OHEKA AND FRIENDS
Friends of OHEKA seeks to raise public awareness about the Castle's past, present and future.
First, Some History
OHEKA CASTLE, completed in 1919 by legendary financier and patron of the arts, Otto H. Kahn, stands majestically in Huntington, Long Island as the largest home ever built in New York State and the second largest in America. At 109,000 sq. ft., OHEKA is twice the size of The White House and nearly double the size of the Hearst Castle.
So proud of his Long Island country estate, Mr. Kahn used a combination of his own initials to name it: Otto HErmann KAhn. Otto Kahn enjoyed OHEKA as a summer home and as a weekend retreat from the rigors of the banking world.
His 127 room palace included every amenity befitting a gentlemen’s country seat. Its lavish interior included a sweeping marble staircase patterned after the Chateau Fontainebleau in France, a sparkling 2,500 sq. ft. ballroom, opulent formal dining room, elegant billiards room, stately library, school room and more. So large and so complete, OHEKA was once described by the New York Times as the “finest county house in America.”
The palatial estate included an 18-hole golf course and horse stables (today Cold Spring Country Club), greenhouses (today Otto Keil Florists), gatehouse (today a real estate office), sunken garden with reflecting pools, fountains and statuary, formal gardens, a working farm and dairy, indoor lap pool, tennis courts, airstrip, and racetrack.
But Mr. Kahn’s enjoyment of OHEKA during the “Roaring 20s” came to an end upon his untimely death in 1934 at the age of 67. Soon after, the estate was sold.
From 1939 until 1940, the City of New York used OHEKA as a retreat for sanitation workers, renaming it “Sanita.” Thereafter, the mansion housed a training center for WWII radio operators until 1945. In the late 1940s, the Cold Spring Hills community was carved out on 256 acres of estate property. In 1948, Eastern Military Academy (EMA), bought the mansion and 23 acres, remaining there for 30 years until bankruptcy forced its closure.
A New Beginning
In 1984, Long Island developer Gary Melius began restoration of OHEKA. Under Mr. Melius’ expert direction, OHEKA’s first floor, roof, exterior and formal gardens were returned to their original magnificence during the 1980s. However, residential zoning restrictions became an obstacle to OHEKA’s full restoration. Hence, the birth of the not-for-profit preservation organization, Friends of OHEKA, Inc.
Friends of OHEKA, Inc. was formed in 1996 with the mission to protect, preserve and raise public awareness of OHEKA CASTLE. This not-for-profit corporation is a public-private partnership with OHEKA’s owner, Gary Melius, and its mission was partially achieved when the Huntington Town Board created the OHEKA CASTLE Overlay District and approved OHEKA’s “adaptive reuses” as a banquet hall, fine
dining venue and hotel.
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Carol A. Finnegan
James W. Gathard
Kevin J. Lyons