Great Gatsby: Great Neck Fires Back

Westport has laid out a strong case as the setting for “The Great Gastsby.”

Great Neck is firing back.

Westporters know the story: historian Deej Webb and filmmaker Robert Steven Williams say that F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgeralds’ 1920 sojourn here informed not only the author’s physical description of Jay Gatsby’s mansion, but also much of the novel’s emotional power.

They also believe that Westport influenced nearly all of Fitzgerald’s ouevre.

Not so fast, Long Island counters.

“Everyone knows that Great Neck was the setting for ‘The Great Gatsby,’ don’t they?” a flyer from that town’s historical society asks.

And then answers: “Apparently, not everyone!”

“There are those who believe that Fitzgerald was really talking about — of all places — Westport, Connecticut,” the Great Neck Historical Society explains.

After mentioning Webb and Williams’ PBS film and companion book — plus stories in the New York Times, Newsday and more — the GNHS announces that the duo will discuss their findings and answer audience questions at a “special presentation.”

It’s this Sunday (October 21), 1:30 p.m. at the Great Neck Public Library main branch. GNHS president Alice Kasten will “defend” — their word — Great Neck’s “historical and literary honor” (ditto).

She recently took Webb and Williams on a Great Neck tour, “pointing out details to substantiate the long-held belief that Fitzgerald was writing about Great Neck and Port Washington.”

“They even interviewed me for their film,” she says. “I showed them how Fitzgerald had to be writing about our hometown.”

The GNHS calls this a “bound-to-be-controversial program.” It’s free, and open to the public.

Which means Westporters — defending our own honor — can pack the house. Click here for directions!

(Hat tip: Marcia Falk)

10 responses to “Great Gatsby: Great Neck Fires Back

  1. Peter Gambaccini

    I’ve been wondering why days have passed and no one has commented on this. I doubt it’s for lack of interest. It’s likely more that no one, including me, wanted to fess up to what the world has accepted for decades, “Gatsby” is a Long Island novel.

    • Peter, I remember reading Barbara Probst Solomon’s New Yorker article when it was published in the 1990s. She made some fascinating points about how some of the inspiration for “The Great Gatsby” could very well have come from Fitzgerald’s time in Westport. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to believe that the book could have been shaped in part by the settings of—and Fitzgerald’s experiences in—both Westport and Great Neck in the 1920s.

  2. Katherine Bruan

    Wish I could go to this. Growing up on Long Island I have spent a lot of time in Great Neck and also believed that Gatsby wrote about Great Neck. But now after falling in love with my new home town I am a firm believer that Fitzgerald was def writing about our fair town! #teamwestport

  3. Audrey Doniger

    I’m from Great Neck..we are having our 66th high school reunion next Saturday…growing up in G.N.we all assumed everybody knew that the house in Kings Point was where the Fitzgeralds lived and the estate was the setting for The Great Gatsby….the house was torn down this year according to my connections in G.N….I’ve lived in Westport longer than I lived in G.N.but never argued the myth of the Westports Fitzgerald’s”..just didn’t want to bust the bubble..

  4. Being a third generation “ Great Necker”
    I’m torn! We were taught in school that Gatsby was written in my home town. But now that I’ve been living in Westport for 25 years
    I’m not so sure!

  5. Westport looked very Great Gatsbyesque in the 20s with FT Bedford (Standard Oil) saying he could see Schlaet’s house (Texaco) now on Bluewater. There we’re so few trees because Shlaets had been a farm where prized cattle were raised. Schlaets property, (formerly the McCready property) went all the way down to Almost across from the house where Fitzgerald rented. Also visible from the Fitzgerald place was what is now the Inn at Longshore plus the Victorian Mansion that was on Longshore property that was knocked down a few years ago and From the Inn (Owned by Powell at the time Founder of Universal Studios) was the Eno//Blount Estate across the river, which is no longer there but was a gilded age mansion on Saugatuck Avenue and was called “Longshore”. Fitzgerald was surrounded by excesses and the couple indulged and partied. How Gatzbyesque was Great Neck doing at the time? I’m asking. Did anyone go to the historical society meeting in Great Neck?

  6. My historical information is from memory..(I always research houses I list for sale and it gets out of control ..sort of like watching youtube I made a mistake in the above comment. Powers didn’t own the Longshore property till 1929. Frederic Lewis was the owner in 1920 when Fitzgerald was here. But if I were a writer doing research on a book and spent time in Long Island, I might want to go across the sound to see what was going on on the other side and find out what was going on in WestEggport.