Glimpse of an Elegant Past
House, built originally by Howard Gould,
the home of Daniel and Florence Guggenheim in 1917.
Inside the foyer of Hempstead House, one glimpse of the imposing
vaulted ceiling stirs the imagination of a grand lifestyle that
once existed at this Gold Coast estate. Even though the house is
no longer furnished, its architecture provides a hint of an elegant
time long gone.
its heyday in the 1920s, Hempstead House revealed a taste for extravagance.
In the Entry Foyer was an organ made of oak. The pipes still visible
on the walls above were merely for show - the music reverberated
through openings in the floors. Medieval tapestries once hung on
the walls, and oriental carpets covered the floor. The
sunken Palm Court once contained 150 species of rare orchids and
other plants. An aviary housed exotic birds in ornate cages among
the flowers. The walnut-paneled Library was copied from the palace
of King James I; relief portraits of literary figures still decorate
the plaster ceiling. The Billiard Room featured a gold leaf ceiling,
hand-tooled leather wall coverings, and carved oak woodwork from
a 17th century Spanish palace.
Even now, stone gargoyles around the ceiling peer down from above
in the Summer Living Room. Other decorative features of the house
during the Guggenheims’ occupancy included stained and leaded
glass, red velvet draperies, Flemish tapestries, and artwork by
Rembrandt, Van Dyck, and Rubens. In its prime, the estate employed
17 house servants, numerous farmers and groundskeepers, a golf pro,
tennis pro, and a riding master.
Daniel passed away, his wife turned the buildings over to the Navy
for a training center. During the late 1940s, extensive changes
were made to the interior. The Palm Court’s original leaded
glass roof was removed, and acoustic tile and fluorescent lighting
were installed to conform to Navy code.
present, most of the Navy’s modifications have been removed
and Hempstead House is now operated by the Nassau County Department
of Parks, Recreation and