So You Wanna Stay In A Castle, Eh?

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It’s always exciting when a bucket list item can be checked off your list, exceeding the expectations you’ve set in your mind. Somewhere on my list (ahem, #72) was “sleep in a castle.”  I suppose when my 17 year old self came up with this idea, I was picturing a grand chateau in southern France, or perhaps a towering structure propped on a lush grassy hill in Scotland, surrounded by sheep who are lulled to sleep every night by the bagpipe players?  Regardless, I never would have expected an opportunity to arise to stay in a castle just under an hour outside NYC…and not just any old castle, but one you’ve probably seen before from the comfort of your own TV.  Here’s the deets.

Why Oheka May Look Familiar

Oheka Castle made its first film debut back in 1941 for a little movie called Citizen Kane.  Ever heard of it?;-)  Since then it has been gracing the screens as backdrop to films, TV, commercials, music videos, and photography shoots.  One of my faves is Royal Pains, a show that is set in the Hamptons and uses the castle as the residence of the main bizillionaire on the show.  (Sidenote: it’s on Netflix Instant, check it out for more castle views!)  Not too shabby, eh?

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Oheka’s History

But let’s back up just a bit…Oheka didn’t start off being the backdrop for Hollywood.  Almost a century ago, financier and philanthropist Otto Hermann Kahn built the castle on the highest point on Long Island for an estimated cost of $11 million dollars (which would be about $110 million dollars in today’s currency…yowzers!)  At the time of its construction, the French-style chateau was, and still is today, the second-largest private residence ever built in America.  During the 1920’s, Kahn used the 127 room estate as a summer home where he hosted lavish parties and regularly entertained royalty, heads of state, and Hollywood stars.  Does it remind you a little of Jay Gatsby?  Yeah, me too.

With Kahn’s death in 1934, the estate changed hands several times, serving as a retreat for New York sanitation workers, and a government training school for Merchant Marine radio operators.  I mean, you gotta think how crazy expensive this thing is to maintain…electric bills alone!

In 1948, the Eastern Military Academy bought the castle, bulldozed the gardens, subdivided the rooms and painted over the walls. After the school went bankrupt 30 years later, Oheka stood abandoned, except by vandals who set numerous fires over 5 years.  In 1984, developer Gary Melius purchased the castle and the remaining 23 acres which surrounded the estate and began the painstaking challenge of restoring the Castle to its original grandeur.  Not an easy task, but he certainly did a sensational job.

Visiting Oheka

Today, the castle is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and is used as a historic hotel with 32 luxury guest rooms, and is also a proud venue to many, many NY weddings and galas.  Seriously guys, it’s gorgeous.  I love the traditional decor, grand paintings, and how easy it is to imagine Kahn’s 1920’s parties taking place around you.  We had dinner at the onsite restaurant (delicious), stayed in the Fairbanks Suite, and had breakfast the next morning buffet style in the grand ballroom.

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Probably my three favorite things about the castle are the library, the gardens, and the Charlie Chaplin room.

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Even if you don’t stay overnight in the castle, you can still join for one of the mansion tours, so, so worth it.  Our guide was passionate and knowledgable, and truly made the estate come to life with the stories she told.

Getting To Oheka

While we chose to drive out to the castle, it’s definitely accessible via public transportation.  You’ll want to hop on the Long Island Railroad at Penn Station and take the Huntington Line to Cold Spring Harbor Station.  Once there, you can call a local taxi to pick you up and take you to the castle (there’s no taxi depot at the station): Orange & White Taxi, 631-271-3600 | Ecotaxi, 631-624-3727.

Whether you’re going for a quiet escape from the city, romantic getaway, a slice of history, or to check off your bucket list that you’ve slept in a castle, we know you’ll have the best time.  We sure did!

Have you ever visited a castle?  Impressions?  Let’s talk in the comments below!

 

By: Jessica Tiare Bowen

 

A very special thank you to the wonderful folks at Historic Hotels Of America and Oheka Castle!

This post is part of Travel Photo Thursday at Budget Travelers Sandbox.

