Behind the great iron gates of Sands Point Preserve Conservancy, guests can sit on the Great Lawn, walk through a rose garden with 1,500 bushes and take a fitness class in the Great Hall of Castle Gould. But all paths lead to the Hempstead House. The 50,000-square-foot building first owned by Jay Gould and then by Daniel and Florence Guggenheim epitomizes Gold Coast opulence so much it inspired literary classic The Great Gatsby. Today, the home is used for concerts, plays and weddings and is open for guided tours throughout the year. A visit is a must for every Long Island and Jazz Age enthusiast. Know seven facts before you go.
It Trumped a Castle
Howard Gould, son of railroad tycoon Jay Gould, purchased the grounds in 1900 with the intention of building a castle like Ireland’s Kilkenny Castle. That wound up being Castle Gould, but the family didn’t like it much and built the massive English Tudor to serve as the main home. Castle Gould became a quarter for servants.
It Really is That Massive
The Hempstead House is three stories high, 225 feet long and 135 feet wide. It boasts 40 rooms and a 60-foot-tall entry foyer.
And It Was Gorgeous on the Inside
As sprawling as the home is on the outside, during its heyday in the 1920s the Hempstead House was even more extravagant on the inside. There was an organ made of oak in the foyer, carved oak woodwork from a 17th century Spanish palace in the billiard room and a walnut-paneled library inspired by the palace of King James I. The furnishings are long gone, but the architecture still gives a glimpse of glamour.
It’s Been Passed Around
When the house was completed in 1912, Gould sold it to the Guggenheims, who changed the name to Hempstead House. They donated the estate in the Institute of Aeronautical Sciences, which sold it to the U.S. Navy in 1946. Nassau County took over the estate in 1971 after the US government declared it a surplus. Two years ago, there was talk the home may fall into permanent disrepair, but Sands Point Preserve managing director Beth Horn said the organization is working with Nassau County to develop a restoration plan. “If the exterior restoration work is completed in the near future, this mansion should stand for a very long time,” she said.
It Was a Dinner Party Hub
When taking a tour of the home, arts, sciences and history lovers may imagine themselves at a dinner party to write home about. Historical figures like Charles Lindbergh, Madeleine Albright and Frank Lloyd Wright visited the Guggenheims there.
It Took a Lot to Maintain
Hempstead House was slightly high maintenance — it took 17 house servants and 200 groundskeepers and farmers to keep the place looking its best.
It’s Been a Star
The home has had many a-close-ups. Scent of a Woman, Malcolm X, Great Expectations, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Gotham, Royal Pains and The Blacklist are a few of the films and television shows that have used the Hempstead House as a set.