Stumbling On The Abandoned Ruins Of King Zog’s Long Island Estate

I’ve recently been scouting around the Syosset area of Long Island, and have frequently found myself driving north on 106.

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And, every time I do, I’ve noticed these gates – clearly the entrance to an estate of some kind:

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But why was there a chain across the front?

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Curiosity finally got the best of me and I pulled over to have a closer look.

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Looking through the gate, it was pretty clear no one had used the entrance in quite a while, as the road beyond was cracked and overgrown, disappearing into the forest.

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Also, you could see the outline of two torches that used to adorn the pillars:

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So what was the story? Not wanting to trespass, I did some research later on and discovered that the dilapidated road through those gates would have once brought visitors here:

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This is Knollwood Estate, a Gold Coast-era mansion built for steel tycoon Charles Hudson between 1906 – 1920.

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The mansion had 60 rooms and was set on a 260-acre property. These pictures were taken in 1911 for Architecture magazine.

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However, people more commonly refer to the property as King Zog’s estate. Who was King Zog?

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Ahmet Muhtar Bej Zogolli, or Zog I, was the ruler of Albania from 1922 to 1939. After being ousted by Mussolini, Zog and his family fled to England. Plans were made to relocate to the United States, and in 1951, Knollwood was purchased for their new home, at a cost of $102,800.

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Though Zog originally planned to use the estate as a satellite of Albania, complete with Albanian subjects at his disposal, he never moved in, and Knollwood fell into disrepair. Vandals soon descended on the property in search of treasure supposedly hidden by Zog in its walls, and the conditioned worsened. It was sold in 1955, and finally torn down in 1959.

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Well, mostly torn down – today, the ruins of the Knollwood Estate lie in the Muttonwood Preserve. I decided to hike out to find them.

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Er, it took a little longer than expected, as the trails are really poorly marked, and I kept getting lost in the woods. But after a bit of backtracking and bushwacking, I managed to find the path leading to the estate.

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This is Knollwood in 1911:

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This is Knollwood today:

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 The most substantial remaining structure is the grand-double staircase…

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…which the mansion once sat atop:

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Vines now grow down the sides, which actually feels appropriate for its former splendor:

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Two alcoves are positioned on either side, visible in the above historical pictures:

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The stairs meet at what I think was once a fountain…

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Vandals have not been kind:

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I love how angry the face is – almost like she’s infuriated at the state of the property:

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The lower half – almost looks like candle wax (oh, how I wish I had stumbled upon a bunch of Long Island Satanists worshipping around a candlelit altar here):

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The stairs are completely covered over by dirt. I tried digging down to see if any steps remain, but couldn’t get very far without a shovel:

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The opposite staircase, littered with chunks of the estate:

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I headed upstairs to where the mansion would have been…

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…but found only overgrowth:

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There’s a clearing a little ways in, but they did a pretty good job of removing all traces of its existence:

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Still, I love the curious remnants that persist, like this stone line running around the property. The more I kept digging around it, the more it continued:

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Originally, the patio was made of brick:

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Photo from the Society for the Preservation of Long Island Antiquities – click for many more via OldLongIsland.com

Brickwork can still be found below the dirt:

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One of the few remaining balustrades:

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A pillar, open at the side where a balustrade would have connected.

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Today, the view off the balcony is not particularly impressive:

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But had you been standing here a hundred years ago, you would have seen three tiers of lush gardens stretching out, as pictured in this 1950s aerial shot:

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Photo from the Society for the Preservation of Long Island Antiquities – click for many more via OldLongIsland.com

Fragments of these gardens can still be found. For example, a marble basin was positioned about midway down the center lawn:

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Photo from the Society for the Preservation of Long Island Antiquities – click for many more via OldLongIsland.com

The platform for the basin is still in place (the actual basin was moved to the Nassau House mansion):

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Continuing on, you come to a staircase flanked by two columned structures:

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These can be seen in the aerial shot, dividing the two gardens:

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The staircase is still largely intact:

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The eastern structure:

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Sadly, much of it is crumbling:

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It looks as though something was originally positioned in the center:

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The western structure is in far worse shape, with chunks of cement literally dangling:

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But one neat surprise remains: the original tilework, now mostly covered by dirt:

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Another one of those “I wonder what this once was” bits…

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A marble corner…but to what?

