Just for Fun! A peek behind the gates of 5 famed Long Island estates

November 28, 2015 09:00AM
By Christopher Cameron



Before there was a billionaire’s row on 57th Street, there was Long Island’s Gold Coast. At the height of the Gilded Age (and in the following decades), familiar names like the Vanderbilts, Roosevelts, Whitneys, Charles Pratt, J. P. Morgan and F. W. Woolworth, to name a few, built stately mansions reminiscent of English country homes on Long Island’s North Shore.

Thankfully, many of those homes still stand, and they remain arguably the most splendid homes surrounding New York City — one is even on the market for a cool $100 million.Here are a few of the best specimens.

1. Winfield Hall (Woolworth Estate)
77 Crescent Beach Road, Glen Cove

77 Crescent Beach Road, Glen Cove
77 Crescent Beach Road, Glen Cove

Fire it seems is not Woolworth’s friend. After his first home was destroyed in a fire (which some believe was started intentionally), Woolworth spent $9 million building the current estate — roughly $196 million in today’s dollars.


Outside the main house the estate features a large garage with living quarters, a main entrance arch, two greenhouses and a tea house.

Unfortunately, in January of this year the house caught fire causing millions of dollars worth of damage.


“The priceless woodwork can never be replaced. I’m standing on a beautiful, priceless Oriental rug that’s never going to be the same,” James Hickman, head of fire investigations for the Nassau County fire marshal’s office, told Newsday at the time.

The house is owned by the family of Martin Carey, the brother of former New York Gov. Hugh Carey.


2. Old Westbury Gardens (the Phipps Mansion)
71 Old Westbury Road, Westbury


Old Westbury is the former estate of John Shaffer Phipps, the heir to a steel fortune. It was built in 1906 to resemble Battle Abbey in East Sussex — the place where Phipps married his fiancée Margarita. However, it doesn’t look like the properties have much in common.

Battle Abbey

Designed by George A. Crawley in the Charles II-style, the home has 23 rooms and sits on a 160-acre estate.  Today, the property is open to the public.



3. Castle Gould (Hempstead House)
127 Middle Neck Rd, Sands Point

The original Gould Castle
The original Gould Castle

Howard Gould, the son of railroad tycoon Jay Gould, began construction on Castle Gould in 1900. Initially, He modeled the massive home on Kilkenny Castle in Ireland.

Kilkenny Castle in Ireland

After the castle was complete, the Goulds built another house on the estate, which eventually became the main dwelling.

Hempstead House
The second home built onto the estate, now know as Hempstead House

However, it seems that the Goulds were never quite satisfied with their castle. In 1912, they sold the property to Daniel Guggenheim. Guggenheim changed the estate’s name to Hempstead House. Just five years later he donated the estate to the Institute of Aeronautical Sciences.


4. Oheka Castle (Otto Kahn Estate)
135 Westgate Dr, Huntington


Oheka Castle was the country home of financier Otto Hermann Kahn (Oheka is an acronym of his name). It took five years, from 1914 to 1919, to complete the 109,000-square-foot manse. Not bad, since it is the largest private home in the nation after Biltmore.


Today, the castle is currently a hotel with 32 guest rooms and additional suites on the upper floors.


It is owned by Long Island real estate developer Gary Melius, who was shot in the face by a would-be assassin on the estate’s grounds last year.

 Gary Melius after being shot
Gary Melius after being shot


5. Beacon Towers (demolished)
Sands Point

There is nothing sadder than when a beautiful home is destroyed to make way for some lesser structure. Unfortunately, that is what happened to Beacon Towers.

Built in 1917 for Alva Belmont, the ex-wife of William Kissam Vanderbilt and the widow of Oliver Belmont, the home was the last Long Island house designed by the legendary architecture firm Hunt & Hunt.


Inspired by the alcázars of Spain and depictions of castles in medieval illuminated manuscripts, the home’s interior contained  140 rooms. The mansions exterior was  coated in white stucco.

