December 11, 2011 by staff
Oheka Castle, This French chateau built almost 100 years ago by banker and philanthropist Otto Hermann Kahn has a rich history and remains, to this day, the second-largest private residence ever built in America.
When Otto Hermann Kahn purchased 443 acres in Cold Spring Harbor in 1914 to build his family retreat, he not only created a train station to bring workers onsite, but also had them construct a hill where his 109,000-square-foot residence would eventually sit. Completed in 1919, Kahn called it Oheka Castle, an acronym for the beginning letters of his first, middle and last names.
This “Gold Coast” estate changed hands several times after Kahn’s death in 1934. In the early 1940’s, it was used as a retirement home for the sanitation workers of New York City and renamed “Sanita.” From 1948-1979 it was the home of Eastern Military Academy. After the school went bankrupt, the rich history of the castle was in danger of coming to an end. Oheka fell into disrepair and was a target of vandals who set over 100 fires. Thankfully, Kahn had the foresight to build the structure out of fireproof steel and concrete instead of wood.
In 1984, developer Gary Melius purchased the estate and has been painstakingly restoring the castle ever since. His mission has been to combine historic preservation and stewardship with an aim to create what Oheka tour docent Laura Bartholomew calls a “working castle.”
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