History Notes

Larger-than-life windows offer amazing views of the gardens and Long Island Sound.
Larger-than-life windows offer amazing views of the gardens and Long Island Sound. (Photos by Christy Hinko)

Some details you may not know about Hempstead House at Sands Point Preserve

Built in 1912, the massive English Tudor-style mansion, Hempstead House, on the Gould-Guggenheim Estate, was the site of society parties, performances and exhibitions by world-class artists, and gatherings of the powerful elite of the time. Today, Hempstead House stands ready for entertaining with its magnificent architecture, landscaped gardens and exquisite views overlooking the Long Island Sound.

The detail is remarkable on the original hand-carved fireplace.
The detail is remarkable on the original hand-carved fireplace.

Hempstead House was not the first residence on the property. Ten years earlier in 1902, Castle Gould was erected. Financier Howard Gould, son of railroad tycoon Jay Gould, had the house built for his wife, Katherine Clemmons, by architect August Allen. Castle Gould was designed to resemble the Irish castle, Kilkenney, in a late 19th-century revival architectural style.

It was rumored that Clemmons hated Castle Gould and demanded a new one be built. Her husband obliged. While in the midst of having a new castle built in 1909, allegations exploded that Clemmons was having an affair, naming William “Wild Bill” Cody as her lover.

Marble fireplaces are exquisite.
Marble fireplaces are exquisite.

The Goulds divorced the same year. Gould continued building Hempstead House, which was completed in 1912. The Goulds never lived in the house. It was sold to Daniel Guggenheim in 1917.

The 40-room castle is one of the most elaborate estates on the Gold Coast. From the portico, visitors enter the mansion’s 60-foot entry foyer with stained glass windows and a massive original chandelier and wooden staircase. The ground floor features a sunken palm court with a Tiffany stained-glass ceiling. The summer living room opens to the estate’s rose garden, fountains and terrace, which overlook the beach and bay, and feature working stone-carved fireplaces. The bedrooms and newly renovated marble bathrooms proportionately complement the grand scale of this mansion.

Some features in the house are remnants of recent movie shoots, like this statue.
Some features in the house are remnants of recent movie shoots, like this statue.

After Guggenheim passed away in 1930, Hempstead House became too much to care for, so his wife, Florence Schloss, built another home on the property called Mille Fleurs and vacated Hempstead House.

In the 1940s, the family opened Hempstead House to war refugee children from Britain. The Guggenheims’ son, Harry, was a fighter pilot in WWI and WWII; the family began investing in aeronautical science and soon after, donated Hempstead House to the Institute of Aeronautical Sciences, which was then sold to the U.S. Navy. The Navy used the estate from 1946 to 1967 as a training facility, but in 1971, declared it as surplus and deeded it to Nassau County.

The original hand-carved wooden entry doors
The original hand-carved wooden entry doors

Museum historian Max Fogel of Port Washington says the county has attempted or has used the estate as a community college, a nursing home, camp grounds and a public park. In 2008, the Friends of Sands Point Preserve was established to oversee the estate.

Hempstead House has been the backdrop of dozens of movie scenes, including Scent of a Woman, Malcolm X, Great Expectations and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and to TV shows, such as The Blacklist, The Americans, Boardwalk Empire, Royal Pains and Masters of Sex. It has played host to hundreds of private weddings, bar and bat mitzvahs, sweet 16s and more.

The first floor sunken palm court and Tiffany glass ceiling are awe-inspiring.
The first floor sunken palm court and
Tiffany glass ceiling are awe-inspiring.

The 216 acres of woods, grounds and shoreline of the Gould-Guggenheim Estate is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and embodies the legendary F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Gatsby era, as well as the Gould and Guggenheim family legacies.

The preserve is open year-round from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., aside from Christmas and New Year’s Day, with extended hours to 6 p.m., seasonally from September 8 to November 29. Parking is $10 per car ($20 per van, $30 per bus) and free with an annual pass.

The Hempstead House and gardens have limited handicap access. Guided tours are available for the mansions, by appointment, for $5 per person (children younger than 6 are free). For more information, visit www.thesandspointpreserve.com or call 516-571-7901.