The Old Westbury mansion of socialite Cornelia Guest, which came to be known in the 1970s for its lavish parties and famous guests, was demolished last week, Paul Mateyunas, a historian of North Shore estates, said.
“It’s always sad to lose a piece of Long Island architecture and history,” Mateyunas said. “That house in particular was a hub of social activity in the North Shore for a good 40 years.”
A demolition permit was granted in August after approval from the village’s Building Department and its historian, said Brian Ridgway, Old Westbury village administrator.
The 15-acre estate’s 28-room brick Georgian mansion was built in 1924, Mateyunas said.
“In comparison to larger estates built pre-World War I this house was one of those wonderful examples of a manageable countryside home,” Mateyunas said.
It was purchased in either 1969 or 1970 by Cornelia Guest’s parents: socialite C.Z. Guest and Winston Frederick Churchill Guest, an heir to the Phipps steel fortune, Mateyunas said.
“They were a very internationally known and well-connected family,” Mateyunas said.
They held parties at the estate, known as Templeton, frequented by the likes of Truman Capote and Salvador Dali, Mateyunas said.
When C.Z. Guest died in 2003, Cornelia Guest took sole ownership of the Old Westbury property, where she lived until 2015, Mateyunas said.
“[Cornelia Guest] made her own mark on the property,” Mateyunas said. “She enhanced the gardens and the house a little bit.”
The property was sold in 2014 for $5.8 million to a trust named after Ray Sidhom, a businessman and restaurateur, Newsday reported.
The demolition permit was processed by the village’s Building Department but approval depended on a determination by the village historian, Richard Gachot, that the property lacked sufficient historical value to warrant preservation.
Gachot recalled visiting the property along with the mayor and board of trustees before the permit was granted in August.
“It was a big house,” Gachot said. “A lot had been added to it. One add on and then another add on. I just didn’t think it warranted” preservation.
“It wasn’t anything of historic value,” he said.
Last Monday Mateyunas watched the main wing of the mansion get demolished.
The process wasn’t as unique as the property itself.
It happened “the same way they would tear down any other house,” he said.