Exploring An Empty Mansion: The Grounds

When you own an enormous castle like the one pictured below, and it’s only used to house your servants and horses…


…you’re living in a world few of us can imagine.


Castle Gould, based on Kilkenny Castle in Ireland, is located in Sands Point, NY (about 45 minutes from the city), on property once owned by the Gould Family.

Howard Gould, son of Jay, purchased 216 acres of land in 1900 and originally intended Castle Gould to be his home. However, after construction, he decided he didn’t like it, and relegated it to be used as stables and servant quarters.


Today, the property is known as the Sands Point Preserve, and is run as a park offering acres and acres of woodland for visitors to explore. It’s also frequently used for filming, and on a summer day, with the breeze blowing in off of Long Island Sound, those endless 16-hour shifts don’t seem so bad.


Last Friday, I wrote about exploring an abandoned orphanage


…and the beautiful wall painting I found hidden in the shadows:


This was in the third floor of Hempstead house, Howard’s replacement for Castle Gould, an enormous 40-room mansion…


…that is now completely empty.

Hempstead House has had a very assorted history. After the house was completed in 1912, the entire property was sold to the Guggenheim family. The Guggenheims owned it until 1917, then donated it to Institute of Aeronautical Sciences. The IAS sold it to the US Navy shortly after, and it was used as a training facility until 1967.  During this time, it also became an orphanage.

Finally, the US Government declared it as surplus, and gave the deed to Nassau County in 1971.


I was recently granted a rare full tour of Hempstead House, from its dilapidated basement (still featuring Navy insignia on the doors) to the top of its tallest turret (80 feet), and will be posting a full tour over the next few days. Hempstead House and Sands Point are available for pretty much any rental purpose, from filming to weddings, and I really want to spread the word, as all proceeds go toward fixing it up…and man is this place worth the effort:


There’s a ton of great detail on the exterior for anyone who looks.


I especially like the sundial over the front entrance, a really interesting choice considering Castle Gould was given a functioning clock:


I also love that the architects chose to stay as authentic as possible to the building’s medieval inspirations by including “arrow loops” in their design: vertical slits through which arrows could be fired (nothing beats the image of the Goulds fending off their castle by arrow from a horde of angry Long Islanders):


If you look under this one tower sticking out from the front…


…you’ll find this robed character supporting it:


Underneath the entrance archway, where coaches and early automobiles once pulled up…


…two detailed iron torches flank the door, which look like they’ve blossomed from a plant stalk:


If you take a moment to look at the arches, you’ll find some really great sculptures:


I love this dragon with a decapitated head:


A mermaid:


A monkey:


Some of the statuary has seen better days, but most is in excellent shape:


You really only get a sense of Hempstead House’s size when viewing it from the rear. I really have no idea why they go overseas to shoot Wayne Manor for the Batman movies…


The backyard is huge…


Perched on cliff, it overlooks Long Island Sound…


Looking at it from the rear, you can also get a full appreciation for the number of wonderful peaks and angles the house has.


This design can be found frequently on the stone fence surrounding the property, which I think is pretty neat:


You can also find a number of interesting heads on the stone, like this knight:


A pretty sinister-looking female:


This one just looks possessed:


Glancing over the edge of the cliff…


…you can see the Gould’s private beach down below:


To get to it, you have to take a path at the north end of the property…


It really kills me that the lamps lining the path have been removed:


Taking this path down to the beach at night with gaslights flickering must have been pretty magical:


The beach, which is open to the public (although no swimming allowed):


I was really hoping to put my entire tour of Hempstead House into one post, but there’s just too much to see. Be sure to check back soon – I’ll be posting installments throughout the week, taking you from the dilapidated basement to the opulent first floor to the abandoned orphanage in the attic.

Until then, one quick look at my favorite room in the house: the sunken Palm Court, which was once filled with over 150 species of rare orchids and other plants, as well as exotic birds in ornate cages.


That really is just too fucking cool. The ceiling overhead:


Check back soon for the next post!


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  1. WOW! I grew up on Long Island and I had never even heard of this place! I can’t wait to check it out.

    Any idea why Nassau doesn’t turn it into a museum or something?

  2. I knew I recognized this house. The NBC show ‘Kings’ was shot here. It is an amazing location.

  3. Thank you for sharing this amazing Castle! It saddens me to see Hempstead House and Sands Point Castle abandoned and NOT supported more by the county or a non-profit. This is one of the many reasons I support Save America’s Treasures. I particularly enjoyed your detailed photos and will anxiously await your next post. The castle certainly makes the 10 reasons to be there http://www.pps.org, has on there list! A place to sit, playgrounds to enjoy, art to touch, music to hear, food to eat, history to experience, and people to meet for activities. The Castle is a unique and is interesting enough to keep people coming back. I will do my best to help get the word out on this incredible abandon property. Yes it’s a park, however many counties have Historical Preservation chapters that support keeping the place alive with the grace, history, and dignity a building deserves.

  4. Simply amazing and your photography is quite excellent too. I hope someday you have a gallery showing of your photographs. A coffee table book maybe?



  5. Man you have us hooked!! Love your work and so look forward to the rest of the house over the coming days..

    Thanks Mr…


  6. I echo everyone saying how amazing this place is. I live for finds like this!
    Thanks for this site, it’s one of my favorites….it inspired me to keep my eyes open for the unusual while I was in New York a few months ago.

  7. I went here about 2 years ago and was in awe. This place is incedible. Thanks for showing me somet things I missed. And I agree about the lamp posts. It really is a shame that they aren’t intact.
    I’m sure they were gorgeous in their day.

  8. god, i love that you do this.

  9. Great job this is awesome!

  10. Thank you for sharing this amazing Castle! I would have loved to live back in those days as I am so infatuated with Castles. I hate seeing how some have been so neglected or destroyed. As I viewed the wonderful pictures you have posted I let myself imagine what it would have been like to live in a place so beautiful as this one is. I hope that it gets the attention it needs to preserve it and the lamp posts back in their original condition. It would make a great movie setting….with perhaps some of the proceeds going towards the areas needing restoration.