In 1927, the estate was sold to William Randolph Hearst, who expanded the home. Hearst  sold Beacon in 1942, and just three years later it was demolished to make was way for a new development.

Some scholars believe that the mansion inspired F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby,” which describes the house of Jay Gatsby as:

“A factual imitation of some Hotel de Ville in Normandy, with a tower on one side, spanking new under a thin bead of raw ivy, and marble swimming pool and more than forty acres of land.”



Quadrum to build 500-key Garment District hotel

UK firm, Sam Chang planning to subdivide 250K sf site

November 20, 2015 02:15PM
By Mark Maurer

Quadrum Hotel

Quadrum Global is planning to develop a 26-story, 500-key hotel in the Garment District, an area teeming with boutique hotel options.

The London-based private equity investment firm partnered with prolific budget-stay hotelier Sam Chang last year to buy the site of a two-story office building at 351-353 West 38th Street. Each firm paid $56 million, records show.

The plan was to subdivide the site, which offers a total of 250,000 buildable square feet, into two hotels — one to be developed by each party.

Quadrum’s planned hotel will span 125,000 square feet. If the firm receives a city approval to buy additional air rights, the proposed property could swell to 150,000 square feet, Quadrum CEO Oleg Pavlov told The Real Deal.

After the existing office tenants vacate next year, the developers plan to begin demolition and then break ground.

Quadrum is hoping to capitalize on the burgeoning office submarket in the adjacent Hudson Yards neighborhood, to attract a “21st-century businessman traveler.”

“With so much office space coming online in Hudson Yards, we expect that to be a huge engine,” Pavlov said. “The Garment District will elevate itself.”

In contrast with the Garment District’s bevy of older construction, limited-service hotels, Quadrum is envisioning a more modern hotel with compact rooms, Pavlov said.

Quadrum Hotel 2

The site, located near Ninth Avenue, boasts a total of 125 feet of frontage on both West 38th and 39th streets. Quadrum’s hotel will rise on 38th Street, while Chang’s will rise on 39th Street. Chang’s hotel plans for his half of the site are unclear.

No plans for either project have been filed yet with the city’s Department of Buildings.

Jonathan Marvel’s Marvel Architects is serving as the architect for Quadrum, which also hired JLL’s Edouard Schwob to advise the firm on the selection of a hotel operator or potential development partner.

Just next door to Chang’s 39th Street portion, he is planning to build a 25-story, 175-key Pestana hotel, at 338-340 West 39th Street.

Quadrum, which also has offices in Midtown East and Miami Beach, is developing an 18-story rental building on the Upper West Side and a 250-key Tommie hotel in NoMad. Both are in partnership with Simon Baron Development.

Larry Silverstein: I wish I’d never sold any of my Manhattan holdings

Developer talks WTC, bubble fears and 30 Park Place at Corcoran Sunshine speaker series

November 07, 2015 12:00PM
By The Real Deal 


Larry Silverstein and Katherine Clarke

If Larry Silverstein could go back in time, he’d keep all of his Manhattan holdings off the block.


“Every time I’ve sold anything – and I’ve only sold at very high prices – five years later, I’ve thrown my hands up and said, ‘I’ve done a dumb thing,’” the developer said Wednesday, speaking at a Corcoran Sunshine event at the sales office for his latest condo project, 30 Park Place. “I always tell my kids, ‘When I’m no longer here, remember one thing: Don’t sell!’”

The Silverstein Properties head, who’s been in the business for 60 years, said he’s seen cycles come and go, but at the end of the day, Manhattan real estate will stand the test of time.

“I’ve been functioning here for about 60 years and I’ve always been bullish on New York,” he said. “Every once in a while there’s a glitch or a decline – some of those declines are sharper than others and some last longer than others – but, on the balance, if you draw a line through the ups and the downs, you’ll see that the ups are more significant. I’ve been watching this damn thing and it just continues to grow.”

Silverstein’s talk, moderated by The Real Deal’s Katherine Clarke as part of a series of industry discussions dubbed CS Talks, also touched on the mogul’s long-term vision for Lower Manhattan. Silverstein, who inked a lease for the original twin towers just days before they were destroyed, was one of the earliest proponents for rebuilding the towers and spoke to the challenges he faced along the way.

