Hempstead House

The Quintessential Gold Coast Mansion

 

This 50,000-square-foot Tudor-style mansion is the embodiment of the Gold Coast era on the North Shore of Long Island. Though the house is no longer furnished, its stately architecture stands as an authentic example of Gatsby-era opulence and elegance.

Hempstead House was built by Howard Gould, son of railroad tycoon Jay Gould, and his wife Katherine Clemmons in 1912; it became the home of Daniel and Florence Guggenheim in 1917.

Designed by New York City architects Hunt & Hunt, Hempstead House measures 226 feet long and 128 feet wide. The first and second floors of the Hempstead House measure over 1.5 acres. Stonecutters, masons and sculptors were imported to carve windows, cornices, columns, towers and gargoyles, most of which have been preserved.

Inside the 60-foot-high foyer of Hempstead House, the imposing vaulted ceiling illustrates the grand lifestyle of the roaring 1920s and 1930s. The foyer’s magnificent Wurlitzer Opus 445 Theatre Organ was recently restored. The massive pipes that are visible on the foyer walls are only decorative – the music reverberates through strategically designed openings in the floors.

During the Guggenheim’s occupancy, Hempstead House was a treasure trove of artwork, decorative items, and furnishings, many of which were authentic Tudor and Jacobean antiques imported from Europe. Medieval tapestries once hung on the walls, and oriental carpets covered the floor.

The walnut-paneled Library was copied from the palace of King James I, and relief portraits of literary figures still decorate its plaster ceiling. The Billiard Room originally featured a gold leaf ceiling, hand-tooled leather wall coverings, and carved oak woodwork from a 17th-century Spanish palace.

Stone gargoyles around the ceiling peer down into the Summer Living Room. The house also featured stained and leaded glass, red velvet draperies from a Spanish cathedral, Flemish tapestries, and artwork by Rembrandt, Van Dyck, and Rubens.

The sunken Palm Court once contained 150 species of rare orchids, plants and potted trees.  An aviary housed exotic birds in ornate cages among the flowers.

Tall clear Gothic windows flood the second floor hallway with light, creating a dramatic effect when visitors enter the rooms overlooking the Long Island Sound. All of the rooms on the second floor are detailed with ornate plaster trim on the walls and ceilings, each in a unique style.

After Daniel passed away in 1930, his wife built Mille Fleurs, a smaller, more manageable home on the property.  She sold the furnishings in Hempstead House and sealed its doors.

Ten years later, the manor house reopened to house 75 British refugee children who resided here during WWII while foster homes were organized for them.

In 1942, Florence Guggenheim donated Hempstead House to the Institute of Aeronautical Sciences.  The U.S. Navy acquired the property in 1946 and converted it into a Naval Training Devices Center.  Much of the original interior was destroyed or removed during this time.

The estate became a Nassau County Park in 1967 – and 128 acres became the property of the County.  When Harry Guggenheim passed away, he bequeathed his 80 acres to the County as well.

Friends of the Sands Point Preserve was entrusted by Nassau County to maintain this beautiful property in 2003 – the mission to preserve and protect its magnificent buildings and grounds was launched, and the Gould and Guggenheim legacies preserved for the future.