Hempstead House – Guggenheim Estate and Sands Point Preserve Conservancy
Hempstead House was once a part of the Guggenheim Estate. This impressive Gold Coast house looks very much like some kind of castle. With its stone walls and impressive tower with battlements, it could be every bit at home in Europe, yet it sits among splendid gardens in its Sands Point location on Long Island, New York.
In fact, Hemptead House was begun as a castle to rival any European edifice. When Howard Gould, the son of railroad tycoon, Jay Gould, began construction in 1912, it was to be a replica of Kilkenny Castle, in Ireland.
That plan fizzled when Mr. Gould decided he didn’t like the plan and built another house as the main living quarters for the estate. However, rather than living in the house, the entire estate was sold upon its completion to Daniel Guggenheim. It was then that the name was changed to Hempstead House.
After the death of Daniel in 1930, Mrs. Guggenheim preferred not to live in Hempstead House. She closed the house, building a small seaside home for herself on the estate, called Mille Fleur. It was actually the fourth mansion to be built on the property. The others are Hempstead House, Castle Gould (built at the same time as Hempstead House) and Falaise, now a museum.
In 1942, Mrs. Guggenheim donated 162 acres of the estate to the Institute of Aeronautical Sciences. (Her late husband was an avid airman and supporter of research into aeronautics, including rocket powered flight.) The property was then sold to the US Navy in 1967, who held it until 1971. At that time, the US government declared the property surplus, and it was donated to Nassau County. It is now under the auspices of the Sands Point Preserve Conservancy.
The remainder of the estate was donated to Nassau County upon Harry Guggenheim’s death, as stipulated in his will.
Today, visitors can tour Hempstead House and marvel at this impressive 50,000 square-foot Tudor style mansion with its 40 rooms. The massive three story exterior walls feature cut granite and Indiana limestone. Its massive vaulted ceilings take guests back to the roaring 20s with all their lavish style and glamour. The library, paneled in walnut, was fashioned after the library in the palace of King James I. The 60 foot high entry foyer even contains a magnificent and fully restored Wurlitzer Opus 445 Theatre Organ!
Hempstead House and all the other fascinating sites on the 212 acre park can be reached via Exit 36, the Searingtown Road off the Long Island Expressway. As you travel along Searingtown Road north, it eventually becomes Port Washington Road, and eventually Middle Road.
But why fight traffic or ride in a stuffy bus or taxi, when you can get there in the kind of style suitable for such a grand old home. A Long Island limousine service with a knowledgeable and courteous chauffeur will pick you up from your hotel precisely when you are ready, and drive you comfortably, quietly and in luxurious style right up to the front, just as Mr. Guggenheim once arrived.
Be sure to call the Conservancy ahead to book your tour or special event.