Exploring An Empty Mansion: Forgotten Rooms, A Decaying Basement

We’ve taken a look at the exterior of Hempstead House, as well as the beautifully restored rooms of the first floor. Heading down the hallway at the south end of the mansion, it’s time to go a little deeper…


At first, you come to a series of more generic rooms:


A parlor in the south-east corner is currently being used for storage:


Then I noticed an unusual Moorish-style horeshoe arch doorway, which seemed out of place with the rest of the decor:


At first glance, you might think the room on the other side is nothing particularly special.


However, looking a bit closer, there are hints that it may have once served a grander purpose. Lining the doorframe are these tiles…


Close-up of the tiles:


And looking up, you see that the ceiling is lined with blue tiles, which reminds me of a bath or water-related room – maybe a pre-beach changing room?


Finally, this odd mirror, framed by a mosaic pattern, is in one corner, matching the rest of the decor. Any guesses?


Heading back down the hall, we come to the kitchen. The serving window has been temporarily boarded up:


In its current state, the kitchen is mostly empty, with only a stainless steel table and sink left from previous owners (I’m curious if they date to the mansion’s days under Naval ownership, or as far back as the Goulds/Guggenheims).


Anyone cleaning dishes has a pretty great view of the backyard / Long Island Sound:


Once painted uniformly white, a lot of interesting brickwork is being uncovered:


Also, I really appreciate the connecting room, featuring classic black and white kitchen tiles:


One door in the corner of the kitchen was partially open. On the other side, I found a staircase leading to the basement…


As you enter the dilapidated basement…


…you find yourself in what would have been the Goulds’ food storage room, with three ice rooms against the back wall:


One ice room still has its enormous wooden door:


The food racks are still inside.


The shaft for a dumbwaiter was in the opposite corner:


As mentioned earlier, Hempstead House was owned by the Navy from 1946-1967 and used as a training facility, and it’s in the basement that you really find evidence of this.


My guess is the lime green and white walls were added by the Navy:


What’s especially odd is that they chose to cover up the white tiling. Below, the crumbling plaster gives way to the old tiling:


This wall, located next to the ice rooms, have had the plasterboard removed (those round pieces were used to hold the plasterboard in place, and I imagine are a lot harder to get off).


Every door in the basement is marked with a room number, left over from the Navy’s use. This door even features a classic Naval insignia:


Very amazed to see this has survived in such great condition over the years, while anything similar has disappeared:


A very long and very dark hallway stretches the length of the property…


…leading to additional brick rooms in various states of ruin:


Turning a corner, I stumbled onto an old elevator, which no longer runs:


A detailed set of instructions is attached beside the door on every floor:


I don’t think the button is going to do much:


Turning yet another corner, I came to the old generator room…


…complete with this awesome Danger – High Voltage sign attached to the wall:


Sadly, the generator was removed long ago (though I’m glad the wire cage was left):


There’s a really great abandoned/industrial feel in the basement rooms:


I’m not sure, but I wouldn’t be surprised if these doors once led to a mess hall for the Naval officers:


Ready to head upstairs? Our next installment takes us to a hallway on the second floor lined with purple and gold wallpaper…


…and black lampshades?


Much more to come!


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  1. I wonder if the view out of the kitchen is Long Island sound or Hempstead Habor (http://www.coastalsailing.net/Cruising/Destinations/LIS/HempsteadHarbor/hempstead2.jpg). It looks to be right at the cut off. Great series, either way.

  2. Oh, also, Scout, the latitude & longitude, pretty precisely, of Hempstead House is 40.863191, -73.700860. I couldn’t find a pre-made marker for when I wanted to Geotag my pictures, so that’s basically the center of the house. Hope that comes in handy when you add these posts to your Google Map.

  3. I’ve been following these posts with interest.

    Somehow, I’ve managed to scout NY for 20+ years (and being aware of this location), without ever having seen it in person.

    Great Stuff.

  4. This series is wonderful, Scout. I went to several ‘Designer Showcases’ at Hempstead House some years ago, but only saw the first floor and lots of the features of the house were covered up by the showcase. The sconce with the black shade on the second floor is gorgeous itself, and the shape of the shade is very unusual. I don’t think that purple and gold wallpaper was a Naval installation!

