Saturday, November 15, 2014

Oheka Castle

Finding a castle on Long Island's North Shore seemed a rather unlikely possibility.  But when digging around online for things to see, there it was in the guise of an extremely expensive hotel.  The guide ended the tour with an inspection of a "typical" suite.  At $1,800/night?  I didn't bother to go to see it. 
But I did keep getting my tongue all twisted up with the name.  I kept saying "Osaka."

It's a combination of the first owner/builder's name.  O - Otto; HE Hermann and KA for Kahn.  He spent five years from 1914 to 1919 building it.  It took two years just to build the artificial hill it all sits on.  It is also the first totally fireproof private home ever.  Kahn's previous mansion had burned down which clearly marked him psychologically.  It's constructed with steel beams and the walls are 30 in. thick.  New developers couldn't destroy it and building a housing unit.  It wouldn't burn and the bulldozers couldn't penetrate the walls.

Originally it was the largest  private home in America with 127 rooms covering 109,000 sq. ft.  It was also as ownership changed, a retreat for NYC Sanitation Workers which was a substantial step away from the glittering balls and gala dinners that the Kahns threw.  Then it became the Eastern Military Academy.  A local told me that Donald Trump had attended it. 

See Oheka at the movies - it has appeared in "Citizen Kane" and "What Happens in Vegas" as well as background for numerous videos

No 95 year old establishment can escape from lurid tales and Oheka has one.

Back in 1984, a developer named Gary Melius bought it.  Refurbishing it (it has been vacant for five years) didn't go well; he ran out of money despite having paid $1.2 million for it.  Thus, as we see above, Oheka underwent several changes in ownership.  But as time passed, Gary  recouped his fortune, bought it again and spent the next 30 years returning it to it's original 1919 beauty. 

Gary is the story.  On the night of February 24, 2014, he was accosted in the parking lot and shot by a masked intruder.  The villain of the piece has never been caught (or even found for that matter) but rumors persist that the gunman was either an inept hit man (the gun jammed after the first shot; double tap foiled) or his son or stepson were behind it. 

Apparently undaunted, Gary recovered and seems to make periodic tours of the premises greeting guests and tours.  That's certainly his prerogative; he spent 30 years of his life putting it together. 

We saw him in the corridors and during lunch which is where we're going to go tomorrow.  Touring makes a body so hungry, don't you think?

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