly in Brookville.

Nov 27 2017 Frank Mendyk 2:49 PM

The estate pictured in the mystery photo is that of Virginia Graham Fair Vanderbilt.  She was the wife of Willie K.  She stayed at the estate from 1911 until 1927 when she was separated from Willie K.  In 1927 she moved to Fairmont in Manhasset.

The architect of the estate was John Russell Pope.  Pope was the architect for the many LIMP Toll Lodges and building.  He also designed many of the Vanderbilt’s homes and estates.
The location of the estate would be in present Day Brookville between Hemlock Dr (#161) and Quaker Ridge Dr.  The photo is taken facing generally north.

Based on the photos from (1926 and 1950) and a photo from Old Long Island .com (sometime before 1926), I would speculate that photo was taken from around 1934 to 1935.

Nov 27 2017 frank femenias 3:16 PM

Nice house on spacious property. Incredible art work on the garden lawns!

Nov 27 2017 Al Velocci 11:52 PM

Howard,  Great mystery photo, have some questions though. Yes, all the books said Pope designed the house ca. 1911. However,  the Brooklyn Daily Eagle in an extensive article in the Dec. 7, 1913 issue states the structure was only completed that year, 1913. They also quote Mrs. Vanderbilt that she did not hire an architect but pretty much designed it herself. This building was completely destroyed by fire the next year, 1914.  Also, the article states her immediate neighbors were Ellis, Park and Burrell. all located on the west side of Rte. 107,  In a related article John R. Hill is mentioned as the builder. Remember him? He built one on the Motor Parkway lodges. Let me play the devil’s advocate here, maybe thats not her estate. Al.

Howard Kroplick

Birdie also owned property on the west side of Route 107. The remains of an abandoned mansion are still there.

Nov 27 2017 Howard Kroplick 11:55 PM

Steve Beck
I’m not sure if you know of this resource, but Nassau County has a nice mapping tool online.  Here’s a link to a present day lot on the former Virginia Graham Fair Vanderbilt Estate:
You can clearly see the wall that remains and the pool where the main building used to be to which Dave refers.

Zoom out one click on the partially obscured “-“ in the upper left, then click on Layers in the upper right, and turn on “Nassau County 1926”

Note the “+” magnification button may be obscured on the site, but double clicking gets you the same zoom-in

If you Zoom out, you can clearly trace the LIMP throughout the county. Easy to see where it matches up to the present roadways.
Keep up the good work on the site!

- Steve

Nov 28 2017 Al Velocci 5:29 PM

Howard, Let me revise and clarify some statements I made yesterday.  It has been established that Pope designed a country home for Mrs. Wlliam K. Vanderbilt Jr. in 1911. At the time she owned 125 acres of land on the west side of Cedar Swamp Rd.
A 60 plus room “cottage” is completed for her in 1913. In 1914 it is destroyed by fire and burns down the the ground. Articles in both the Brooklyn Daily Eagle and the New York Times clearly state her neighbors at the time were Ellis , Park and Burrill. Two weeks before the fire she purchased a tract of land on the east side of Cedar Swamp Rd.  directly across the way from the property on the west side. Its not clear if this included the property with frontage of Rte 106. In 1915 William K Vanderbilt Sr. is now the owner of the 125 acres on the west side of Cedar Swamp Rd. and builds a country home called Stepping Stones. So, I’m inclined to think Pope designed the the building on the west side of Cedar Swamp Rd. in 1911 and her mansion on the east side of that road is of a later date than 1911 and possibly by some one else other than Pope. Al.

Howard Kroplick

The mansion on the east side of Cedar Swamp Road is described with a photo in the book “John Russell Pope: Architect of Empire “(see above).

Dec 01 2017 Al Velocci 4:46 PM

Howard, Spent the afternoon at the Nassau County Real Estate office looking at deeds. What I found was that Virginia Vanderbilt Jr. purchased the tract of land on the east side of Cedar Swamp Rd. inscribed Mimno on the 1906 Atlas, in May 1913. In September that year she acquired the piece inscribed Mrs. Willett Titus in the same Atlas from a Alfred Ackers in September of 1913. He had purchased the parcel from the Titus family in late 1906. IN Feb of 1914, she purchased the McGunnigle property, abutting the Mimno piece.  I could find no property associated with Willie’s wife on the east side of Cedar Swamp Rd. prior to 1913. As an aside. I came across an article in the May 8, 1914 issue of the Suffolk County News stating that Mrs. William K. Vanderbilt Jr. has leased for the year the home of Mrs. James B. Taylor, at Jericho. The rental is $18,000   Al.

Dec 10 2017 S. Berliner, III 2:29 PM

Much of this is new to me; thanks, all.  Oh, my, how access there from the Jericho Pike has changed!  I well remember when they redid that interchange, leaving the Maine Maid Inn stranded.  A small, hand-lettered, wood sign with an arrow pointed the way through the construction.  Badly done, it read, “TOMAINE MAID”!  Wish I’d thought to snap a pic.  Sam, III

Dec 10 2017 Brian D McCarthy 10:11 PM

Hello Howard. This comment pertains to our exploration & your 12/9/2017 blog about the findings, etc. You’ll understand why I’m posting here.

I’m curious about the location of the former Vanderbilt Swimming Pool. The pool is mentioned in the New York Times articles that Art posted here ( 5/20/1941 & 9/30/1951 ). I know the former location of ” The Reflecting Pool “. But where was ” The Large Swimming Pool “? It’s noted in the 1951 article that the swimming pool would be utilized by the then new development. I couldn’t locate this pool on the aerials. No doubt it’s been filled in ( no pool could last from then until now ).

