Sunday, November 19, 2017

OHEKA Castle

Otto Kahn was born in Germany and moved to America in 1893. He met his wife Addie quickly after. He took a year off work to tour Europe with her. During their year abroad, they acquired an extensive collections of paintings, statuary, and other object d’art. By the time of his death, his collection would be considered one of the finest in the United States. They settled into an estate in Morristown, New Jersey.

In 1914, Kahn purchased a lot located on Fifth Avenue and Ninety-First Street in Manhattan and a 443 acre tract of land in Cold Spring Harbor. The building in Manhattan was listed in the 1919 edition of The Architectural Record. This became his legal residence for the remainder of his life.

As a lover of symbolism, he used his own initials to name his estate on Long Island, calling it OHEKA. He employed hundreds of workmen to create a man-made mountain on which to build his great home. He envisioned his home to be one of the largest, grandest, and most complete estates on the Northeastern Seaboard. He hired the architectural firm of Delano and Aldrich to construct it. 

Otto and his wife Addie both were passionate about gardening. In addition to areas for formal and informal gardens, the created a greenhouse complex, which became one of the larger private nurseries of its kind in the United States. In order to make sure the gardens didn’t overshadow the building, he hired America’s foremost landscaping architects; Olmstead Brothers of Massachusetts. The Olmstead Brothers were responsible for Central Park, the Capitol Grounds in Washington D.C., and more.

From early childhood, Kahn was an accomplished equestrian and plans were drawn up to include bridle paths that would weave through the entire estate.  A twenty-two acre sanctuary was also created for Addie. Otto also commissioned an eighteen-hole golf course to be built on the estate. It ranked as one of the finest golf course in the United States at the time.

With the involvement of America in World War I, the construction of the estate came to a complete halt in 1917. It re-started a year later. Otto and his family moved into the state in 1919. Upon driving through an Entrance Tower, an over a mile long driveway opened onto the main courtyard. The estate itself consists of three floors which included an indoor swimming pool, approximately one hundred thirty rooms, an two story high entrance room, reception hall, a library with hidden room, ballroom, dining room, sitting room, and a billiards room to name a few.

Otto Kahn died on March 29, 1934 of a massive heart attack. The state remained vacant for years until it was purchased by the Department of Sanitation of the City of New York to be used as a weekend retreat. The neighbors were horrified and the resort was quickly shut down. It was leased in 1934 as a training center for radio operators of the Merchant Marine. In 1948, the estate and 23 acres were sold to a military school as its Long Island branch. The school closed in 1978 and the estate was abandoned.

In 1983, the Castle was sold to developer Gary Melius. He began planning restoring the estate to its former glory. It opened in 1987 and is listed on the national Register for Historic Places.

King, Robert B.  Raising a Fallen Treasure: The Otto H. Kahn Home, Huntington, Long Island. Robert B. King, 1985

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Bethpage - A Brief History

In 1687, Thomas Powell Sr. bought more than 15 square miles from local Native American tribes in a transaction known as the Bethpage Purchase. Powell named Bethpage because it was situated between the towns of Jericho and Jerusalem, just as the biblical town of the same name was situated. In 1699, Powell made a second purchase, the Rim of the Woods Purchase, which includes most of present-day Bethpage.

Thomas Powell’s son Richard and his wife Sarah owned and lived on a farm in Old Bethpage. Today, this is the only building that was originally located on land that is now part of the Old Bethpage Village Restoration.

Rowland Pearsall was one of the first settlers who bought his farmland from the Powell family. In addition to the Pearsall family, the noted families of the late 170’s were the Bedells, Whistons, Powells, and Stymuses. Joshua Hubbs came to Bethpage with his wife in the 1800s. The Hubbs House was constructed in 1820 and his one of the oldest homes in Bethpage. The Belle family are responsible for establishing the district’s first school which was built in 1858 on the grounds of the Pearsall farm. Powell Avenue School was constructed around 1911. It was given two additional sections in 1915 and 1923.

By 1859, large numbers of people settled the land and growth continued through the rest of the 19th Century. At that time, most of the people made their living by farming. The central railroad of Long Island extended into Bethpage in 1841, an important event in the history of the town. The first statin was built near Stewart Avenue and a local post office was opened in 1857. Land speculators began to purchase large sections of land near the tracks and began building. That section was called Central Park.

Alexander McConochie could easily be called the “Land Baron of Bethpage.” He and his family controlled almost all of Central Bethpage for 40 years.  He owned property south of the LIRR between Stewart Avenue and Broadway and bought more east of Broadway and 70 acres of woodland.

The village’s first factory, Feuschel’s Pickle Works was established in the early 1880’s. About the same time, Central Park’s first hotel was built. It is still standing on Broadway, just north of the tracks.

In 1911, the Central Park Fire Company was organized and incorporated. In 912, Benjamin Yoakum purchased 1,368 acres of land and hired Deveraux Emmet to design and build an 18-hole golf course which opened in 1923. In 1931, the Long Island Park Commission purchased the Yoakum Estate and other area farms to create Bethpage State Park.

Bethpage was officially re-named from Central Park on October 1, 1936. In September 1989, the first Saturday of October was officially designated as Bethpage Day. Grumman Aircraft opened its first plant in Bethpage in 1936. It became the largest employer for Bethpage and Long Island at that time.

In 1940, the Zorn Bethpage farm was born. The Zorn family raised live chickens and sold them wholesale to various vendors. Zorn’s still stands today on Hempstead Turnpike. In 1951, William Nunley opened a 5.5 acres amusement park and restaurant. It would remain open until 1978. The renowned carousel housed there can now be found at the Long Island Children’s Museum in Garden City.

Hunt, Terence S. Bethpage: The Years of Development, 1840-1910. Oakdale Press, 1976.

Logerfo, John. Bethpage. Arcadia Publishing, 2015.