Oheka Castle
Oheka Castle

Something has to be said about the mix of modern entertainment with beautiful old architecture. Remember the sheer luxury of the home of Jay Gatsby, in the 2013 film of the 1920s classic, the Great Gatsby? It was the Roaring Twenties, the period between the two World Wars and people were partying to fever pitch in a beautiful old mansion. Of course, the story by F. Scott Fitzgerald is about much more than just the partying, but perhaps the splendor and joie de vivre of those wonderful dancing scenes opened up your heart to wanting to jive in an old castle. There really is something of the Great Gatsby era on the north shore of Long Island, New York, where you can take your spirit back to the Roaring Twenties, be treated like royalty and party up a storm, all at once. Come and have a look at Oheka Castle. It doesn’t come cheaply, but it is everything you can imagine in a European castle and, situated at just 40 minutes from the city, it will take you a fraction of the time to get there.

»History

History

Originally, the purpose-designed home of financier, philanthropist and arts patron Otto Hermann Kahn (where it got its name), Oheka, was built between 1914 and 1919, while the rest of the world was fighting the Great War. Kahn really loved to entertain. He had oodles of money and he wasn’t afraid to spend it. Employing a team of the best architects of their generation and another of landscape designers, he commissioned the building of this palatial venue on a 443-acre plot which ramped up the notion of entertainment in style as far as it could go. Taking up over 109,000 square feet in its construction, it is the second biggest private home in the United States. Almost 100 years later, it’s still going strong.

It was built to be impervious to fire and broke architectural rules of the time, in that its original building features steel and concrete. Much more than architectural innovation, Oheka has boasted a chequered and drama-stained history – but that’s what makes it exciting. After Kahn’s death in 1934, it changed hands several times and was used for a variety of things, including a church school and military centre, a New York sanitation workers’ retreat and a training school for Merchant Marine operators. In 1948 the Eastern Military academic took over the place, bulldozed the gardens and made other dramatic changes to the buildings. The grounds are enormous and the military school struggled to keep the whole complex going. Thirty years down the line, Eastern Military went bankrupt, and Oheka was abandoned for some years. It became the hideout of vagrants and vandals and was subject to being set alight and covered in graffiti, from time to time. Some of its outbuildings were burnt to the ground and many of its reflection pools in the garden had either been filled in or allowed to deteriorate completely. Indeed, during that period, there were over 100 documented arson attempts on the whole property.

And then, in 1983, a miracle happened. Along came property developer Gary Melius. A man with the foresight to imagine the unthinkable and the audacity to dream impossible dreams, Melius bought Oheka and began the complicated and expensive process of refurbishing it and restoring it to its former glory. This was not to be just a remake; it was a meticulous work in progress, which is about a loving restoration of the authentic grandeur of the original. Fixing Oheka Castle cost Melius in the region of $30-million and it took him and his team of professionals close to 20 years to complete it. He was very careful to hold onto the authentic integrity of everything from the window frames and door handles to the stone work, for which material was accessed from the original quarry.

Melius certainly spared no cost in making this grand old dame of Long Island sparkle with integrity and its original magnificence, which had made Oheka the playground of choice for society’s rich and famous – from its philanthropists and funders to its politicians and theatre and film personalities – way back in the 1920s. Photo: Oheka Castle

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»More History

More History

In 2004, Oheka Castle was registered in the National Registry of Historic Places, which means that it is protected as a heritage site. And the place is certainly far from bland in its history. Melius survived an assassination attempt in 2014, when he was shot in the head by an unknown assailant, whilst parked in the Oheka parking grounds. Always, with big money, the stakes are enormous and the games are real – and very exciting and sometimes lethal. But as Melius attests to in his welcome letter to his guests, he fell in love with this place in 1983, abandoned and ramshackle though it was at the time. You might think of it as a romantic mix between the Overlook Hotel from Stephen King’s The Shining and the kind of castles in all the best fairy tales in their finest moment – either way, the ghosts are not real, but the glamor is.

In his welcome letter to guests, Melius goes on to comment on how his friends and family considered him crazy at the time to have bought the property, which looked catastrophic – as they considered him crazy to have continued running it after the assassination attempt – but when you’re really in love, it is for keeps, and Oheka is effectively the gem of Long Island, and the place where you can base yourself as you luxuriate in and explore all the area has to offer, from mansion tours and a slice of Long Island history and landscapes, to the simple pleasures of indulging yourself, absolutely and completely. Photo: Oheka Castle

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»Facilities

Facilities

With 32 luxurious guest rooms, this historical hotel boasts everything from its own unique cuisine to its own manicured gardens. It has an 18-hole golf course, an enormous private greenhouse, tennis courts and an indoor swimming pool, orchards and stables. This is a French chateau, only much better. Whether you’re hosting a wedding, or staging a corporate event, or filming a movie, Oheka Castle boasts some of the most elegant formal ball rooms, entertainment facilities and wide open spaces you could possibly imagine. And rest assured, if you are the bride, Oheka has a unique “No two brides shall meet” policy – no other bride will be able to upstage your most important day in your life. And Oheka is certainly big enough to host many weddings at the same time, without the brides coming into contact with one another.

But you don’t only have to visit Oheka for a very special occasion: even if you’re indulging in a romantic weekend away for you and your loved one, no effort will be spared on hosting you – indeed, Oheka offers weekly packages designed especially for those off-the-cuff getaways that make everything worthwhile.

With its beautiful period-designed architecture and historical garden which is modeled on that of French chateaux, you will feel the urge to dress the part as you step into the refined but high quality elegance that reeks of Downton Abbey at its elegant and resplendent heyday. With everything from private bathtubs with ball and claw feet, to all the modern conveniences you can wish for, Oheka is a real treat – and you deserve it. Satisfied customers have commented that from the initial opening of the gates, the experience of visiting Oheka has been top class all the way. They have loved the environment, gloried in the beautiful attention to detail and fallen in love with the space through the restoration vision of Melius. And they’ve returned again, and again.

Under the able steerage of executive chef, Frank Monahan, and executive pastry chef, Daniel Andreotti, the Oheka Castle offers a suite of cuisines which are second to none. With a restaurant and bar open daily, the Oheka cuisine also offers you the facility of private dining and intimate dinner parties, from Mondays to Thursdays, should you wish.

But that’s not all: Oheka has a fully equipped fitness center which is accessible to all guests on a 24-hour-a-day basis. Furthermore, there is an in-room massage service, where you can request any kind of massage, from Swedish to sports, aromatherapy to deep-tissue, maternity to togetherness massages, to ensure that your time at Oheka is truly unique and your every whim is attended to. Photo: Oheka Castle

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»Visit the Hotel

Visit the Hotel

Situated between the Froehlich Farm Nature Preserve, famous for its red cedar and crab apple trees; the Stillwell Woods Park, the Crest Hollow Country Club and the suburb of West Hills, Oheka, at 135 West Gate Drive, Huntington is easy to access. It doesn’t matter whether you’re coming from Manhattan, New England, East Long Island or New Jersey. If you’re commuting in by train via Long Island Railroad, the nearest station is the Cold Spring Harbor Station and there are taxi services which will be only too willing to assist you to arguably Long Island’s best gem.

135 W Gate Dr, Huntington, NY 11743, website, Phone: 631-659-1400 Photo: Oheka Castle

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Oheka Castle, New York