26 Comments

  • Heather says:

    This place looks amazing!! How did I live in NYC for five years and never learn of its existence?? I’ve always wanted to stay in a castle!

    • Used York City says:

      Right?! I feel like it’s not that well advertised, so not shocking that you missed it! A “hidden gem” of sorts that needs to be talked about more!;-)

  • Mike says:

    Oh my gosh, this is absolutely awesome and how fun for you, Jessica! And nice shout to the Orson Welles classic. I would have loved to see (and eat of course) that buffet in the grand ballroom. The Chaplin room would have likely been my favorite. The only castle I’ve ever been in the Hearst Castle in Southern California. My dream would be stay in one in Germany/Bavaria :)

    • Used York City says:

      Oh, that would be a cool place to stay, Mike! Something very mid-evil about staying in a Bavarian castle, I love it!

  • This castle really does have a Gatsby-esque quality to it, and unlike in the movie, it’s not all CGI. This looks like a really great place to stay. Only 32 rooms in that huge place? I’d stay there and pretend that I was the owner throwing my own grand party.

    • Used York City says:

      Precisely, Michele! I’m sure it’s also cool if you have a wedding there and have all your guests rent out the rooms…you can really imagine you are Gatsby for a day!;-)

  • What a fun experience. When I looked at the first photo it looked familiar, but I would never have guessed it was in the United States. I have watched Royal Pains, so that is definitely where I have seen this beauty :) Thanks for linking up this week! #TPThursday

    • Used York City says:

      Right?! It definitely has more of a Euro feel, so we’re a little spoiled that it’s so close to home!:-)

  • Laura says:

    That looks so cool! Staying in a castle is one of those bucket list-type things – I’m determined to do it one day!

    Laura
    Sometime Traveller

  • Jackie Smith says:

    Oh what a treat it would be to stay here — not just because it is a castle but because it is beautiful! Loved the tale and the photos~

    • Used York City says:

      Thanks Jackie! And agree, I imagine there’s all kinds of castles out there in all different states of upkeep…this one was definitely a 5 star experience!

  • Wow, i’ve been all over the Hudson Valley and didn’t know about this. Who knew I don’t have to fly to Europe to drag my child on “boring” castle tours.
    :-)

    • Used York City says:

      Haha, exactly! You can keep them right here in the US for those tours;-) But they actually have a tour that combines a delicious lunch afterwards, so something tells me the kiddos might love that!

  • jan says:

    I’ve been in a fair few castles a long time ago, but I have no desire whatsoever to live in one. Lovely photos though.

    • Used York City says:

      Haha, oh I hear ya on that, Jan. Sometimes I feel like our tiny apartment is way too much upkeep, I couldn’t imagine the cleaning routine for a castle!;-)

  • oh I dream of have a library/sitting room. So lovely. Thanks for the tour around this gracious castle. We went to an old home in South Australia that had a wonderful library/billiards/men’s sitting room. Such atmosphere and stories to tell!
    Happy travels. I am joining you through Travel Photo Thursday.

    • Used York City says:

      Hi Jill! Ahh, that home sounds lovely, libraries with sunken leather couches have long been my favorite kinds of places, nothing relaxes me quite like it! Happy travels!:-)

  • Lydia says:

    Right, this has made me mad – my boyfriend is from Huntington and has never mentioned this place! He will be getting a stern talking to…

    It is soo gorgeous – I always love wandering around these places, wondering about the lives lived there. Thanks for the suggestion :)

    • Used York City says:

      Haha, now you guys can explore something new (and fantabulously amazing!) together! It’s truly a beautiful way to spend even a day away from the city!

  • Tamara says:

    Oh my god, yes!! Citizen Kane!!
    Ok, so my castle story is more indirect. For our wedding, we got a gift card to a British castle of a B&B on a beach in northern California. It really was just like a castle and was an ancient building. Here, I have a link:
    http://www.pelicaninn.com/
    And there was a little girl there with her aunt because it was her life dream to sleep in a castle. She was all of three or so.
    Memory making!

  • Keisha says:

    Wow, that looks incredible!

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