My friends and family will tell you that I am an avid Groupon user. Groupon opens up a world of opportunities, restaurants, products and adventures at a significantly discounted price; many of which, in the course of my normal life, I would never take advantage of.
I’m a big proponent of staycations, which are mini retreats that involve minimal travel, are close to home and yet transport you into a world of relaxation, good food, and great company. Oheka Castle was no exception.
As our car made a sharp left turn into a seemingly innocuous development of average size Long Island homes, if it were not for the stone entry way with large white letters heralding Oheka Castle on the left and the Cold Springs Harbor Golf Club on the right, we might have driven right past it. Hesitantly we made our way through the development following the signs pointing to Oheka Castle. Suddenly the terrain shifted; and we found ourselves entering a courtyard flanked by a huge wrought iron gate. Standing nearby was a young man with a clipboard containing the guest roster. Once he was assured that we were “official” the gates opened wide providing entry onto a grand tree lined canopy drive.
With eyes darting in every direction, as we could not take it all in, we wondered what lie ahead.
At the end of the path a cobble stoned courtyard welcomed us. We had the option to self-park or take advantage of the valet service provided and of course my husband chose to self-park, not wanting to give up control of his prize possession.
Flanking the entryway was a red carpet, what a nice touch! The front door was actually non-descript and not befitting a castle I thought to myself, but when the door opened, the most glorious wrought iron cascading staircase greeted us.
Otto Hermann Kahn, the original owner of Oheka Castle was a financier, philanthropist, visionary, and well established real estate baron owning several well-appointed homes. He built the 109,000 square foot, 127 room Oheka Castle almost 100 years ago. Oheka Castle is the second largest residence built in the United States; second only to the Biltmore Estates in North Carolina, which is also a must see.
Since its inception, the Oheka Castle underwent several reiterations. In its heyday, Otto Kahn entertained royalty, celebrities, politicians and of course family. Following his death in 1934 the castle was a retreat for the NYC Sanitation Department, a military school for 30 years, then, once abandoned, home to squatters and vandals for 5 years until it was purchased by Gary Melius in 1984.
Gary, an unassuming man, who lives in the castle with his wife, transformed Oheka Castle back to its original glory days, with one of, if not the largest renovations in history. Thirty million dollars and countless historians, architects, landscapers and meticulous attention to detail are responsible for the masterpiece we are privileged to see today. During dinner, Gary Melius often stops by to greet his guests and thank them for coming.
Spending time at Oheka Castle, whether it’s for a weekend retreat or just for lunch, dinner or cocktails, is such a treat. The sense of history, the expansive rooms, and the well-manicured grounds are sights to behold. The tour is definitely worthwhile as you gain a historical perspective of the castle, room by room.
Gems such as Oheka Castle are within our grasp. Knowing where to look is the first step. Taking advantage of these wonderful opportunities enriches the fabric of our lives and revitalizes our souls. Planning a staycation is easier than you think and definitely an exciting and rewarding experience.