The North Shore Sporting Set

“A Small Patch of Long Island Houses the Rich and Great of New York” Life announced in 1946 in a cover story on the North Shore photographed by Nina Leen, focusing on the sporting set. “It requires little more than an hour to drive from the sweltering summer heat of Manhattan to the cool comfort of the Piping Rock Club” in Locust Valley, the magazine noted. “But it can take a lifetime, if not several generations, of financial and social success to become one of its 700 members.” Nonetheless in the land of Gatsby they discovered there “a pattern of life that is ordered, gracious, and, amid great luxury, basically simple,” not to mention damned stylish.

How so? “At home a few friends will be asked over for tennis, followed by a swim, cocktails and lunch at the pool. Night life generally consists of small, unspectacular dinners…. Clubs like the Piping Rock and the Meadow Brook are fairly unpretentious and exist for specific athletic purposes.” Among other posh entertainments Life looked in on an alfresco luncheon with butlers in attendance; a match on the indoor tennis court at the J. Watson Webb estate; top-ranked polo players like Stewart Inglehart (above) and Laddie Sanford resting between chukkers; cocktails at the Aviation Country Club; and a regatta at the Seawanhaka Yacht Club. Looks like the perfect summer to me.

-Jared Paul Stern is the editor of DRIVEN.

Comments on “The North Shore Sporting Set

    jbjones on May 26, 2011 9:47 AM:

    while the gatsby mansion has been literally beaten to the ground, its legacy will endure. still, i feel it incumbent on me to give the “developer”, bert brodsky, a hearty F YOU – for whatever it’s worth (which i’m certain he could quantify).

    rufus firefly on May 26, 2011 10:24 AM:

    jolly days those. Last photo looks like the Woodward Estate where old Mr. Woodward got shot by his wife climbing back in through the bedroom window
    late one night back in 1950’s? Can remember, as a child playing in the wood, getting caught up in one of the fox hunts which were quite the thing in the woods surrounding such estates, back in the day…

    K.A. Adams on May 26, 2011 12:09 PM:

    Well, at least the food is still ‘unspectacular’

    HB on May 26, 2011 2:15 PM:

    Poor dude is so feeble he can’t put on his own boots!

    JES on May 26, 2011 3:04 PM:

    Love the lifestyle, loathe the people. Terribly, terribly boring, most of them. But great stuff!

    Ye Ole General on May 26, 2011 4:02 PM:

    Beautiful, reminds me of several old movies I’ve seen.

    Smith&Ratliff on May 26, 2011 5:54 PM:

    Looks like a nice primer for summer.

    JPS on May 26, 2011 5:58 PM:

    Rufus – that is in fact Planting Fields, the 435-acre Oyster Bay estate built of imported gray stone originally intended for St. Bartholomew’s Church in New York that belonged to William Robertson Coe, who had interests in insurance, collieries, the Virginian Railway, thoroughbreds and rare orchids. It’s now a museum.

    AC on May 26, 2011 8:55 PM:

    The Planting Fields was built by the Coe brothers. It’s an incredibly beautiful place, full of stately trees and stone out buildings. A descendent of the Coe brothers was married there in 1998. It was the last time the main building was used for a wedding. It’s well worth the trip.

    splenetic_yowl on May 27, 2011 12:52 AM:

    I bet that horse died a long time ago

    andy on May 27, 2011 10:34 AM:

    The old man in the carriage looks like Alicia Huberman’s friend the Commodore.

    Andrew Payne on May 27, 2011 11:06 AM:

    What’s up with all the weimaraners? Hey, not a bad life out there for both people and their dogs. And nice sweater in the first photo.

    Ray Hull on May 27, 2011 10:00 PM:

    The Laddie Sanford shot is a “true” hoot. The companion piece, with the camel polo coat draped over him, on prominent display at the Saratoga Polo Club today doesn’t feature a servile black guy at his boots; wonder why?

    Alas, here is one foaling barn at Huricana Farms (the Sanford horse farm in Amsterdam, NY). I took this shot a couple years ago.
    There is still a row of 5 or 6 of these delightfully peaked structures where the mares gave birth. The site of them all in a row is kinda like Little Bo Peep’s place on acid.

