Hempstead House at Sands Point Preserve is a unique Gatsby-era estate. The 50,000-square-foot castle, designed and built in 1912, has a long and fascinating history.
Howard Gould, son of financier and railroad magnate Jay Gould, built Castlegould, the home’s original name, for his wife, Katherine. The architectural firm Hunt & Hunt modeled it after a medieval English manor. During the time it took to construct, the couple separated.
Daniel and Florence Guggenheim purchased Castlegould in 1917 and renamed it Hempstead House after the magnificent views of Hempstead Harbor. They filled their 40 rooms with Jacobean furniture, paintings and Flemish tapestries. They employed 17 house servants and more than 200 other men and women as farmers, animal keepers and grounds crews.
By the mid-’20s, they had eight grandchildren. The estate provided everything for the extended Guggenheim family, who spent much of their time there. Daniel died at Hempstead House on the morning of Sept. 28, 1930, surrounded by his wife and children.
Following her husband’s death, Florence no longer wanted to live in the house. She built a smaller house on the property for herself, and in 1940, she opened Hempstead House to refugee children from Europe ranging in age from 13 months to 10 years old. Seventy-five children stayed for a year.
In 1942, Florence donated the estate to the Institute of Aeronautical Sciences, which used it as a research laboratory and archive. In 1946, the U.S. Navy leased the property and used it as its Naval Training Devices Center, for two decades, employing up to 800 civilians and a large number of military personnel at any given time.
In November 1967, Nassau County received 128 acres of Sands Point from the federal government for a park, thereby preserving historic treasures including Hempstead House. Gradually the house was restored to reasonable condition by 1979 and used for art exhibitions through the ’80s.
Today, the mansion is the prime locale for concerts and lectures held among the beautiful rooms and manicured gardens. It also serves as a backdrop for period films and television shows, including Great Expectations, The Americans and Boardwalk Empire. Hempstead House is open for guided tours most weekends. Contact the gate house at 516-571-7901 for details.
• Irwin and Debi Unger, The Guggenheims: A Family History. Harper Perennial, 2005.
• Joan Gay Kent, Discovering Sands Point: Its History, Its People, Its Places. Incorporated Village of Sands Point, 2000.
• Mansions & Millionaires, On The Sands Point Preserve: Historic Details Architectural Legacy Family Sagas. Mansions & Millionaires Inc.
• Arlene Travis & Carole Aronson, Mansions & Millionaires: their story, their style. Mansions & Millionaires Inc., 1983.