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An old plant potter, hidden in the brush:

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I found one last structure at the farthest end of the property:

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The top consists of an unidentified something resting on a circle of bricks:

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The structure is sunk in the ground…

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…and actually is pretty large inside – perhaps a storehouse of some kind?

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Just beside it, I found this row of bricks. I started digging in the dirt, and the bricks kept going, and going, and going…

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And as it turns out, Knollwood has a lot more hidden than just ruins. In 2001, some men were out orienteering when they noticed something shiny sticking out of the ground. It turned out to be a human bone, and the full skeleton of a 5’3″ woman was soon unearthed, curled into a fetal position.

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 Visiting the ruins of the Knollwood Estate is a great way to spend your Sunday. If you want to take the long route, grab a map at the Nature Center off of Muttontown Lane. If it’s cold and you want to take the quick route, park at the equestrian area off of 106. At the back of the parking lot, you’ll find a trail beside an information kiosk. Head down the trail, and you’ll quickly come to a second trail heading off to the left. Follow this for a little ways, eventually crossing a broken paved road, and you’ll come to Knollwood…in theory. Chances are, you’ll get a little lost, but with enough persistence you’ll stumble on the almost-residence of King Zog I.

For more info/pictures on Knollwood, or other Long Island Estates, be sure to check out OldLongIsland.com!

-SCOUT

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79 comments

  1. I am so pleased you did an article on this estate! I actually live about 5 minutes from that location so I could relate to this posting. Some news about that gate, that gate from your first picture was actually just recently restored. Before that it was in terrible shape. They had plans to add the torches to the gate and have it lit up at night. Not sure if they still have plans for that..

  2. I love when you post stuff like this. Great job

  3. Great article. As I read, I was hoping that the estate was still there, maybe in bad shape, but could be restored. Alas…

    It reminds me of the Jack London Wolf House out here in CA. Except, the high walls still remain, everything else burned away.

  4. Kirko Ibn Al Bangz

    Good read! I love this sort of blogging.

  5. Awesome post. I’m sure searching it out and photographing it made for a very eerie (yet very cool) experience.

  6. Nice post! Looks so scary and lonely.

  7. This article is FABULOUS! Thank you for sharing. As I was reading the history and scrolling through the pictures of then and now, I couldn’t help but get goosebumps over and over. I had visions of a beautiful shoot set against those ruined backdrop. Oh, now if I can just convince clients to get adventurous with me on the trek. Thank you again for bringing us along on your adventures and discoveries!

  8. Nice post, you never disappoint

  9. Excellent Long Island story! The photos only give a taste of what it must have been like in its prime. The interiors mus have been amazing as well.

  10. awsome articule

  11. I wonder how much they want for it !

  12. Johnny Schaeffer

    I love this stuff. Nice going.

  13. I LOVE that your site exists!! I’m a tour guide & history junkie, myself. Even if all these places don’t get highlighted in a movie, I’m so glad that there’s someone out there documenting & re-trailblazing these visions from the past. Do you ever do fundraising events or parties? Good luck w/ your movie!!!

  14. Hey ScoutingNY…thanks for the link!

    Here’s a direct one to all the posts I’ve done on the estate:

    http://www.oldlongisland.com/search/label/Knollwood

  15. Awesome story, sad to see the buildings long gone. Great read though, thank you!

  16. Perhaps this was the residence used in the B.C. comic strip. ZOT!!! and the house disappears. I find it interesting that so much survives after all these years. I don’t see any Do Not Trespass signs on the front drive. You could have saved yourself a lot of walking by hopping over the chain link fence and going up the drive.

  17. Love this! Have you ever scoped out the ruins of the Tiffany Estate, Laurelton Hall, on Oyster Bay? I haven’t, but have heard that parts are still visible: http://www.morsemuseum.org/louis-comfort-tiffany/laurelton-hall.

