Orson Welles filmed Citizen Kane there; F. Scott Fitzgerald drew on it when he conceived Gatsby’s estate.
Oheka Castle on the Gold Coast of Long Island, the second largest privately-owned home in the United States, got crossed off my list of places to visit after I had Christmas dinner there with my sister Maureen and nephew Brian.
Gary Melius, the owner of the estate, greeted us and all of his patrons at our wooden tables in the dining room. My sister thanked him for restoring the historic mansion — which was originally built with 127 rooms for investment financier Otto Hermann Kahn in 1919 — after it fell into disrepair decades ago. Melius transformed the castle into a luxury hotel and restaurant, as well as a venue for weddings, conferences and other events.
After dinner, my family and I toured the castle and its grounds that were originally designed by the Olmstead Brothers, the landscape architects whose father, Frederick Law Olmstead, designed Central Park. On the unseasonably warm Christmas afternoon, we walked through the restored French garden at the castle’s rear. The pools there were drained; the clipped trees on its outskirts were stripped of leaves.
Although I brought my Nikon D90 and iPhone 6, I was dressed in my best suit and tie and walking leisurely with my family. In other words, I couldn’t break out into full photography mode, in which I may lie down to take a worm’s-eye shot, or rush to capture an unusual bird that may quickly disperse.
Still, I captured sections of the mansion’s exterior, as well as the garden's temple of love, a courtyard, and the breathtaking study done up in red.
Clearly, I need to put Oheka Castle back on my photography bucket list. A return trip, alone with my cameras, sporting a t-shirt, jeans and baseball cap, during a warm-weather month, is in order. I'll make the full rounds of the property and capture every corner of the castle, perhaps while the trees and flowers are in full bloom. Until then, enjoy this appetizer of the castle (and fill me in on your time spent at Oheka).