“The greatest challenge was to succeed at a time when there was a sea of adversity out there,” he said. “Government officials are not known for their unity of thought. Everybody had a different agenda. We’ve now lived with five or six governors in the state of New York, seven governors in the state of New Jersey and several mayors. All of that brought a profusion of confusion.”

Silverstein, who is responsible for rebuilding a large swath of the World Trade Center, including 7 World Trade Center and 4 World Trade Center, said he’s even faced adversity at home — from his wife Klara, who initially had reservations about his purchase of the site for 1 Comment

30 Park Place

“My wife was giving me hell one day … She said, ‘You have such a concentration of projects around the World Trade Center. You need to diversify.’ So, obviously when the opportunity came to buy a site just one block north of the World Trade Center, I took it.”

His wife may not have thought it his wisest purchase, but Larry has had the last laugh. The project, designed by Robert A.M. Stern, is now 70 percent sold, Silverstein said.

The developer also sung the praises of the controversial new Santiago Calatrava-designed new transit hub at the trade center site, renowned as the most expensive train station ever built. The Oculus reportedly cost close to $4 billion, almost twice the estimate when plans were first unveiled in 2004. He dismissed criticisms of the cost marring the legacy of the project.

“It’s the most magnificent building in America as a transportation terminal,” Silverstein said. “The beauty of that building is unprecedented. The quantity of white marble is unbelievable. Yes, it’s probably the most expensive building in the world on price per square foot basis, but such is life. You’ll love it.

RiverTower close to being sold for $390 million

Equity Residential put the 38-story rental at 420 E. 54th St. up for sale earlier this year.

Micro-apartments are a big solution to one of the city’s most vexing problems

A shift from subsidizing affordable housing to downsizing apartment sizes would help house young workers and low-income seniors.

Photo: Fogarty Finger Architecture
This cozy unit meets city codes. Ones under 400 square feet should as well.

Mayor Bill de Blasio has called for the city to spend $41 billion over 10 years on affordable apartments while asking developers to kick in billions of dollars’ worth of such housing. But housing could be made less costly and more available without a dime of subsidy. How? By allowing smaller units.

Decades ago, in response to fears that some neighborhoods would become overcrowded slums reminiscent of the turn of the 19th century, the city established a 400-square-foot minimum dwelling size in most medium- and high-density residential zones. But quite a few New Yorkers live happily in units smaller than that, including at least one City Council member, Corey Johnson, whose flat in the Village is all of 319 square feet. With modern technology and design, builders are now providing even greater efficiency and comfort in small spaces.

The first step should be to eliminate the 400-square-foot minimum, which limits supply and raises costs in a housing market that is already tight and expensive, especially in Manhattan. As our Joe Anuta has reported, the Department of City Planning wants to do exactly that. Its proposal, part of a larger zoning reform now undergoing public review, should be approved.

Small apartments are particularly attractive to young people who want to move to the city or remain here for its culture, opportunities and dynamism—but certainly not for spacious dwellings. Likewise, low-income elderly people need housing to be affordable and convenient, not expansive. But they are subject to outdated housing regulations as well, including something called the density factor, which was designed for general-population buildings. Prompted by recommendations from nonprofit builders of senior housing, City Planning proposed to relax these rules, too. That’s a no-brainer.

City codes generally allow a building’s average unit size to be smaller as the zoning increases in density, but an inexplicable quirk in the rules paradoxically raises the minimum unit size in certain high-density zones near mass transit. The proposal would fix that.

The plan would allow developers to respond to demand among young professionals for independent housing. Such flexibility is far more sensible than repeatedly amending regulations as conditions and tastes change. On pricey blocks, builders will likely continue to chase the higher profits of sprawling apartments—the so-called luxury premium. But elsewhere we’d expect to see more small units, lowering housing costs for people who can’t or don’t want to pay for more space than they need. And the increase in overall supply will help all buyers.