  18. What an interesting piece of detective work. Long ago I became a fan of the comings and goings of King Zog and his son King Lex of Albania. They seemed to be one of the most outlandish examples of royalty that once inhabited a European kingdom.

    Your article left one important question dangling though. How can a property of that size and location still be left undeveloped on Long Island?

    • It has been left undeveloped because it’s owned by Nassau County and is preserved as parkland (and you are allowed to ride horses through it). After all the Zog nonsense it was purchased by Lansdell Christie who owned the estate across the road. By then the house has been badly vandalized and Christie had it torn down in 1959 while leaving the property relatively untouched (though he did move a few of the garden ornaments over to his residence).

      ScoutingNY found it at a good time. They recently restored the gates and from the photos it appears they have done some brush removal. I have been on parts of the property that were practically impassible without a machete.

    • I used to live very close to that , drive by quite often. The land itself is basically a nature preserve at this point- which yes, is amazing it hasn’t been built up because all the houses around are on several acres of land. People would often trailer their horses in for the day and ride through- I know I used to when I was younger with friends…the town must have claimed it all those years ago when it went into disrepair and was abandoned I hope it always stays that way and a developer never touches it.

  19. Fascinating bit of history. I remember driving past this area the last time I was out in the US.

  20. Zog’s son, Crown Prince Leka, was a well-know jetsetter in addition to being the claimant to the Albanian throne. Assuming he qualifies as “famous,” he also had another title: at a reputed height of seven feet, he held the title of Tallest Famous Person in the World Who Was Famous for Reasons Unrelated to Height (i.e. no athletes or actors). He had an edge of a couple inches over Michael Crichton and John Kenneth Galbraith.

    Leka died in late 2011. I don’t know who the new titleholder might be. Possibly 6’8″ Tony Robbins.

  21. Very ineresting to me since my wife is Albanian

  22. I grew up in Syosset/Jericho, and never knew about this estate! I probably passed those gates on 106 hundreds of times. Thanks so much for showing me something new about my hometown.

  23. Did you see the walled garden while you were there? Slightly NW (I think) of the house ruins)

    https://maps.google.com/maps/ms?msid=210637110363518489268.0004d76f763569f20271d&msa=0&ll=40.827466,-73.53512&spn=0.011398,0.019741

    (turn on satelitte view to see structure)

  24. Janice Delaney Stearns

    Can’t believe some salvage outfit hasn’t harvested all those beautiful bricks and cement ornamentals to sell on ebay! Great story – thanks as always!

  25. This was awesome! Thanks for sharing–love your great documentation. What a fun excursion this must have been!

  26. This post was heartbreaking, Scout. I always have to brace myself for the worst when you show one of those “Here’s what it looked like in its prime…” that scrolls down to “Here’s what it looks like now.”

    This one didn’t disappoint.

  27. Great story, check out LI oddities. They explored this site a few years ago and have some more details.

  28. Your website is awesome. Thank you for posting so many images of the Estate before/after and digging through historical information to put together this post. It’s heartbreaking to see what has happened to so many majestic homes.

  29. Very nice post. It’s amazing that it looked so nice in the early 1950′s aerial shot, and was torn down only a few years later. Why would you sbuy such an impressive property, ojnly to tear it down? The mind reels….

  30. Outstanding post. Anyone who would like to know what this place was like a long time ago, although after the big house was torn down, can read about it in my book about growing up next door to Countess von Bismarck in Bayville.

    Mona von Bismarck, the former Mrs. Harrison Williams, was the most beautiful, best dressed, and richest woman in the world.

    The novel is called “Oak Point,” and I will email a free copy to any readers of this blog – offer good only until publication. Read more at the FB group “Mona the book” above – please join the group to get a copy.

    There is also a pinterest page dedicated to Mona and the book for those who would like to see more photos: http://pinterest.com/younged/oak-point-countess-mona-von-bismarck-cristobal-bal/

    Where did it all go?

