Autumn is a special season at historic Sands Point Preserve

Autumn is a special season at historic Sands Point Preserve
(Photo courtesy of Sands Point Preserve)

With the cool, crisp winds of autumn blowing across the North Shore, now is as good a time as ever to visit Sands Point Preserve.

“The Sands Point Preserve … embodies the North Shore’s opulent Gold Coast history, and now it is also a public park with year-round programs and gorgeous grounds for visitors to enjoy,” Beth Horn, managing director for the Sands Point Preserve Conservancy, said.

The 216-acre park on the shore of Hempstead Bay contains three mansions, gardens and several miles of trails for hiking. Dogs are welcome on the trails, and there are several picnic locations with views of the mansions or the Long Island Sound.

“We have nature programs for children and adults,” Jana McDonough, the preserve’s marketing and public relations director, said. “There’s something for everyone.”

But the main attractions are the three mansions. The property was purchased by Howard Gould, son of railroad robber baron Jay Gould, in 1900. He built the original structure on the property, Castle Gould, modeled after Ireland’s Kilkenny Castle. But the 100,000-square-foot castle was deemed insufficient by Gould’s wife, so another mansion, Hempstead House, was built. Gould sold the property in 1917 to mining tycoon Daniel Guggenheim. Daniel’s son, Harry, built a third mansion on the property: Falaise, meaning “cliff” in French, as the house was situated on a bluff.

Hempstead House is the center of events in the Preserve. The 40-room home is the host of a number of events throughout the year, from weddings to fundraisers. It has also been used as a set for films like “Scent of a Woman” and “Malcolm X” and television shows like “Gotham.” 

The mansion will undergo a transformation this month, turning from a historical site into a haunted estate.

“Halloween is huge at Hempstead House,” Horn said. “We completely redesign the mansion. This year’s theme is Dante’s Inferno … it is not for the faint of heart, we do not allow children under 12.”

The haunted house will have tours between 7 p.m. and 11 p.m. on six nights at the end of the month: Oct. 25, 26, 27, 29, 30 and 31.

For younger children, the preserve will host a family Halloween party on Oct. 29 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Pets in costume are encouraged to come.

The main event of the Halloween season will be the the Halloween Ball, which includes a haunted tour, dinner and a cabaret show. Proceeds from the event will benefit the preserve.

Castle Gould is only accessible for private events. But tours of Falaise, which has Harry Guggenheim’s original furnishings, continue through November. Tours run Thursday through Sunday and are $10 per person over 12.

“Harry Guggenheim was a fascinating man,” Horn said. “He was into aviation, horse racing, he was an early funder of rocket design. The tour is interesting because you learn so much about the Gold Coast and the impact of the family.”

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