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Long Island's Gold Coast Mansions: Oheka Castle

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Long Island's Gold Coast Mansions: Oheka Castle
Photo © Linda Tagliaferro

Oheka Castle, Long Island, NY

Photo © Linda Tagliaferro
During the Roaring Twenties and the fabled era of "The Great Gatsby," Long Island, New York became home to the sprawling estates of millionaires. From financier Otto Hermann Kahn's Oheka Castle to William K. Vanderbilt II's Eagle's Nest, from millionaire William Robertson Coe's mansion, Coe Hall, at Planting Fields State Historic Park to the former home of John S. Phipps and family, now Old Westbury Gardens, Long Island brims with stately homes that have been preserved as museums or hotels.

Pictured here is Oheka Castle Hotel and Estate, the former estate of one-time Metropolitan Opera chairman and noted financier Otto Hermann Kahn. (The word "Oheka" was derived from the first letters of his name: Otto Hermann Kahn.) Built in 1919 in Cold Spring Hills in a remote spot that was raised to make it the highest point in the area, the massive castle was Kahn's summer residence and site of many of his frequently talked about Gatsby-era parties where the likes of famed opera singer Enrico Caruso and conductor Arturo Toscanini graced the list of attendees. Charlie Chaplin was also a close friend and frequent visitor to the building which was modeled after the style of a French chateau.

After Kahn's death, the estate had a variety of owners, including a school called the Eastern Military Academy. Eventually, the stately building was abandoned and later scarred by fires set by vandals who entered the empty mansion. Then in 1984, developer Gary Melius bought and restored the castle to its former glory.

Today, Oheka Castle Hotel & Estate stands tall, surrounded by its lovely gardens, restored to their original plans, which were drawn up by Frederick Law Olmsted, the designer of Central Park's landscapes. If the estate looks familiar, then maybe you've seen the opening of the classic movie, "Citizen Kane," which was filmed here -- just one of the many movies filmed on Long Island. Scenes for What Happens in Vegas, The Emperors Club and other movies were filmed at this opulent mansion. Parts of the TV series, Royal Pains, have also been filmed on the grounds.

The castle is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places and functions as a decidedly upscale hotel, and as the site of wedding receptions, galas and corporate retreats. Celebrities have held their wedding receptions here. In September 2004, Joey Fatone ('N Sync, Dancing with the Stars) married Kelly Baldwin. In December 2009, Kevin Jonas, the eldest of the Jonas Brothers, married Danielle Deleasa. Former U.S. Senator Alphonse D'Amato also tied the knot at Oheka.

There are guided tours of Oheka Castle for a fee (by appointment only), and some are lunch tours which include a meal. Long Islanders can also spend a romantic weekend here, surrounded by tranquil gardens and the panache of an elegant era.

For more information, please visit their website at www.oheka.com.

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