Monday, September 01, 2008
The Belvedere Guest House for Men dates from the late 1950s when the pencil factory heir, John Eberhardt, decided to build a dream palace for gay friends on Fire Island.
Eberhardt, pictured above, is now in his 80's, living full-time at his estate in Florida, but he can genuinely be called one of the fathers of Cherry Grove since he constructed about 50 of its beach shacks soon after World War II which are still standing in the small community.
Eberhardt also scoured the European continent soon after the war for objets d'art, and many of them have settled at The Belvedere.
Besides being a contractor, John was also a scenic designer for ABC and CBS in their early television days, and he became an expert with trompe l'oeil, which is featured all over the guest house in some of the oddest places.
In 1980, at age 59, he met a young hustler, Craig Burns, at a Manhattan gay bar and the two coupled up for the next thirteen years, where they both worked their brains out on Eberhardt's real estate empire. John legally adopted Craig in 1989, but the younger man left him in 1993 which is when things got a bit ugly. (For an account of the Court TV case from Palm Beach, click here.)
Craig sued for half of the estate in 1997, John countersued, calling Craig a "golddigger," and in the interim the Belvedere started feeling a bit like Miss Havisham's estate in "Great Expectations," becoming dusty, moldy and seemingly ready to fall into the Long Island Bay at any moment.
The good news is that the two men reconciled about three years ago, and Craig and his new partner have taken over the running of the Belvedere, which is suddenly looking great again.
They have restored much of Eberhardt's art, which really is sensational...
...and the impossibly over-the-top ballroom is looking spectacular again.
Plus, you can run around the grounds stark naked meeting interesting people from around the world.
The time to stay there is during the week when it's less expensive and also less frantic than during the weekends. I can't recommend the experience highly enough.