Tourist Tuesday: Hempstead House

Tourist Tuesday: Hempstead House

On a beautiful, sunny, cold and windy day Lewis and I headed out to Long Island for an eye appointment. Since we were going to be out there, and it was Lewis’s birthday, I decided to make a whole day of it, and concocted a “choose your own adventure” day for Lewis. I’ll map out the choices Lewis had and the ones that he chose.

First up: Lunch or activity first. He chose an activity; I had two ideas ready, either a) a movie or b) an outdoor activity. He chose the outdoor activity. So we went to Hempstead House, which is located in Sands Point Park and Preserve.

Undeveloped land was purchased by Howard Gould (son of the railroad robber baron Jay Gould) in 1900 and 1901, where he built a gigantic 100,000-square-foot medieval castle (modeled after a castle in Ireland) for his wife… however, she did not love it. So he built a much more manageable (I hope you can feel my eye-roll) 50,000-square-foot mansion across the property — the Hempstead House. It did not help, they divorced in 1909.

In 1917 Daniel Guggenheim purchased the property from Gould, in part because two of his brothers owned neighboring properties. In 1923 he gifted his son with 90 acres and the third “house” was built on the property, Falaise (meaning cliff in French since it was built on the bluffs overlooking the Long Island Sound). Daniel and his wife (Florence) utilized the property until his death in 1930, at which point she built a smaller mansion, Mille Fleurs, on the property and relocated there. The house boasted a garden with a “thousand flowers.”

In 1940 the Hempstead House was opened by Florence as a refugee home for 75 British children who were fleeing the war in Europe. Retaining her home, and her son retained his, Florence donated 62 acres, including Hempstead House and Castle Gould to the Institute of Aeronautical Science in 1942, which was then sold to the U.S. Navy in 1946. It remained in the employ of the Navy until 1971 when the land (and three mansions — Hempstead House, Castle Gould, and Falaise) were acquired by Nassau County and turned into a recreational area.

Alas, the Castle isn’t really open to the public, other than a small anteroom where they have a very tiny giftshop. You can tour the Hempstead House, but only during certain times. It was closed for our visit because they are already in wedding season; you can rent out the Mansion for weddings or other activities. Falaise is available for tours three days a week from June until October.

Not getting to see the houses was a bit disappointing, but the grounds are still beautiful. We walked around the Hempstead House and then walked along the pond to the beach. Like I said, the sun was shining, but it was crazy windy, we had a nor’easter a couple of days before and the winds really hadn’t died out despite the sunny weather.

It’s $15.00 per vehicle to enter the park, and then $10.00 per person to tour Hempstead House and $15.00 per person to tour Falaise. Since we didn’t get to do the tours, I can’t say that it’s worth the $30 per person to do the tours, but the $15.00 per vehicle isn’t terrible, especially if you bring a whole care load. The preserve is pet friendly, but leashes are required, so we got to see lots of dogs getting some exercise.

I’d recommend the preserve, especially if you have a whole day to kill and a car full of people to entertain.

After hiking, Lewis had to choose the next part of his adventure: Lunch: a) picnic or b) restaurant. Lewis chose restaurant, so then he had to decide if he wanted to a) eat in Long Island or b) eat in Sheepshead Bay (where we live). Lewis chose Long Island, so we drove to “the view grill” in Glen Cove. The view wasn’t spectacular and the food was just okay, but the staff was friendly, and they had a lot of regulars, and they comped Lewis’s drink since he turned down a dessert for his birthday.

From there, we had to pause the adventure because we both had to work. We were going to take the day off, but that rarely happens for pastors and I had some unexpected work things come up as well. Next, Lewis had to choose a) movie at the theater or b) movie at home. He chose to watch a movie at home The last option for Lewis was dinner: a) I cook or b) delivery. He chose delivery so we enjoyed sushi while we watched a movie.

It was a fun day. “Choose your own” adventure might turn into a tradition for Lewis’s birthday. When I ask him what he wants for his birthday he usually says he wants to spend time with me, so this is a great way to give him what he wants but forces us to go out and have some fun.