At the beginning of World War I, banker and philanthropist Otto Kahn purchased 443 acres of potato fields and woods abutting railroad tracks. He commissioned Delano & Aldrich to design an immense French chateau, to be second only to the Biltmore estate in North Carolina. Delano turned to Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., to refine the proportions, details, and planting plans for the landscape. James Dawson and Harold Hill Blossom served as the principals on the job. They shaped and connected the landscape’s myriad features, installed large-scale plantings, and advised on woodland improvements, even designing an “intimate pleasure garden” with a meandering brook in a ravine. In 1919 Beatrix Farrand designed a series of garden rooms and an amphitheater south of the grand parterre (nothing remains of this space today).
Olmsted Brothers installed evergreen plantings to punctuate the terraces, provide layered enclosure for the water parterre, and to line the long entrance drive. Truckloads of specimen trees and shrubs were transferred from Kahn’s Morristown, N.J., estate (Cedar Court) to Oheka, under the supervision of James Fraser, who would become Oheka’s superintendent and continue to implement the Olmsted design long after their involvement ceased. After 1919, golf architect Seth Raynor designed an eighteen-hole course to wind around the ‘castle’ and its gardens.
After Kahn’s death in 1934, his widow Addie sold the estate to the City of New York, which used it as a retreat for Department of Sanitation workers. Post-war, the Cold Spring Country Club acquired the golf course, while the extensive greenhouse complex was sold and much of the property developed into homesites. The Eastern Military Academy took residence until 1979, significantly altering the mansion and grounds. In 1984 developer Gary Melius acquired the property, restoring the original buildings and grounds, converting them into a luxury hotel destination. The original golf course, upgraded by Robert Trent Jones in 1968, is now re-associated with Oheka, which was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2004.