Sunday, June 05, 2005

Old Nantucket Warily Meets the New - New York Times

Old Nantucket Warily Meets the New - New York Times

. . . The real estate frenzy, even in the dead of winter, is only the most visible reminder that over the past decade or so this 50-square-mile, fishhook-shaped island off the Cape Cod coast has come to be dominated by a new class: the hyper-rich. They emerged in the 1980's and 1990's, when tectonic shifts in the economy created mountains of wealth. They resemble the arrivistes of the Gilded Age, which began in the 1880's when industrial capitalists amassed staggering fortunes, except that there are so many of them and they seem to be relatively anonymous.

Like their precursors, they tend to be brash, confident and unapologetic. They feel they have earned their money, and they are not shy about spending it. They construct huge mansions, outdo one another in buying high-end status symbols like mega-yachts (100 years ago it was private railroad cars) and not infrequently turn to philanthropy. Their wealth is washing over the upper reaches of society as it did a century ago, bringing cultural and political clout as they take up positions on museum boards and organize presidential campaign fund-raising dinners.

And they seem unconcerned about being accepted by the old money. If the blue bloods want to mix with them, fine. But if not, the hyper-rich are content to stick with their kind. If they cannot join an exclusive country club, they form their own. They are very good at creating a self-enclosed world where the criterion for admission is not the Social Register, but money.

Once a low-key summer resort, Nantucket is rapidly . . .


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