6. Developer Gary Melius saved Oheka Castle from vandals

Garden at OHEKA CASTLE in Huntington, New York.
The French Garden at Oheka Castle boasts various plants and reflecting pools. Courtesy of Oheka Castle

After the Eastern Military Academy went bankrupt, the castle sat vacant. Although the castle was only vacant for five years, more than 100 fires set by vandals left the house in disarray. However, Gary Melius, a Long Island developer, found value in the property. Purchasing the property for 1.5 million dollars, Melius gained control of a once glorious estate that now lacked electricity, plumbing, windows, and doors. As Melius strove to rebuild Oheka, he installed 222 new windows and doors and used 300 thirty-yard containers to rid the castle of its debris. Throughout the course of restoration, the renovations cost $40 million. This is the largest restoration in American history.

Historians and researchers aided renovators in order to maintain Oheka Castle’s history. During the renovation, Melius purchased 4,000 roof slates from Rising & Nelson Slate Co., the same Vermont quarry used by the Kahn family. In addition, 500 Red Cedars now line the West Gate Drive, Forty-four London Plane trees replace those that were lost in the Formal Gardens, and 2,505 Boxwoods have been planed around the reflecting pools. The Friends of OHEKA corporation now works toward protecting, preserving, and raising public awareness for Oheka, an estate on the list of the National Register of Historic Places. With renovations still ongoing, future plans include turning the remaining 15 percent of the estate into a luxury spa.