  31. I grew up in the area and used to go running on those trails with my high school track team. I remember climbing those steps and using bits of the stone as an obstacle coures, and we would make up stories about what had happened there. I’m so happy to find out the story of the real house is as decadent as the one I made up in my head! Thanks!

  32. I believe it is muttontown, not muttonwood.

  33. I grew up in East Norwich in the sixties and seventies, and often would hike through Muttontown Preserve. In fact, our scouting troop would actually camp out near there. At other times, my friends and I would often check out the Zog ruins back then, thinking they were from some ancient civilization, not knowing that it was once a grand North Shore estate. We always called them the “Zog ruins” not knowing who Zog was, although many years later, with the invention of the internet, I found out. Your pictures look exactly like my memories of the place, so I think the intervening decades have been relatively kind to the place. I clearly remember the fountain’s face, the double stairs, the side alcoves and the stone out-buildings. I love the historical photos you dug up; would have been great to see it all in its prime. Thanks for the trip down memory lane.

  34. Dale PLUNKETT THIEL

    Great article. My backyard was on the edge of muttontown preserve in the 50′s and 60′s.
    We frequently snuck back to King Zog’s…
    Thank you!

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  36. Richard & Patricia Davies

    What a superb read, truly amazed me how something like this could be just left to fall apart & Zog never ever lived in it! I wonder what happened to all the furnishings etc? I stumbled on your blog as I was chasing up details on the Albanian royal family as it came up in conversation over dinner last evening. Zog apparently smoked 200 cigarettes a day! His remains were recently returned to Albania from a Paris cemetery this year. No not Jim Morrison’s (:
    Thank you so much for a great, interesting, worthwhile read this is what a blog should be.

  37. I used to ride my bike through the grounds back in the ’60′s. Who owns the property and why has it not been developed. I like that it hasn’t but odd.
    Absolutely great memories! Along with Sparks mansion and woods, Tinkers mansion etc.

  38. Lived in Syosset and was born on the Tod Estate. All i know about the Zog estate was never to go near it or we would be in big trouble. My friend & I toured all the other estates & aboned ones & had great fun during the 40 & 50 eras. Was glad to see how it loooks know for moved from Lomg Island around 1960.

  39. Was born at the Tod Estate on Muttontown Road. Were talking about the 1940 to 1950 era. My friend & i had great fun exploring all the estates. We came upon an old abonded estate before the Zog place & were caught by a watchman. What a scare that was. As kids we were told not to go near Zog estate or we would be in big trouble. If i’m not mistaken they had guard dogs in those days so we did not venture. Thanks for showing me what i missed living so close to this estate.

  40. What a time i had during the Zog estate era. I was born & raised on the Tod estate during the 1940 to 1950 era. My friend & i had great fun exploring woods & old estates from the distance. If i remember they had guard dogs so we did’nt venture. My parents told us never to go there or we would be in big trouble, but we sure were tempted. Thanks for the article for it brought back so many mrmories & i finally got to see what i missed so long ago.

  41. I used to ride my horses all thru king zogs & christie estates in the mid 70′s. We’d bring lunch & tether our horses in the sloping fields. Met many strangers, hippies, flute players, it was the 70′s dont forget. I remember there was a doll house, small childs playhouse there, amazed its still there.

    • Thank you for posting this as I spent my youth with many of my friends exploring and playing in and around those ruins. In the 70′s the stairs and balustrade were all intact. The 2 structures flanking just above the stairs had their clay tiled roofs fully intact

      Why I do believe you ran into our flock of merry young hippies a few times and the flute player was Jimmie Martling!

      and the floor was fully exposed. The large

  42. *The blog was absolutely fantastic! Lots of great information and inspiration,
    both of which we all need!

  43. Amazing! My grandfather was King Zog’s bodyguard. My grandfather ( Mehmet Metalia) was assassinated and my mom fled to France. She tells me that they stayed with his family in order to be kept safe. I have a picture of my grandfather and Zog. I will locate it and post.

