Buy a $125 Million Island Compound Under an Hour From New York
If the Hamptons are the vacation playground for New York’s rich and famous, the North Shore of Long Island is the backyard for the city’s almost-as-rich and vastly more discreet.
Towns less than an hour from New York, such as Glen Cove and Oyster Bay, have long been home to insular, old money communities whose heyday was more than a century ago.
Financier Otto Kahn, for instance, built the 109,000-square-foot quasi-chateau “Oheka” in Huntington; real estate scion Vincent Astor built the sprawling Cloverly Manor in Sands Point; John Pierpont Morgan Jr., heir to the eponymous banking fortune, built a massive Georgian-revival mansion on a peninsula (PDF); and soon after, his son, Junius Spencer Morgan, built his own, 27,000-square-foot mansion on a 48-acre island, “Salutation,” next door.
While many of those mansions have been demolished or turned into hotels, others, including Junius Morgan’s island retreat, remain. Now, for the third time in its 100-year history, the property—now called Dosoris Island—is listed for sale for $125 million with Daniel Gale Sotheby’s International Realty.
“In my career, I’ve sold many of these [Long Island] manor houses,” says Bonnie Devendorf, the Sotheby’s broker representing the property. “But for $125 million, you’re not just buying the house, you’re buying the island—and that’s what makes this a one-of-a-kind listing.”
What You’ll Get
The island comes with six houses on 46 acres of land, along with 10 acres of underwater rights and a 28 acre pond.
The main house was built by Morgan in 1919 and overlooks Long Island Sound, with views toward the Manhattan skyline. (If the house looks familiar, that’s because it had a star turn in the 1995 remake of Sabrina, starring Harrison Ford.)
Little about the house has changed since it was built: The dining room reportedly still seats 100, there’s an 80 foot-long slate and marble floored hallway, and the so-called ladies parlor is paneled in mahogany. Upstairs are nine bedrooms, including a master suite which itself has two bedrooms (each replete with fireplace and bathroom), and sitting room. Two guest rooms are on the third floor, bringing the house’s total bedrooms to 11. (This doesn’t include servants’ quarters.)
Grounds surrounding the main house were designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, the landscape architect who designed Manhattan’s Central Park, and include a formal garden, massive pool and pool house, and lawns that slope down to a sandy beach. There are also two landing areas for helicopters. Lest anyone worry about storm surges, the house has a relatively new sea wall, along with a sturdy 250-foot-long dock, which was built contemporaneously.
“You can land a seaplane or a huge yacht on the dock,” Devendorf says. “And you can put a boathouse anywhere on the island.”
The Next Owners
As time went on, Morgan apparently found the house isolated enough that—starting in the 1940s—he allowed “various owners and friends to build their own residences on the island,” Devendorf explaine. “Each of the houses had five or six acres surrounding them.”
After President John F. Kennedy’s assassination, Jackie Kennedy rented one of those houses for a summer while brother-in-law Robert F. Kennedy rented an estate nearby.
Morgan died in 1960; the house remained in his wife’s possession until the 1970s, when it and 19 acres of grounds were sold to a Texas-born coal magnate named John Samuels.
Samuels had made waves in New York’s charity circuit in the 1970s, donating enough to become chairman of City Center, New York City Ballet, and City Opera. Starting in the early 1980s, though, Samuels’s businesses began to crumble, and by the ‘90s he’d filed for bankruptcy. A New York Times article from 1993 details the public auction of the estate: The minimum bid was apparently $5.7 million; before the sale, qualified bidders had to hand the broker a certified $350,000 check.
The buyer was Margo Walker, described in a 1997 Vanity Fair story as “a North Shore socialite and real-estate broker.” (Devendorf, the broker, declined to comment on the owner.) Walker was reportedly in a relationship with Michel David-Weill, former chairman of Lazard Frères, according to The Last Tycoons, William D. Cohan’s inside look at the investment bank. “With Michel’s help, she had already purchased three of the five houses” on the island, Cohan recounted.
Not Out of the Ballpark
Over time, Walker managed to buy the rest of the homes on the island, which include the graceful, stone-walled, four-bedroom “Creek House,” the substantial, stucco “Palm-Beach-style” Pond House, which also has four bedrooms, and the nameless Palladian, waterfront manor house, which has six bedrooms. The island also has three “cottages,” one of which has four bedrooms, another of which has two, and the third of which has one bedroom and one bath.
The island also comes with horse stables, paddocks, a “groomsman’s cottage,” and an original garage that can house eight cars. In total, then, omitting servant’s quarters, the estate has at least 28 bedrooms and sleeps nearly double that amount.
Still, $125 million is a significant enough number to give anyone—even a billionaire—pause. “There are comparables,” Devendorf says. “There’s an island off Greenwich that's being offered for $175 million, and houses in East Hampton have traded for more than $100 million.”
The price tag, therefore, might be staggering, but it’s not, Devendorf continues, at the top of the scale. “It’s not so far out of the ballpark,” she says.