Weekend Getaways at Repurposed Hotels: Oheka Castle
OHEKA’s grounds are so opulent, they were featured in the opening shot of Citizen Kane.
135 W Gate Dr, Huntington, NY
oheka.com; (631) 659-1400
Distance by car: 1 hour
In 1919, railroad and banking tycoon Otto Hermann Kahn (who, with his top hat and white mustache, was also the actual model for Monopoly’s “Uncle Pennybags”), built the second largest private home in the US on the shores of Long Island. With 100 full-time staff, greenhouses, and stables, Kahn’s 127-room, 109,000-square-foot “castle on the hill” was the Downton Abbey of its day. After Kahn died in 1934, the magnificent estate (made famous in the opening shot of the movie Citizen Kane), with its French Château de Fontainebleau-inspired staircase, fell into the hands of the New York City Sanitation Department and then became a military boarding school. By the time the military school went bankrupt, OHEKA was a mess.
Enter Gary Melius, a Long Island real estate developer. He purchased OHEKA in 1984 and has made restoring it his “life’s work.” Like Kahn, Melius loves to entertain, so he moved in, sank a bunch of bucks into restoration, then opened OHEKA to guests.
Restoring OHEKA to its former glory has been the “life’s work” of Gary Melius.
ROOM: Each richly textured suite is fit for a lord and lady of the manor, with 12-foot ceilings trimmed with crown moldings; claw-foot tubs in large, marble-floored, deeply hued bathrooms; complimentary unlimited snacks; flatscreen TV; and period antiques.
BOARD: A new destination restaurant overlooking reflecting pools, parkland gardens, and grounds is slated to open soon. Until then, begin your evening with a cocktail in the former billiards room, and, if possible, arrange for dinner in the Chaplin Room—festooned with posters and memorabilia of Kahn’s good friend Charlie.
ONLY HERE: Make sure you leave your car keys with the front office. OHEKA is a popular backdrop for movies, TV shows, and commercials, and staff may have to move your wheels so productions can film there.
WHILE HERE: Spend some time at the Vanderbilt Museum, once William Vanderbilt’s home and now a wonderfully rendered, compact, mini museum of natural history.
JUST THE FACTS: Room and suite rates from $395 to $1,095 per night.