    • Great story. My name is John berenzy . I used to explore King Zogs estate in the late 50′s and 60′s,with Billy Delaney and John Bruschini. Thomas Pynchon told me they used to fire off shot guns. One night the woods caught fire. I remember the tall whipping flames from my bedroom window. I wrote about it in my second book of poetry. ” Blood of the Rose “. I would love to see the photo. We used to hunt for a trove of jewels that was supposedly hidden by Zog in the woods or so the lore went. A magical and mysterious place. Indeed.

  44. I grew up visiting these ruins and having bonfires close by.

  45. Love this stuff. Nicely done and Thank you.

  46. Do you geocache?

  47. Having grown up in East Norwich during the 60s & 70s, as curious kids we used to trek up to “Zog’s” and hike around the property and ruins. It was great reading your article. I now know more about this property than I ever did before. Thanks for bringing back memories!

  48. We used to go there in the late 1960′s and 1970′s, as teenagers. The last structure mentioned in the article was the basement of what we called “The Pavillion”, which was a round-ended open structure, similar to a stretched out gazebo, with a wooden roof (which I’m told burned down in the 80′s). It had wooden floors under the roof, as I remember – but that was a long time ago. :). The structure is visible in the old photos at the lower-right of the Aerial photos.

  49. Spent much of my youth in and around those ruins in the 70′s great memories indeed and the place was cared for back then by the parks dept so the trails, gardens and roads were very accessible, including in and around all the ruins. The 2 small structures and the Pavilion were intact with roofs, tiled floor and a curved cement bench with high backs on both sides. The Pavilion had huge trees running down both sides to the wide low stairs and the main stairs of the mansion were exposed and all the balustrade was intact; a very cool place to hang in our youth.

  50. we used to party there in the early 70′s. Brookville cops never bothered us. Lots of buds, ludes and weed

    • I know I dig through all that garbage left behind metal detecting. Not saying I didn’t party there myself when I was a little younger. Hoping someone who party too hard dropped some gold for me to find lol

  51. Just stumbled upon our post. I spent countless hours wandering around the preserve in my younger days and I’ve been back a few times with my kids since I moved back to the Island (Oyster Bay). The ruins themselves have degraded a bit since the 1970s but are more or less the same. There are other curiosities scattered throughout the grounds of the Preserve, including the remnants of irrigation systems, abandoned farm machinery and the odd manhole or two-I haven’t gone subterranean yet but I’m thinking I might try to get down there next time. Also some horse troughs and the like. Really enjoyed the photos. Growing up I always imagined how the place looked but was never sure. Much bigger then I expected.

  52. I spent a lot of time here when I was younger. Even though it’s only been about 15 years it looks so much different. I know the whole history of this (former) estate and what each of those structures used to be. E-mail me if you’re interested in knowing, I love to talk history.

    - John

    • I have been able to do some metal detecting up there. No significant finds of the lost treasure but I did find a lead toy soldier with a moveable gun arm from the early 1930s right next to the fountain in the garden. I have been going there for 20 years and if you read my post you will see I am the creator of the bat boxes scattered throughout the park

  53. These are mostly old photos. After hurricane Sandy there is not much left. Please also give photo credits to the images you have mistakenly watermarked as your own. Thank you.

  54. Actually I should have clarified. As a place for photogs interested in abandoned structures, the storms did do damage. But to those who are going to explore and experience the history…that is still possible.

  55. I did my Eagle Scout project here. If you are hiking and see two by two black square things hanging on trees, that is from me. There is one as soon as you come into the parking lot. I have been hiking this area for two decades and have driven through ALL of Muttontown preserve with my truck. I was given special permission to do so and there are over 50 bat boxes scattered throughout both sides of Muttontown Preserve. I don’t know how many Hurricane Sandy took down either but I know there are a lot left as I go back a few times a year to make sure they are still up. I found a toy lead soldier in the gardens next to the fountain. I know this is from the 1930′s as there were children there at that time and it was not sold to King Zog yet. I can only imagine a small child playing with them like I used to with my plastic army men. It is a treasured find. I have been there several times since Hurricane Sandy. There is still PLENTY left to see, but a lot of large trees are covering a lot but for the most part what was there before the hurricane is STILL there. I have been able to see more and explore more of this park with the people who maintain this park through Nassau County and the town of Muttontown. I have spent many years and know the entire park as large as it is like the back of my hand after 20 years of hiking around there and my Eagle Scout project. A lot of original paths and brick work are still visible under several inches of soil and tree roots.

