Hempstead House

Falaise – “cliff”

Long Island’s Castle Gould was built to look like Ireland’s Castle Kilkenny.

Castle Gould

Castle Gould

Castle Kilkenny

The Gould family, who commissioned this castle were displeased with the results and never stepped foot in it. The castle stood abandoned for two years before Daniel Guggenheim – whose wealth was  derived from silver mining – purchased the castle and surrounding 250 acres of prime Long Island land in 1910. The acres, bordering the Long Island sound, were part of Long Island’s famed Gold Coast.

The Guggenheim’s never lived in the Castle Gould either. Instead, they used it as the stables and built Hempstead House on the vast property.

Hempstead House side view Hempstead Hous backview

Harry Guggenheim – son to Daniel Guggenheim – was given 90 acres of the property and on it, built Falaise.

Ah… Falaise. This is a house at Sands Point Preserve in Port Washington, Long Island. And what a house it is. We’ve been trying to get in to see it for about 8 years. Daughter was only 4 at the time and children under 10 are not permitted. Since she’s turned ten, we’ve made several attempts to get tickets to see the home but arrived on holidays when it was closed to the public, or on Wednesdays (our Sunday) when, again, it was closed to the public. FINALLY we made it one day. There was time – one more tour for the day. We parked and RAN to the office to buy three first-come-first-serve tickets only to be told they’d sold the last two tickets of the day seconds earlier. Yesterday – unplanned – we arrived at Sands Point Preserve and took a chance. Voilà! Three tickets. We didn’t crack a smile or hoot in celebration until that shuttle bus stopped at those magnificent front gates and the amazing courtyard beyond.

We weren’t allowed to take pictures inside the house, but I made up for that by taking plenty outside…

From the outside looking in From the inside looking out

All five of the above photos are taken from within the courtyard. The entire house is impossible to get in one shot… I couldn’t even capture it all in these five.

Falaise, translated from French to English, means “cliff”, and there is a perfect reason this home was named, “Falaise”. In the style of a medieval French Manor house, it is built to sit on the edge of a cliff overlooking the Long Island Sound. It’s a sprawling mansion – wider than the eye can see – but narrow, a corridor of stunning architecture.

Hand-carved stones and lava (magma) pillars in the arch over the front door

When you walk into the home, you enter the foyer and from that entry you can look straight through to windows on the other side, not thirty feet away. Step down five or so stairs and you enter the receiving room. Glorious in it’s decor – with Renaissance paintings, medieval wooden beams and an incredible collection of medieval carvings set into the walls. Truly a magnificent room.

The layout of this home is unique. Narrow and long, each room is set on a different level – up one step, down two, up a full flight, down three stairs. The intricacies of layout are exciting and made me think of mystery and dark castle halls. Though the home is in no way frightening but rather beckons one to search and discover.

My favorite room of all was the breakfast room. After all the heavy medieval wood and artwork, the windowed walls in the breakfast room were a wondrous sight. Though we were there on a very overcast day, the daylight filtered in and warmed us in a way that bid us welcome.

Harry Guggenheim was ambassador to Cuba during Herbert Hoover’s presidency. Harry was a highly decorated pilot in both world wars, he had a vast interest in flight and invested both in Charles Lindbergh’s adventures and those of Robert H. Goddard (“one of the fathers of modern-day rocketry” and for whom the Goddard Space Flight Center is named). Having founded Newsday, the front pages of that newspaper – for which his third wife was editor – were framed and hung on the walls touting the headline “Man Walks on the Moon!”

Sadly, photos are not permitted within the home but there were plenty of photo ops on the outside.

Of the home from the terrace               The pool and gardens

Through a window – a photo of one of the medieval stone carvings that decorated the walls within the home. Truly remarkable.

Falaise was donated to Nassau County by Harry Guggenheim. It was his wish that the house be seen as he lived in it – with all of his belongings in place and not to be disturbed in any way. He mapped out which rooms the public should see and he mapped out the precise path the public should take through the mansion. His wish was for us to see how he lived and ‘live’ for a short time along with him. It felt that way, we felt wanted and comfortable, if not just a tad envious of the glorious richness that once graced this land.

Summer opener

The birthday honoree in this house gets to choose whatever it is s/he wants to do on his/her birthday. I always choose something to do with nature – maybe a ride upstate to visit one of the mansions so we can later stroll the grounds and picnic under some shady tree or on the banks of the Hudson.

Since my birthday is today, the end of May, it’s always connected to Memorial Day weekend – and that means an extra day to play. 🙂

This weekend was fabulous. Daughter worked a fund raising event for the shelter all day on Saturday while Hubby worked. That meant I was free to write without interruption for several hours. I am now up to Chapter 11. Or just about. I’ve slipped with my Book-in-a-week focus (obviously, since it’s been more like a month plus) but I’m still writing faster and tighter than ever before.

Sunday, we went to Old Bethpage Village Restoration. We go there often and never tire of it. It’s a living history village on Long Island. They’ve taken houses from around Long Island that date back to the 17 and 1800’s and relocated them on this property. It’s set up to look like a working farming village of the period. Like Williamsburg, Virginia, only not as well funded. It’s such a sweet and peaceful place that reminds us of all we have now as compared to the people of that time.

This is the only home in the Village that is original to the property. It was built in the 1700’s with rooms added on through the 1800’s. It was home to Quakers who worked the farm. The immediate area is still a working farm with some of the animals actual descents from the originals.

OBVR - Powell Farm OBVR - Powell Farm2

Some of the homes are classic stuctures that clearly stand the test of time. Isn’t this one beautiful?OBVR - Kirby

Also on the grounds… a cemetery from the 17 and 1800’s…

OBVR - Cemetery

After dinner in a colonial era restaurant, we stopped near home, at Fort Totten, to watch the sunset. So pretty and peaceful, isn’t it?


Yesterday, we went to Sands Point Preserve, a stunning reminder of Long Island’s Gold Coast history. There’s a castle on the property called the Castle Gould. In the 1920’s, the filthy rich Gould family had this home built in the style of Castle Kilkenny in Ireland.

It’s a stunning building and the property – including the drive in from the main road – is breathtakingly beautiful. However, after waiting two years for this castle to be built…

Caslte Gould (Castle Gould on Long Island)

…the Gould family took one look and turned up their noses. They hated it and never spent a day or night inside of it. And there it sits all these years later, a gift to Nassau County. Lucky for us, I suppose, but hard to grasp the concept of just how much money these people had that they could simply walk away.

There are two other homes on the property which now belongs to the town. Hempstead House and Falaise. In all the years we’ve been visiting Sand’s Point Preserve, we’ve never gone on a day when Falaise has been available to tour. We’ve made it our mission to get there at some point THIS summer and finally see the place.

Hempstead house is lovely and, in my opinion, in a much nicer location than Castle Gould.  Hempstead House – side view, facing the Castle Gould (acres away)Hempstead House - Side

Hempstead House - rearview Rear view of Hempstead House

Harry Guggenheim had this house built and used the Castle Gould – which had been left to rot – as a carriage house.

He used the Castle as a carriage house. Imagine?

The view from the back of the house and yard is of the Long Island Sound and it is just magnificent, in my opinion. Since funds are low, Hempstead house is not as well-maintained as it could be, nor is it open for tours, but the bottom floor is often used for social or fund raising events.

Yesterday, we used the grounds to (try to) fly our Nemo kite.

Hempstead House - Kite

The kite, apparently, was afraid of heights, but check out the view of the Sound. ::sigh::

What a glorious day it was. What a beautiful weekend. A perfect way to remember our heroes, to start the summer and to celebrate yet another birthday.

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