Located among the grand Gilded Age mansions on the Gold Coast of Long Island, Laurel Hill is set within an expansive wooded landscape, where ancient beech trees whisper their welcome. Now, in summer, deer dart playfully among the shadows and the gentle waters of Oyster Bay glitter beautifully in the distance. Beyond an impressive wrought-iron gate flanked by original stone pillars, the house reveals itself: a Tudor Revival property dazzling with period glamour.
Built for the Pratt family and later acquired by a Rockefeller heiress almost a century ago, it’s impossible not to think of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s epoch-defining novel The Great Gatsby when viewing this magnificent estate. But Laurel Hill isn’t merely gilded with fine features—it is inherently charming. “While it perfectly encapsulates the era, it is not an ostentatious house,” says Brian Meier of Christie’s International Real Estate Group. “Instead it greets you with a warm welcome.”
In Mill Neck, an exclusive village of around 100 Long Island properties of which this is the largest, there are many opulent waterfront mansions. But, says Kathleen Coumou of Christie’s International Real Estate, more than Gatsby, this is quintessentially a Rockefeller house.
“It reflects the way they did things,” she explains. “It might be a big estate, but it doesn’t feel ‘grand.’ Instead it’s secluded and homey. Privacy and comfort were of the utmost importance to the family.”
While it perfectly encapsulates an era, this is not an ostentatious house. Instead it greets you with a warm welcome— Brian Meier
Philanthropist Abby Rockefeller Mauzé—whose notable legacy includes Greenacre Park, an oasis of trees and flowers nestled in Manhattan’s Turtle Bay neighborhood—added 10 adjoining lots to the estate to create an idyllic sanctuary, 57 acres (23 ha) of woods and gardens threaded with walking trails.
“It’s very, very rare that a property of this size and provenance comes on the market,” says Coumou. “Very few Rockefeller properties remain as private estates. And very few estates in this region remain complete. Over time, they have been subdivided. It’s easy to find mansions located on five acres (2 ha) in this area of Long Island, but not one located on 57 acres (23 ha).”
On Rockefeller Mauzé’s death in 1976, the property was bought by businessman William J. Catacosinos, who refurbished it with utmost reverence for its heritage: even the nails and wood used were true to the period, according to the estate handyman. He served as an excellent custodian to the ultimate family escape, surrounded by woodlands, ponds, creeks, neighboring equestrian estates, and winding country roads.
“His goal was to keep it as it was,” says Meier, “although he added a three-bedroom pool house. Other than that, the story of this house is unlike that of other Long Island mansions, as there have been no additions or modernizations.”
The residence speaks of quiet luxury. Rather than having double-height ceilings, the entryway is cozy and inviting, so it feels like you are walking into an English country house. From this space, you can look straight through the property into the walled courtyard garden beyond.
Beyond the foyer is a light, bright hall with a sweeping staircase, from which the rooms flow elegantly into one other. “It is an eminently liveable house,” says Coumou. “With a mix of grand, yet gracious, spaces and cozy retreats, this is a fabulous home for entertaining, with one of the most beautiful dining rooms I’ve ever seen.”
The sale of an estate like this is a once-in-a-generation event. And a true Rockefeller estate is even rarer—Kathleen Coumou
Seating 20, the dining room’s walls are hand-painted with frescos. The gourmet kitchen is well equipped for handling large events, and there is a breakfast room, a staff lounge and butler’s pantry, a mahogany-paneled library with custom cabinetry, a spectacular ballroom, and a secluded study with sweeping views down to the harbor. Upstairs are five bedroom suites, including the opulent owners’ retreat, a music room, and a separate four-bedroom staff wing.
“This is a beautiful stately home that has stood the test of time,” says Meier. “There are many stunning prewar features, from its large Palladian windows that flood the house with natural light, to its fine architectural details and ornate carvings.”
In the expansive grounds, meanwhile, there are more dwellings with multiple uses, with ample space for guests to stay outside the main house and plenty of splendid work-from-home options, including a two-bedroom carriage house, a three-bedroom mid-century pool house, and a sumptuous three-bedroom guest cottage. Meier continues, “As well as a greenhouse and a root cellar for preserving jams, fruits, and vegetables, there are tennis courts and a gunite swimming pool.”
At just 45 minutes from Manhattan, does Laurel Hill have it all? “Between the wonderful location on the North Shore of Long Island, its history as one of the Rockefeller mansions, and the uniqueness of owning 57 acres (23 ha) of pristine woodland, it just might,” says Coumou.
This is a house for a family touched by success, seeking privacy, exclusivity, and the rarest thing of all, a slice of American history. “Is there anything as prestigious as having a home once owned by such successful people?” Coumou continues. “The sale of an estate like this is a once-in-a-generation event. And a true Rockefeller estate is even rarer. The next steward of this house will be a very successful person, prepared to care for it for future generations.”
Banner image: The grand dining room at Laurel Hill. Alyson Lubow