    Just one Q on Piping Rock, beyond the food: Did they ever replace that decrepit red and white tile in the dining room? Years ago, it was so dog-eared as to be a pedestrian hazard. Or, we could have another scotch and think about it…

    Thelma on May 27, 2011 11:41 PM:

    I have a wonderful, BIG, 1923 (?) map in my antique shop in Millbrook, NY, which is where many in the horsey set live now. It is a map of all the riding trails in this part of Long Island. Funny happenstance.

    Jay on May 29, 2011 3:34 AM:

    Interesting how some of the wealthiest places in the United States are called “the North Shore.” Chicago has one. Hawaii has one. In some respects, Boston as well. I guess it makes sense, considering a lot of prime, suburban real estate is on a shore of some sort.

    18milesperhour on May 30, 2011 5:20 PM:

    JES took the words right off my page – always been attracted to the lifestyle but the people look absolutely loathesome. Boring, crotchety, uptight bastards. My wife’s family grew up in one of those great big places on the Shore in Oyster Bay, deeply ensconced in that life, and they’ve all confirmed my suspicions. Dang. Because it looks so lovely.

    Jeff on May 31, 2011 11:08 AM:

    The people don’t look loathesome at all. They look wonderful.

    chris on June 1, 2011 10:42 AM:

    Looks like a RL ad

    M on June 1, 2011 6:37 PM:

    It looks as if the dock is at Seawanhaka, great south sides to be had there. To all who love the images but loathe the people- don’t worry the subjects would loathe you back if they ever bothered to think about you.

    Broc Clark on June 8, 2011 2:52 PM:

    Wow Wow Wow..what an amazing post and story. I really like how you captured the lifestyle of that time and the moments in the photographs. I am a huge polo fan. Thank you for sharing.

    Bryan on June 10, 2011 4:45 PM:

    @ Jay, the North Shore on O’ahu has nothing to do either with Boston’s or Chicago’s or Long Island’s North Shore. The comparable places in Hawai’i are actually south: Kahala and Black Point. Maybe the old Magnum P.I. show confused everyone: they said Robin’s Estate was on the North Shore. It’s nowhere near there…again it is south (and southeast really).

    Laguna Beach Fogey on June 13, 2011 8:45 PM:

    Lovely. Thanks for sharing. I like the facial expressions and sensible haircuts (no sideburns in evidence!). A reminder of how much things have changed–and not at all for the better. The old WASP elite has been replaced by a bunch of vulgar, bloodthirsty bolsheviks.

    Bernie on June 15, 2011 10:28 PM:

    Thank you for your post. I grew up in Glen Cove in the 80’s. Part of the Gold Coast of Long Island. In high school and college I worked at North Shore CC and Seawanhaka YC teaching tennis. I used to sneak onto Planting Fields at night with my friends and think the pool house there is one of the most beautiful buildings. I have friends whose families belonged to Piping Rock and the Creek Club and was occaisionally invitd to play squash at these places. I don’t know how it was in the twenties and thirties but the people at these clubs in the 80’s were wonderful. What impressed me most was how nice they were. They were always polite and took the time to talk to you and make you feel at ease. For example when I was working at North Shore CC in my senior year in high school one of the members asked me “what are you planning to do after graduation?” I was surprised he asked me that because everybody there knew I was going to college but it striked me afterwards that he didn’t want to be presumtuous and ask me where I was going to college just in case I didn’t get into college which would have made for an awkward conversation. It’s this kind of thoughtfulness that I remember most and try to emulate in my own life. Also, even though I was surrounded by great wealth, for the most part they never showed it. Their cars were just regular cars with your mix of Cadillacs, Town Cars and old family Mercedes and Volvo station wagons and the occaisional sports car. The bigger families had AMC Grand Wagoneers. They were truly living the life style depicted in the original Preppy Handbook. One of the lasting impressions of these people at their country clubs was that they were never rude or ostentatious. Those were traits of people who worried about money and their station in life. Country Club people weren’t bothered with such bourgeois concerns. I look at how wealthy people are depicted in popular culture today in such shows as the “House wives of ..” series and think what a far cry it is from my upbringing. Our culture celebrates crassness and bling and in my opinion all the wrong values. Your post brought back fond memories. Thank you.

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