With the movie ‘The Great Gatsby’ on the big screen at the moment and those of us who love the romance of the Gilded Age of the 1920’s, me included, I decided to search for some of the magnificent Mansions built by magnificently wealthy families. Families like the Vandebilts, Astors and the Guggenheims. One of these is Oheka Castle, which is the second largest private residence ever built in America, the first being Biltmore in North Carolina. Oheka Castle looks like it was the set for the movie, with its beautiful French architecture, grand staircases ready for those unbelievable choreographed dance sequences, romantic suites and magnificent gardens.
Oheka was built by Otto Khan between, 1917 and 1919. A staggering 109,000 square feet, with 127 rooms this was only the summer and weekend home of the Khan family. Otto and his wife, Addie along with their 4 children held lavish parties that we can only dream of, entertaining Royalty and Hollywood stars. Unlike Jay Gatsby’s handsome looks though Otto’s image clearly wasn’t similar as his was used as the inspiration for the character ‘Mr Monopoly’. Otto Khan died of a heart attack in 1934. His family sold the property in 1939 to, of all things, the Welfare Fund for Sanitation Workers and became the sanitation workers of New York’s retirement home.
After changing ownership a few times is was left abandoned until 1984 when a Long Island developer, Gary Melius, purchased Oheka, which by that stage had no electricity, plumbing, windows or doors. He then spent millions of dollars restoring Oheka back to its former glory, even adding on The Terrace Room to accommodate larger events, which now makes Oheka 115,000 square feet. Oheka is now a Boutique hotel comprising 117 rooms and 50 bathrooms and is available for events including Weddings.
I only wish that I had known about Oheka on my recent visit to New York as it would have been an amazing place to visit if not stay. Tours of Oheka are available along with some of the other Mansions in the area called the Gold Coast, New York. Once you see The Great Gatsby I’m sure you will feel like me and would have loved to experience 1920’s in Oheka, but would be happy to visit the place now. As for the Khan family, wherever they are, there Family Motto is now taken up by me “Ever Restlessly Forward”.
As for the movie, the sets, furniture, costumes and jewellery are incredible and if you want to have your own piece of Gatsby at home you can. I met up with Rachel Brown from Designer Rugs here in Auckland, New Zealand. Designer Rugs made the rugs for the movie which were designed by Catherine Martin, The Great Gatsby Production Designer. Rachel showed me some of the Gatsby designs that the company produced. Designer Rugs can have one of these beautifully crafted rugs made for you, even changing the colours. www.designerrugs.co.nz . Maybe one of them could be my piece of the Gilded Era, again “Ever Restlessly Forward”