Winter has been tamed, weather-wise, in New York City. If anything, spring arrived earlier than normal. So it was a great idea to take a getaway trip for the night outside the rushing city life.
I had no idea where my friend was planning this getaway. Obviously, since it was an overnight stay, I packed lightly and sprinted out of the city (sneaking out!) and took the LIRR (yes, to Long Island!). The gray Friday clouds dissipated as the last rays of the day’s sun sunlight mingled with the lingering mist that clung close to the horizon as we headed east. An hour train ride took us out to Cold Springs Harbor. While waiting for a cab, we waited inside the station and there was a book rack that I found interesting.
Do you think people actually follow the honor system and return these?
It was getting dark as the cab picked us up and wove down the roads to a gated residential area and beyond a black iron wrought gate that opened up for us, I was in awe. Tall hedges lined both sides of the gravel road leading to a gatehouse that opens up to a courtyard.
I felt like I stepped into Gatsby’s world as the cab stopped in front of a castle! French chateau inspired castle surrounded by manicured shrubs, carefully placed brick roads (in the daylight, they are laid out like a grid), and large wooden doors that opened up to a gorgeous split staircase.
Our room was on the fourth floor at the end of the east wing of the T. We could see the lights of New York City on the horizon, so many miles away. The smell of time and nostalgia filled the quaint room with leaning ceilings, reminding us of the slanted roofs of a tower. It’s not by any standard an MGM grand but it has its charms. Not ONE room in the entire estate looks or is set to be the same. Some has claw foot bath tubs, some has water fall shower, and we, happily, had a jacuzzi!
Dinner was a quiet affair in the Charlie Chaplin room, a frequent guest of the estate in the early 1900s. The service was great. They really treat you well and try their best to accommodate you. I’m a picky eater so I felt it was a bit too pricey and the food mediocre for my standard (hey, I come from a city where I can have the best of everything). I stuck to the appetizer, bacon wrapped filet mignon and potato croquettes and a glass of Reislings, which always puts me to sleep.
Morning mist crept and swirled around the base of the hill, which the castle overlooked like an ivory tower boasting its height and prominence over the surrounding land. Otto Herman Kahn bought the land just for that purpose after years of being surrounded by anti-semitics. Money and success is sometimes a worthwhile revenge.
The night before, the castle hosted a wedding so many of its guests were snuggled in the MOST comfortable bed you’ll ever imagine. Waking up before breakfast, which started at 830AM, we walked the grounds of the estate. I love the saying, “walking the grounds”. It reminds me of what Lizzie Bennet did when walking and admiring the grounds of Pemberley, thinking to herself, “this could have been all mine if I had said yes.” Rooms after rooms were left quiet, as if all the person in the world disappeared over night, leaving a timeless moment captured in a globe for me.
Billiard room now the hotel bar
The grounds are not a vast walk like the chateaus of France or England, as years of desertion and money failure sold off many of the estate’s land. But the short walk down the reflection pools of the garden designed by the Olmstead Brothers, the sons of the man who designed Central Park, led a tranquil walk to an old gazebo, its iron covering rusted, its pole covered in twisted and winter barren branches.
Stone steps lead up to carefully trimmed trees, not yet ready to shed its winter shell. The dew drops clung fast to the mossy green grass, sprinkled with dandelion roots and wild purple flowers. Walking back to the castle was like a Victorian setting of sorts, playing mistress and serving tea to her friends and guest.
Reflection of castle in pool of formal garden
Breakfast dawned with a continental serving, including a la carte menu. The smell of sizzling bacon and egg filled the dining hall that outstretched into the lawn. Even a small dining hall is decorated with chandelier and carefully laid out tables.
Tour of the castle started at 11AM. These tours don’t happen during wedding seasons (April to September) to avoid caterers and decorators. Did you know that the founder of Oheka, Otto Kahn is the inspiration for Mr. Monopoly? He found his money on being a banker and bought many estates. Can you see the similarity? But you would never gues that Mr. Monopoly had several lady affairs with a secret passage in his library leading to the “secretary room”, which is now a ladies’ powder room. *tsk tsk*
Painting of founder, Otto Herman Kahn
The tour was an hour long, filled with history of the location, first by Otto Kahn, then the military school and finally left to vandalism before bought in the 1980s by property mogul man who resides in the castle with his family. Oheka is the considered the second largest residential castle in America. We were greeted by the owner at dinner, which was a nice treat. He’s a sweet man who even offered to give us a ride to the train station but it was only a mile and half walk and it was a beautiful day anyways. It was a getaway worth taking. Who knew there is a castle in one’s backyard?
Largest ballroom and newest addition to the castle
Newest restaurant addition to the castle
Old telephone in the Charlie Chaplin room
Formal Garden viewed from the Bridal Suite
PS, I leave you with this picture that captures the getaway. Romantic and nostalgic, meant for a different time.
An abandoned broken glass in the garden from the wedding.