  56. we have visited here several times and participated in several eagle scout projects on the property! we’ve also geocached here – there was one a few years back that took you from area to area telling the history of the estate! did you visit the walled garden as well? thanks for the photos ..

  57. The aerial image of the house is used for a few seconds at the beginning of the 1941 movie Citizen Kane. Fascinating place, with cultured estate trees growing amid the usual LI jungle. Glad the county have restored the gates.

  58. My cousin shared this link on FB. This is all fascinating! Love your pictures and the time you put into making this story. I am from Bayville. Do you have any more interesting stories? I really enjoyed this. Another interesting sight to visit is Fairfield Hills in Newtown, CT. (You Tube) the ruins there are just as fascinating.

  59. Wonderful pictures and information. Thank you.

  60. Thank you for posting. I love reading about historical ruins on Long Island. I plan on hiking my way through there and seeing it for myself as soon as it warms up a bit. Awesome blog!

  61. CAUTION: This was my favorite place to jog…. down MuttontownEastwoods into the various openings and up to the ruins. So spectacular, BUT I must warn all who go, I do believe this is where I got Lymes disease. So, while I recommend a visit, please take all steps to prevent this debilitating disease. When you return home, use a magnifying glass to check out potential ticks (they are the size of a poppy seed). Still, it is an amazing place and I have a photo of one of the marble circles which may have been the base for a planter. Inside this circle is the face of a ghost. I’ll try to post my ghost when I dig him up!!! And for all who read this, the walls to the grand staircase have been graffitied. I wish that didn’t happen, so would appreciate it if you would contact police if you should see this occurring.

  62. I frequently rode through the ruins in the 60s and 70s plus many other areas that were inaccessible to most people who did not own horses. The area was full of beautiful riding trails. It has not changed at all in the last 40 years.

  63. I grew up with my family which built the house across Muttontown Road from the now Muttontown reserve. My mother taught me to ride a bicycle on the road behind the gates and I spent many hours and years of my youth in the fifties and sixties exploring the land and ruins. I remember when the house was still standing,the fountain at the base of the stairs was intact and the existence of a swimming pool(now filled in) was off to the right as you face the fountain. I remember what we called the stables down hill from the North side which was fully intact in those days but a large graffiti on the ceiling said “Kilroy was here”. The place was a perfect place to disappear into a little boys world and let your imagination run wild. I remember when Mr. Christie bought it and then to my dismay in those days tore it down. When my parents died in 2010 in Locust Valley and before I left L.I for the last time I went to King Zog’s place for the last time and saw it again as your pictures show.. Thanks for the photo essay. I had never really seen pictures of the place when it was in its former glory

  64. Sergio Del Pino

    I have always been fascinated by old estate gates, especially abandoned ones. I just adore their mysterious surroundings, wanting to know all about them and what lay beyond these great gates. Once again thank you for giving us a glimpse of the great houses beyond these gates, once owned by the very rich in a bygone era.

  65. This was wonderful! Love the old places as such. I am a stained glass artist and have been studying Tiffany’s Laurelton Hall. What a sad place. Wish you would do something on Tiffany. You were very through with Zog’s estate. Thank you so much

  66. A similar vintage Italianate home has been restored in Orange County: The Glenmere Mansion. They are an excellent place to stay for those coming to the city who have a car at their disposal. The on site dining is superb. There is a spa. A great outdoor pool. For the price of a garden variety hotel room in Manhattan, you can experience what is is like to live in a gracious old mansion. 1 hour north of the city–only about 15 minutes away from Woodbury Commons for those who come to shop.

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