From Long Island, NY OHEKA Castle
OHEKA Castle has an interesting history as far as castles go, it reminds me more of the history of Alcatraz then of a castle. I just want to start by saying that my guide, Lowell, was wonderful, full of history and a passion for the castle. She lives right around the castle so she is a local with an invested interest in the success of the castle.
Lowell started the tour in the entrance to the castle with the history. Otto Herman Kahn bought 443 acres of land in 1914 to build this as a summer and weekend home on a high point of Long Island, since it wasn’t the highest point, he built it up to be the highest point. Today the castle land is only 27 acres, much of the landing having been sold off after Otto’s death in 1934. The home was built with 127 rooms, it was then and still is the second largest home in the United States.
In 1978 the Academy went bankrupted, they basically left everything, locked the doors and left. The castle became a home for vandals, squatters, and kids doing bad stuff. By 1983 the only reason the building was still standing was because Otto Kahn was so paranoid about fire that the building was very fire proof (there was almost no wood used in the construction). So although there was no roof in areas, there was fire damage throughout, and plaster had simply fallen off the walls due to cold Gary Melius thought this was a good investment. He bought the castle for $1.5 Million and has put in another $37 Million dollars into repairing the castle.
|Charlie Chaplin Room|
So the tour started at the Grand Staircase, which was modeled after a staircase at Chateau Fountainbleu in France. From there we moved upstairs to the second floor and the main living floor of the castle. Our first stop was brief in the Foyer before moving to the main ballroom. The main ballroom was one of the early rooms to be restored, due to it’s location across from the entrance and it’s allure as a venue space to rent out. The room had once been a gymnasium, complete with basketball nets. Today is has ornate ceilings, wood floors, chandeliers and serves as a main dining room for guests. To the right of the foyer is the formal dining room, and the new Terrace Room that was added to accomodate larger parties, up to 450 guests.
|Formal Dining Room|
To the left of the foyer is a series of smaller rooms. The library has been restored to the state it was in when the family owned the house and it’s wonderful. There are also sitting rooms, the Charlie Chapman Room and the bar is in what used to be the billard room. Outside this wing is the formal gardens, which have been fully restored from the days of being a tank field.
|Bathroom in Fairbanks Suite|
I remember as a little girl my Mom pulling up at a street a few miles from home and telling me that there was a castle down the road, as a little girl, that was just the coolest thing EVER! In August, as an adult, I finally got to see that castle – OHEKA Castle in Huntington, LI.
In the next few weeks I will post about the OHEKA Castle tour with the history of the estate. But the short story is that in 1984 (about when my Mom would have told me about its existence) a family bought this old dilapidated castle and refurbished it to be a wedding location and hotel. Last year I bought a Groupon for a one night in the hotel, I paid less then $200 for a $500 a night room.
|Sitting area and fireplace|
The bathroom had a traditional tub, but with jacuzzi jets, a fun way to relax after the stressful day I had had at work. The toiletries were by L’Occitane and there were complimentary waters and snacks in the rooms. What? I got free wifi, and snacks, crazy!
The main floor of the castle has a foyer, ballroom, large party room, several small rooms for parties, a bar and restaurant. There is also lovely grounds to walk around outside. But here is one of my biggest problems with the place, it was very stuffy. There are beautiful grounds, but no one said, feel free to take a walk outside. Every door was closed and none marked, I felt like I was sneaking around the place trying to find my way outside. I of course got outside and walked around but I felt a little funny.
|View from the back of the castle|
The following morning I went to breakfast in the ballroom, it was a nice continental breakfast spread – muffins, donuts, bagles, fruit, yogurt, and oatmeal. As an average person it was a little akward, there were staff there to clear the tables and get you anything you needed. Although they didn’t hover, they were often standing around doing nothing. I’m not used to that kind of attention.
I checked out just before the 11AM checkout time and while waiting for my tour of the castle I met Gary, the owner of OHEKA Castle. It was totally unexpected and a nice touch that made the castle feel more welcoming. In case you are wondering, Gary does have his own suite on the 3rd floor of the hotel.
Would I stay here again? Well since I live 10 minutes away, probably not. Maybe for a special occasion, but at $400 a night minimum it better be a VERY special occasion. If you’re visiting Long Island and looking for a special treat, this is a very unique spot and would make a memorable experience.