compliments of Preston
When we were in Fire Island, besides all the debauchery we were up to, we also saw some lovely homes, build by various architects. There was something for everyone there...all sizes. And most of it is due to John Eberhardt. When taking the ferry from Sayville to Cherry Grove there is always an instant when, to the left of the boat, a bright light starts to come into focus. As you get closer, a white palace starts to solidify on the horizon. A glow in the distance, it looks like a magical realm, a place completely out of the ordinary, where unexplainable things happen. Of course this is The Belvedere, or as sometimes called Liberace's Bath House,Fire Island’s storied all-male guest house. And anyone who has stayed here over its long history can tell you that magical things do indeed happen. It's where we took ourselves by surprises and went nude!!!!!
Once upon a time in the 1950s, John Eberhardt built the Belvedere as a private residence. He was a gay scenic artist who painted sets for TV and theatrical productions in New York. Like many gay men in his social circle, most of them professionals and many active in the city’s theater scene, he started going to Fire Island and camping on the beach before there was much there but woods and deer. Also involved in real estate projects in New York and New Jersey, Eberhardt decided to build a place for himself on the island and chose to do it in an ornate Venetian style.
His house, though spectacular, wasn’t as large as the current incarnation and included just the main house where visitors now enter, with its large living room, residential quarters and rooms on both floors. In the Spring of 1956, right after the completion of Eberhardt’s house, the only hotel in town, Duffy’s, burned to the ground. Eberhardt decided to open up his home to guests, renting out the empty bedrooms to strangers. This was a very informal arrangement, with visitors checking in at his kitchen table.
Over the years the house got bigger and finally completed by the early ’90s, but that doesn’t mean the building hasn’t been touched since. The bell tower, one of the most noticeable features of the estate, blew off during Hurricane Gloria in 1985—destroying part of the house on its way down—and had to be rebuilt. In 2005, the top half of one of the other towers blew off in a tornado and had to be replaced. Eberhardt is happy to report that none of the building should be toppling over anytime soon!!!!!
John Eberhardt, was also a self taught architect and was the pioneer developer of much of Cherry Grove.....and dedicated much of the land he bought more than 50 years ago to dozens of cottages—shanties might be a better term— which still mark much of the quaint landscape of Fire Island’s Cherry Grove. What's really cool is how the boardwalks really compliment the homes.
This was the house we were in...... I
passed out, fell asleep one night on the chair on the balcony deck and slept out all night. I had to check with my fashion attendant as to wear my clothes went.
And then there were the famous, huge party homes....
This was our neighbors. They had us over several times for lovely pool parties. I usually planted myself in the chaise first of the left, in a gin daze.
This really was one hell of a trip, one I won't soon forget. I'm ready to live there, but alas, to expensive for me. I'd be more than happy, anyone reading this, and living there, to be a middle aged houseboy though.