OHEKA History

Almost a century ago, financier and philanthropist Otto Hermann Kahn built OHEKA CASTLE in the middle of a 443 acre plot on the highest point on Long Island in Cold Spring Harbor, for an estimated cost of $11 million dollars ($110 million dollars in today’s currency). At the time of its construction, the French-style chateau was, and still is today, the second-largest private residence ever built in America. During the Gilded Age of the 1920’s, Kahn used the 109,000 square foot, 127 room estate as a summer home where he hosted lavish parties and regularly entertained royalty, heads of state, and Hollywood stars.

After Otto Kahn died in 1934, the estate changed hands several times, serving as a retreat for New York sanitation workers, and a government training school for Merchant Marine radio operators. In 1948, the Eastern Military Academy bought OHEKA, bulldozed the gardens, subdivided the rooms and painted over the walls. After the school went bankrupt 30 years later, OHEKA stood abandoned, except by vandals who set numerous fires over 5 years.

In 1984, developer Gary Melius purchased OHEKA and the remaining 23 acres which surrounded the estate and began the painstaking challenge of restoring the Castle to its original grandeur.

Today, OHEKA is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is admired as a premier venue to host society weddings, gala celebrations, and corporate retreats. OHEKA is also an historic hotel with 32 luxury guestrooms and suites on the upper floors of the estate and has been the backdrop to many famous music, television, film and photo productions since the making of the classic film, "Citizen Kane", to the present day TV series, "Royal Pains". Mansion Tours of the estate and gardens offer guests the unique opportunity to learn about OHEKA's rich history and experience the grandeur of this magnificent estate.

TIME-LINE

1914

  • Otto Hermann Kahn purchased 443 acres of land in Cold Spring Harbor for 1 million dollars where OHEKA was to be built.
  • 2 years were spent building the hill on which the estate was to be built, making it the highest point on Long Island.

1917

  • Construction began.

1919

  • The building of OHEKA was complete.
  • The original cost to build OHEKA was $11 million ($110 million in today’s currency).
  • Architects: Delano & Aldrich (one of the Gold Coast’s premier mansion builders).
  • Landscape Architects: Olmsted Brothers (firm established by Frederick Law Olmsted, architect of New York City’s Central Park).
  • Otto Hermann Kahn & his wife Addie and his 4 children used OHEKA as their summer home and weekend retreat.
  • The name “OHEKA” is an acronym for Otto HErmann KAhn.
  • The Kahn Family Motto was "Ever Restlessly Forward."
  • The Cold Spring Country Club was once the original horse stable and the golf course was once part of the original 443 acre Estate.
  • At 109,000 square feet, OHEKA was and remains the second largest private home in America (only The Biltmore in North Carolina can boast grander dimensions).
  • Construction: Reinforced steel & concrete with some walls 2’6” thick.
  • OHEKA originally consisted of 127 Rooms.
  • 126 full-time servants were originally employed by Otto Kahn.
  • A total of 39 working fireplaces existed throughout the estate.
  • The Grand Staircase in the Entry Foyer was inspired by the famous exterior staircase from the Chateau Fountainbleu in France.
  • The Ballroom is 72’6” x 32’5” with a 24’ ceiling height.
  • The Formal Dining Room is 51’6” x 30’2” with an 18’ ceiling height.
  • Otto Kahn’s fear of fire prompted him to use fireproof materials in OHEKA and to paint the plaster walls in the Grand Library using a technique developed in the middle-ages, called "faux bois" which gives the plaster walls the warmth and grain of fine wood paneling.
  • The Library once had a secret passageway hidden in one of the bookcases which led into a small chamber referred to as his secretary’s office.
  • The emblem of “The Linden Tree” seen throughout the estate was the symbol of Kahn’s hometown in Germany.

1934

  • Otto Kahn died of a heart attack.

1936

  • The image of Otto Kahn is used as the inspiration for the character "Mr. Monopoly."

1939

  • The family sold OHEKA to the Welfare Fund of the Sanitation Workers and it became a retirement home for the sanitation workers of New York City. They re-named OHEKA “Sanita."

1942 - 1945

  • OHEKA became a radio operator's school for the Merchant Marines.

1944

  • The greenhouses were sold to the Otto Keil family and is now known as The Otto Keil Florists.

1948 - 1979

  • OHEKA was owned and occupied by the Eastern Military Academy.

1979 - 1983

  • OHEKA was abandoned and fell into almost total disrepair.

1979

  • The Cold Spring Hills Civic Association consisting of residents of Cold Spring Hills sought to preserve OHEKA.

1984

  • Gary Melius, a Long Island developer, purchased the devastated estate of OHEKA which had no electric, plumbing, windows or doors, and its 23 remaining acres, for 1.5 million dollars.

1985

  • A total of 300 - 30 yard containers (9000 yards) were used to discard all the debris.
  • Restoration began to restore the estate to its original grandeur.

1986

  • A total of 222 windows and doors were installed to seal and protect the estate.

1987

  • 4000 roof slates were purchased to restore the damaged roof from Rising & Nelson Slate Co., the same Vermont Quarry used by the Kahn family.

1996

  • The Friends of OHEKA, a not-for-profit corporation, was formed by community members of Cold Spring Hills and Huntington to protect, preserve and raise public awareness of OHEKA.

2003

  • The Terrace Room was added to the Estate to accommodate larger events. With the addition of the Terrace Room OHEKA is currently 115,000 square feet, comprising 117 rooms and 50 baths.

2005

  • 500 Red Cedars were planted and now line West Drive leading to the courtyard to further restore the estate to its original design.

2007 - 2009

  • 44 London Plane trees were planted in the Formal Gardens to replace the missing trees that existed in the original design.
  • 2,505 Boxwoods are being planted around the reflecting pools to further restore the Formal Gardens to its original design.
  • 259 new windows and doors from Italy are being installed throughout the estate.

Future

  • 70% of the Estate is currently restored with future plans to restore the remaining 30% of the Estate to include a restaurant and spa.
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OHEKA CASTLE • 135 West Gate Drive, Huntington, New York 11743 • Telephone: 631-659-1400