So we were driving along Harbor Road in Huntington Harbor, and Miss Bronwen was eyeing me suspiciously. True to form, as I pulled into the parking lot of the yacht club, her eyebrow arched.
“Come here often?” she asked.
“Er, no” I replied. “But I figure that no one will notice if we’re just parked here for a bit.”
“Your car only has two hubcaps and your front license plate is held on by picture wire. Not to mention it’s a Beetle,” she pointed out.
“It’s Sunday, there’s snow on the ground and no one is around but the hired help,” I replied. “Trust me.”
And oddly enough she did. Probably at least in part because it was my car after all, and if I got ticketed or towed, I would be the one paying. I sat there for a moment, ruminating, remembered she’s smarter than I am, then put the car back in reverse and pulled back out onto the street, finding a spot to pull over onto the side. Perhaps I would be ticketed here as well, and her look said as much, but I thought the odds were less than the management of the yacht club calling a towing service on me. At any rate, we bundled up and set off walking down the road, a short, slippery little jaunt to the remains of Ferguson Castle.
Mrs. Juliana Armour Ferguson built her house like a medieval castle, with heavy walls some three feet thick, and details straight from the Mediterranean. Mrs. Ferguson was the offspring of H. Ogden Armour, the originator of Armour hot dogs, a.k.a. the dogs kids love to bite. Now Mrs. Armour loved Europe, particularly the monasteries she saw throughout France and Italy. Together with her husband, Dr. Farquhar Ferguson, she set out to build her own on the shores of Huntington’s harbor.
“Juliana’s womb started spewing out babies shortly after their wedding, it appears, so they needed
a place with some room,” I told Miss Bronwen as we slid around the curve and the massive foundation wall of the castle rose before us.
“Just how many children did she have?” she asked.
“Seven in all I believe,” I replied.
“Well that’s certainly fertility of a Mormonic scale,” she commented.
“Just a good Catholic actually,” I responded. “In fact she had a chapel built on a separate floor, apart from the rest of the house, and a priest came each day to say mass for the family and staff.”
“Thank God my mother never came up with that idea,” Miss Bronwen replied.
“In fact,” I continued, “the bedrooms, of which there were many, were sparse, square like a monk’s cell and each had a cross carved onto the bed. Though not teetotallers, Mrs. Ferguson and her crowd didn’t believe that excess of alcohol and debauchery were necessary for a good time.”
“What Mrs. Ferguson needed instead was to see people happy, particular the children,” I went on. “It was often said that all the neighborhood children had a home here in the castle,” I continued, “if not all the children of Huntington village itself. The Fergusons had the plans drawn up together, but his untimely death interrupted the actual construction for a bit.”
“Untimely death can do that,” she interjected.
“Yes,” I responded, “quite so. While the house was being built, the family lived in the Edgewater Hotel, which once stood near here. She would have a wheelbarrow of fruit wheeled in each day for the neighborhood kids. The children would roast apples in the fireplaces and generally made a nuisance of themselves.”
“That would never do today,” Miss Bronwen commented.
“I’d say not,” I agreed. “However, the Fergusons rented two full floors of the hotel so the management gave them a bit of leeway.”
Today there is little left of Ferguson Castle, having been torn down in 1970 after a protracted fight by residents to see it restored and to find a use for it. The concrete footings remain, as it was finally decided that it was neither feasible nor practical for a price tag of $40,000 in 1970’s money to remove the fourteen foot tall, four foot thick walls from the hillside. A door opens in the wall just off the street, and stone step leads to what once was the Monastery. The gatehouse, the driveway, a bit of sidewalk on the hill and the concrete from where the gate once led to their private beach and yacht moored nearby, The Mermaid, are all that remains. The yacht was a beast by itself at 110 foot, and the Fergusons used it to collect guests to fill their home, once it was finally completed in 1908. Mrs. Ferguson, as it seemed, could not bear the quiet, and had a genuine love for others. When her kids went away to college, they had standing orders that when they returned on the weekends, that they bring back a carload of guests each. The book “Ferguson’s Castle, A Dream Remembered” by Robert B. King tells numerous stories of her generosity, a trait which spilled over to her children as well. It was not unusual for the family to take all the neighborhood children on hayrides, or even sleigh rides in the winter through the hills behind the Monastery. The family even picked up the tab for medical bills of neighbors who were unable to pay.
And of course there were the parties. Mrs. Ferguson seemed to feel that if the house was not teeming with life, then life was not complete. There was plenty of room for life in Ferguson Castle. Nor was there a lack of food. The long, medieval table of the refectory was kept overflowing with food by two full-time Japanese servants. Even the servants at the Monastery lived a comparatively easy life as the house was designed with several ammenities which made their tasks easy, some of which were quite advanced for their day.
Due to the sheer size of the place, they needed all the help they could get. The Great Hall measured 64 feet long, 47 feet wide and three stories tall, and Mrs. Ferguson used to push the furniture against the walls and used it for a roller skating rink. A litany of furnishing proves breathtaking; two seventeenth century marble lions from Verona, art treasures, some as old as the twelfth century decorating the walls, a fountain made of ancient Persian tiles, a fifteenth century French Gothic plaque with the Madonna and Child, as well as a piece of Egyptian era art. The house had forty rooms, six baths, fourteen fireplaces, a chapel, a servant’s room and a gatehouse.
“Despite the quality of art in her collection, nothing appeared to be too ostentatious or gaudy,” I continued. “The whole place was designed and decorated with a sense of understatement, even if the setting for the art and decorations themselves was done on a grand scale.”
