|Herbert Bayard Swope|
|Gerard Swope, Herbert's brother|
The fourth owner of Browning’s estate, Herbert Bayard Swope, Sr., was described by Westbrook Peglar as “all gall divided into three parts.” Others described him as someone who strutted and fretted; some thought him pompous. He was unquestionably solemn and talked a lot but was unable to participate in small talk.
He almost never laughed and was capable of extraordinary kindness or extreme rudeness. Outwardly, he was stately, suave, and unshakably self-confident. Inwardly, he was in constant turmoil and thin-skinned, perceiving real and imagined slights.
An avid party-giver, who insisted that everyone rise when he entered the room, Swope’s parties at his Sands Point estate have often erroneously cited as the model for Jay Gatsby’s parties. Since Swope didn’t buy the estate until after The Great Gatsby was published, what is more likely is that the parties that he gave at his Great Neck house on East Shore Road, which he rented from Lottie Blair Parker, were models for Jay Gatsby’s parties. These parties were so free-wielding that invitations were never sent out – people just arrived. It was not unusual for guests to remain for months or years. One actually stayed for five years, moving with the Swopes from Great Neck to Sands Point.
Prior to the 1929 stock market crash Swope’s fortune was estimated to be $14 million; after the crash he was over $2 million in debt but that did not stop his lavish life style. He simply borrowed money from friends and from his older brother Gerard, who was president of General Electric.
Toward the end of his life Swope tried to sell the estate to NBC for television studios, to IBM as a country club, to Robert Moses for a park, and to the Soviets, Nationalist Chinese, and United States Department of State for use as an official residence. In 1964 Swope’s widow sold the estate to Horace Richter.
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