Dec 10 2017 Brian D McCarthy 10:40 PM

It’s me again, Howard. This is in regards to the small fire hydrant we first came across during our exploration ( good photo of it on your 12/9/2017 blog ). And you’ll see why I’m posting my comments here.

Greg O. and I made out the name “Middleton” inscribed on this hydrant. Thinking this may be a manufacturers name, I searched the net. No luck, yet. This may mean nothing, but the 1906.14,23, and 27 property maps that Art submitted here show a “Middleton S Burrell/ M. S. Burrill” owning quite large propertys W/O Cedar Swamp Rd, north & south of Jericho Tpke. I found that his estate was named “Jericho Farm”. The property was sold in 1953 to The Meadow Brook Country Club.

On the 1914 property map, Birdie’s estate is shown W/O and E/O Cedar Swamp Rd. Her estate that burnt down was just north of Burrell’s property.

Maybe there’s nothing to figure out here, but the fact that the hydrant is inscribed Middleton, and Middleton S Burrell resided on the other side of Rte 107 makes me ponder.

Dec 11 2017 Art Kleiner 6:09 AM

Another investigation, Brian! The hydrant is similar to one I found a year and a half ago at the Longfields estate in Old Westbury (campus of Old Westbury college).  That one has “W&B Doo . . .” on it but not much more I can make out.  I’m sure I did some research on what I had at the time but wasn’t able to find anything.  But since you raised the issue of Vanderbilt’s hydrant, probably will so some more!  Thanks.

Dec 11 2017 Greg O. 5:49 PM

Art, Brian-
I too tried looking up info on the hydrant without any luck. While it fairly clearly does say ‘middleton’ on the one side, I’m beginning to think that was not a manufacturer at all. I did find a website listing all fire hydrants and valves made for each state, none of them from any state was named Middleton.

Dec 12 2017 frank femenias 1:19 AM

I used the location ‘Middleton’ in Massachusettes, but to no avail. This is a mystery on its own. The answer’s out there somewhere.

Dec 12 2017 Steven Vilardi 9:41 AM

1. The Tucker looks great the way it is. Paint the pealed areas only and keep everyone happy by keeping it on the road.

2. Middleton hydrant sounds British. Could it possibly be a British manufacturer?
Howard Kroplick

Thanks for the comment. We will be bringing it back to its original color and also keeping it on the road.

Dec 12 2017 Steven Vilardi 10:06 AM

There is a middleton in manchester uk and there are hydrant manufacturing companies there.
Here is one:

Here is another possibility: a community named middleton somewhere in the world had a surplus of hydrants and they were sold to the builder of the estate.. I can almost bet that somewhere in Dubai there are manholes that say Brooklyn on them.

Dec 13 2017 Brian D McCarthy 9:22 PM

In anyone is interested in viewing the small fire hydrant in it’s former glory, here is the site:

You’ll see “Middletown” & W & B Douglas”

It’s always fun coming across the old & interesting!

Dec 13 2017 frank femenias 11:28 PM

Wow, nice work Brian. They look exact except the missing chain and added “W” to Middletown. Coming from nearby Connecticut, and opened for business as early as the 1800s, that must be it!

Dec 14 2017 S. Berliner, III 2:07 AM

Well done, Brian!  “Fun”?  This thread is priceless!  And I thought MY website was esoteric.  Sam, III

Dec 14 2017 Dave Russo 12:49 PM

The exploration, findings, and enthusiasm these posts about this estate have produced has been great. I’ve been trying to nudge Howard to start another web site, I know he has nothing better to do lol, focusing specifically on Gold Coast mansions, remnants, history, ruins, etc. There is a lot of really great stuff still out there, a lot more then just fire hydrants, although I have found many of them in the woods. This is the perfect group for this. Come on Howard! Whaddaya say???

Dec 14 2017 Art Kleiner 1:22 PM

Great going, Brian.  I wasn’t too far off with the Douglas hydrant found at Longfields! But I’m not going to mention this investigation to my wife who already thinks I’m nuts (e.g, posts, wire, etc. in our shed).  But hey, maybe there’s room in there for a fire hydrant - lol!

Dec 14 2017 Greg O. 9:01 PM

Have to pile on and say great find Brian!

Dec 14 2017 Brian D McCarthy 10:56 PM

Just want to say that without Art Kleiner’s description of the yard/field hydrant ( W&B Douglas ) he came across in the past, the manufacturer would still be a ? It ends up being that the one we came across on Exploration Day is the same type Art found. And these hydrants are older ( late 1800"s ) than everything found! Dave Russo also has seen quite a few of these as mentioned during estate exploring. Dave… I’m going to find out the purpose of the contraption you and Sammy found on the LIMP e/o Roslyn Rd. Glad you still had it on hand. Don’t get rid of it, yet!

Dec 15 2017 Howard Kroplick 11:42 AM

The post has been updated with the correct aerial date and a new 1938 aerial showing the estate’s swimming pool.

Dec 15 2017 S. Berliner, III 11:55 PM

Hold your horses.  Monica Randall, author of “The Mansions of Long Island’s Gold Coast” and a whole book on Winfield alone, already has a website on same: <>.  Also, not being on LI any longer, I won’t be able to bail you out for trespassing!  :↓·)  Sam, III

Dec 19 2017 Dave Russo 9:19 PM is a great site, but he hasn’t made a post since July and there is no back and forth discussions on anything really on the site. We have more back and forth on this post then they have all year! Monica’s book is great but the site isn’t really on the same level. We can have posts, discuss it, explore it, trespass, and have Sam III come bail us out of prison! This is a great group that would produce alot of discussion and education.

Jul 04 2018 Michael 11:00 PM

I have a couple of Lighting fixtures that come from an abandoned Vanderbilt home on LI. I think this could be the one.

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