  5. Even though rebuilding and preserving is nice there is nothing like a new home.

  6. As always another awesome post!! The utilitarian aspect of the kitchen, ice boxes, etc. made me wish I had a kitchen and food storage like that. Man, the parties I could throw!!

  7. Really enjoying these posts. I could totally see a horror movie filmed in that basement.

  8. CeciliaLovesHistory

    These photos are insanely interesting. I agree that it would be a great location for a horror movie!

    Oh the stories those walls could tell if they could speak.

    I adore your blog and get a little giddy when I see a new entry has been posted! Keep it up!

  9. Wow. It’s all so beautiful and a little spooky. I think an episode of Ghost Adventures on the Travel Channel would be fun in this house. Especially that basement and the long dark corridor. It’s eerie.
    Is the paint lime green? It looks a softer sort of sage green on my monitor. Weren’t those greens and creams popular in older homes? I’d think the Navy would just paint everything white. 😀 The room with the tiles–I think you’re right about it being some sort of summer changing room–although wouldn’t that be on the first floor? Maybe it was a young girl’s room, hence the fancy mirror. 🙂

  10. I really love this blog! Can’t wait for the follow up.

  11. Hunter,
    You are right- it’s located right where Hempstead Harbor meets Long Island Sound. This photo here, shows it is looking out over the Sound


  12. Hee, I was just going to ask about ghosts. Which made me wonder – are you ever concerned about your safety visiting these places? I’m not even thinking paranormal, but the normal everyday risks of traipsing about in an abandoned building. Are you usually with someone on these adventures? Or has someone already canvassed an area to be sure its ok for you to enter?

    When I see photos like this, I realize how many other exquisite old places there are around the country, that wiht some love, care and money, could become beautiful again. These places were built with real craftmanship. I doubt in a hundred years people will be oohing and ahing about our buildings from the last 50 years or so, if they even survivie that long.

  13. I love all the details in this place. Especially those blue tiles–such a lovely splash of color compared to most of the darker details. If only they still put this much detail into buildings…

    • Also, the thing in the corner with the blue tiles looks like it has a hole in the center–perhaps it was a sink? Though the blue tiles remind me of the ones you see in a lot of architecture in Turkey, which made me think Turkish bath, and maybe that’s why I’m drawing that conclusion.

  14. Wow, such beauty in an abandon home. My family used to own 3 mansions, now. Now? Their ruined by my Aunt, Selene. They were absolutely beautiful. I remember growing up, and running down the grand stairs in my adorable dress. I hate my Aunt for ruining my dream. I felt like a Princess.

  15. Maybe the Moorish doorframe and tilework were done to differentiate that room as the “Smoking Room” or “Gentleman’s Room”. I saw something similar at “Swannanoa Mansion” in Nelson County, Virginia. Which was built about the same time as “Hempstead House”(1912 I think). I love looking at old buildings, and have seen quite a few of the things you’ve posted, and now know a little history about them-and some of those that I haven’t seen- I will definately plan my next few trips around finding them!Great website!

  16. I don’t know that the Gould mansion was ever used to train Naval personnel. When I was growing up in Port Washington it was known as the “US. Naval Training Devices Center” which implies that various simulators for use in training personnel were designed and possibly built there.

  17. With regards to the “odd mirror” in the Moorish room. That was clearly originally a trick mirror. If you take two front surface mirrors (with the silver facing you), and place them at an exact, perfect 90 degree angle, you create a reversing mirror. Normally when you look into a mirror, your image is flipped left to right. When you look into a reversing mirror, you see yourself as others see you. Such a mirror also does not reverse printed text. Another oddity is that when looking into such a trick mirror, you are always centered in the mirror, no matter the angle. It would have been an expensive and clever novelty!

    In order for the effect to work the front-surface mirrors must be positioned perfectly. Otherwise you will see a line right down the middle of your face where the two mirrors join. My guess is that the original mirrors decayed and were replaced by ordinary mirrors, and no one spent the effort to properly align them. Hence the misalignment down the middle of your body when you took the picture.