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Laura's Long Island: Oheka

Diverse people, fabulous art, music, food, wine, and history. Why are Long Islanders loyal to their hometowns, and why do they stay? Tell me why you stay on Long Island.

As the tour docent at the famed Oheka Castle, I meet Long Islanders from all over our island. Many of them visit Oheka for the first time, even though they have lived here for years! As I reveal the unique history of this one time "Gatsby" party estate every day, I am amazed at how so many people have never heard of one of the wealthiest New Yorkers, Otto Herman Kahn (O -he- ka).

The estate was built in 1919 for 11 million dollars as a summer home and weekend retreat. And what a retreat it was! With 443 acres of sprawling equestrian trails and woodland, an 18 hole golf course, a 10 car garage for Otto's Rolls Royces, the most extensive greenhouses in the country at the time, tennis courts, an indoor lap pool, beautiful formal gardens designed by the Olmstead Brothers,  a working dairy farm, a race track and an airstrip!

Built to be fireproof by Kahn, the Fench Chateau style house had 127 rooms, 39 fireplaces and over 400 doors and windows. There were roughly 126 servants to care for the Kahn family of six. Many caretakers came to the estate when the Kahns were there for the summer, by way of train (Cold Spring Harbor Station) and walked across the golf course into a tunnel under the ground to access the kitchens and laundry areas.

Today, Oheka castle is the largest private renovation in the United States. The transformation to its former glory has been 29 years in the making. It is roughly 95% complete. They host fabulous weddings and parties (just like in the old days) and they are also one of America's great historic hotels.

Come visit one of our true remaining Long Island treasures. Visit www.Oheka.com for more information on tours.  I'll see you there!

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

V. Celeste Wenzel February 20, 2013 at 11:46 AM
Hi, I would love to volunteer at Okeka if you ever need anyone. Vivian
Mark Hussey February 21, 2013 at 03:47 AM
For my entire childhood, and on into adolescence, Oheka Castle was always visible from, and walking distance from my home. Except we didn't call it Oheka. We called it Eastern Military Academy....because that's what it was: the "sleep away" prep school for military-minded young men. To me and some of my friends, the Academy looked like some spooky, sinister alternate-universe version of the enchanted castle in Disneyland (before Disney World existed). My parents explained to me that the military academy was actually a type of reform school for "bad boys". As a young kid I remember seeing the cadets walking through our neighborhood heading for the Cold Spring Harbor RR Station. My folks explained that many of these alleged bad boys lived in NYC, so before weekends and holidays, the pseudo-West Point cadets would take the train back to their homes in New York. I would eye them warily but with curiosity: what had they done that was so bad that they needed to be sent to reform school? Had they been busted for conterfeit baseball cards, or stealing cases of Silly Putty from their local Woolworth's? I never found out. Three or four of them would trudge down the street together with duffle bags slung over their shoulders and they'd be wearing their serious, steel gray pseudo-West Point cadet uniforms. Wait....do you ever talk about this chapter in the history of Oheka during your tour?
Laura Bart February 21, 2013 at 04:32 AM
Mark please join us for the tour at 11am. I'm sure you willl enjoy it!
Mark Hussey February 21, 2013 at 04:45 AM
What's a Fench?
Valerie Vangura February 21, 2013 at 12:37 PM
All the years growing up in the area i never knew about Oheka. I have been on tour several times and just LOVE it! Such a beautiful work of art. What a wonderful preservation! The tours are tremendously informative and fun! I highly recommend it!
Mark Hussey February 21, 2013 at 04:14 PM
I will be happy to check out the tour--when the weather is a bit warmer. My Mom used to be a docent at the Phipps Estate in Old Westbury, so....despite my eccentric detour, above, I do understand and appreciate what you do! Maybe will see you in April. Thanks.
Joan Cergol February 22, 2013 at 09:13 AM
Great blog, Laura! For more pictures and information about Oheka check out and like our OHEKA Castle, the book Facebook page at www.facebook.com/OhekaCastle
Laura Bart February 22, 2013 at 01:29 PM
Thank you Joan. The book is wonderful. Please see what the "Cold Spring" house looked like and how it thrived and eventually survived. The pictures are amazing.
Sarah February 22, 2013 at 08:35 PM
I think the castle's stint as a retreat for NYC sanitation workers was the most interesting period.
Jane Lawrence February 23, 2013 at 01:27 AM
Definitely, Laura..I'm up for a tour! It is one of the estates here on LI that I have never visited.
Elim Bril April 19, 2013 at 06:48 PM
We went to a lot of famous castles in Long Island, NY and beyond. Most of them are pretty beautiful and interesting. Oheka castle seemed to us as one of the most interesting among them. Not only because of its beauty and size, but also because of how our tour guide Lora Bartholomew introduced it to us. She gave us so much extremely interesting information not only about the castle and its history but also about the historical time which coincided with the castle's life from the very beginning to our days. She is a wonderful storyteller and very knowledgeable and professional tour guide. And on top of it one can see how much she likes what she is doing. We want to send to her tour all our friends and relatives. Thank you, Laura, very much. The Brils.
Laura Bart April 20, 2013 at 02:28 PM
Thank you so much for your kind words. I do truly love Oheka and love Long Island and all it has to offer. I look forward to hosting your family and friends.
Mark Brendan Hussey April 25, 2013 at 12:32 PM
Hey Laura, I left a comment in this space back in February or early March....what happened to it? Looks like Patch's format has changed, and this is a beta version? At first glance, a nice improvement--but is there a way to access the older comments made here? I am ready to come visit and take the tour, btw--but meantime, would like to have what I wrote, as some of my old Walt Whitman High School pals had an interest in reading it. Thanks!
Laura Bart April 25, 2013 at 01:39 PM
You have to contact Pam Robinson @ Patch and inquire about the past comments. Thanks!
Neil Kelly July 16, 2013 at 02:44 PM
http://www.worthpoint.com/worthopedia/charlie-chaplin-doug-fairbanks-otto-kahn-photo Hi Laura, I was on today's tour. Here's what I found about the Fairbanks/Kahn/Chaplin photo.
Laura Bart July 17, 2013 at 10:00 AM
Thank you for joining my tour Neil and for the correct date on the photo! I appreciate it. Any other information you may have, please let me know and come and visit us at Oheka again.

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