Vanderbilt’s will provided for donation of his property to the county, with provision that the mansion and grounds be used for a museum for his marine, natural history, and ethnographic collections; the natural history institution was established during 1950. Developing a museum that interprets Vanderbilt’s life, times, and collections, the county constructed a planetarium on the grounds during 1970.
William Vanderbilt’s enclave was constructed in three installments. The first project was the building of a 24-room Spanish revival mansion designed by famed New York architecture firm Warren and Wetmore, the same architects responsible for designing and constructing New York’s Grand Central Terminal, another product of the Vanderbilt family execution. The duration of the three stages lasted from 1910 to 1936, an impressive amount of time.
The museum complex, operated by Suffolk County, includes the mansion with furnishings and fine art, a marine museum with marine and natural history specimens (butterflies, birds, shells, mammals and fish), a curator’s cottage, a seaplane hangar, a boathouse, gardens, and a collection of ethnographic objects (firearms and swords, ship models, and European, Asian and African objects). The museum was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on September 26, 1985.