“Perhaps the strangest part of her collection though,” I said to Miss Bronwen, “Mrs. Ferguson collected the gravestones of children from all over Europe, all under five years old at the time of their deaths, all over three hundred years old, then had them installed in the floors, halls, entranceways and gardens of the house. In some places Mrs. Ferguson made benches of them, and seemed to exhibit a sense of black humor when speaking of the lost children.”
“For a woman that obviously loved children so much,” Miss Bronwen replied, “That’s such a strange habit. Why did she do that?”
“Couldn’t tell you,” I replied. “There doesn’t seem to be any mention of why she collected them, just that she did. Often she would say to a startled guest who would notice when crossing a tombstone set into the threshold of their bedroom, “I hope you don’t mind sharing your room with little Jimmy.”
“There was little sense of responsibility among the rich of the gold coast when it came to their collections in that age,” I prattled on. “America was on the rise throughout the world, and the wealthy would scour Europe for art and historical treasures, with little sense of responsibility that they were pilfering the heritage of other countries. There was a sense of entitlement that seemed to go unquestioned, even amongst someone with a good heart, as Mrs. Ferguson certainly seemed to possess. “
In 1916, the house was used for the original silent version of “Romeo and Juliet.” A crew of 180 actors, actresses, stage hands and extras swarmed the castle, bringing with them 75 horses. Unfortunately, all prints of the film now appear to be lost.
Miss Bronwen and I stood across from the remaining wall, with our backs to the harbor. Atop the hill now sits some modern monstrosity, which seems almost laughable considering what stood there before.
“It seems such a waste that such a lovely place was replaced by something that in comparison looks to be made of cardboard,” Miss Bronwen said wistfully.
“It’s not just that house,” I added. “The whole hillside is now a subdivision it seems. Dirt on Long Island is such a precious commodity that people feel compelled to build on every available foot. But what is amazing is that one hundred or two hundred years from now even, when all these houses are gone, this wall will still be there. And of course the greatest loss isn’t the house itself, but the sense of community that the Ferguson family built up. Mrs. Ferguson and her family were the center of life around here for a period of time, which at least in a small part is still being talked about and remembered. This was almost the apex of a golden age really, a house filled with incredible art and treasure, so valuable that no single person could step in when the family was gone and take it over. Too large for the county to maintain, too large for a band of concerned citizens with the foresight to see the value in it even to rally enough support to save it from strictly commercial interests. Sometimes people just suck.”
“Agreed,” she added.
“And for the Ferguson family, everything seemed to fall apart quite rapidly,” I went on. “By all accounts, Mrs. Ferguson lived for her children. By the beginning of World War I, things had changed. By then, all the children were grown and had moved away. One died of influenza. Four days later, another died in the trenches of the war. Another divorced under hints of scandals which ruined the family name. Things got so bad, that even their yacht, The Mermaid, sank. Mrs. Ferguson couldn’t accept the death of her son in the war, and had a wax dummy made to look exactly like him. Each night she would dine with it, alone, at the long table which once held the bounty for their children. She went on a couple of years, depressed and increasingly in pain, before dying of cancer in 1921, at the age of fifty six.”
“So the children turned out to be unlucky in love and life?” Miss Bronwen asked.
“So it appears,” I answered. “Mrs. F. seemed to anticipate this, or at least realized they sucked at handling money, and stipulated that after her death the castle would be held in a trust fund, from which the estate would be broken up. None of the children wanted the house, opting instead for the cash. But due to the value of the estate, and that there were very few people around who could afford, and fewer who wanted it, it was more than fifteen years before the estate was settled. It became a girl’s school, but perhaps because of the high cost of maintaining the house – it took over a ton of coal a day just the heat it – only one class ever graduated. It reverted back to the Ferguson family, who then were so desperate for cash, sold it to a William J. Connors, a politician and newspaper publisher from Buffalo, who bought it as a present for his wife. They spent three summers there before he died of cancer as well.”
“The Curse of the Ferguson Castle continued,” Miss B. remarked.
“Evidently so,” I answered. “The Connors tried to make a go of it, cheer the place up, even had the tombstones tucked away into the basement, the chapel made into a gym, and renamed the place Castle MacFergus, hence the name. After his death, his wife tried to have the building made into a cancer research laboratory. But she bumped into zoning issues it appears. Afterwards the interior was more or less gutted of its treasures which were sold off by the Ferguson family, with items often going for a song. A chariot, which was built for Emperor Maximilian I of Germany nearly four hundred years earlier of ivory, encrusted with wood and rubies and covered in reliefs went for six grand. A $9,000 piano went for $475. A 16th century renaissance tapestry went for $1,000, antique oriental rugs for seven bucks, and carved, antique Chinese figures for seventy five cents. “
“My God,” Miss Bronwen exclaimed. “Was the family that desperate for money?”
“I assume that they were,” I replied. “The next year a family named Cord bought the house, or in some other way came into possession of it, perhaps in exchange for services, and paying back taxes. He was the opposite of Mrs. Ferguson, and visitors were quickly run off. It’s said that he lived in a single room, cooking on a kerosene heater and sleeping on a cot. And there he lived for forty years. Afterwards the building seemed to remain empty, was heavily vandalized, and ran up extremely high tax bills. And of course in 1970, the wrecking crews came in, and the Monastery was no more.”
“And that’s the end of the story?” she asked as we started walking back to the car.
“Well not entirely,” I answered. “It’s said that after her death, Mrs. Ferguson’s ghost could be seen at nightfall, descending the long staircase leading to the dining room in her white robe, going down to dine with the wax figure of her dead son. It’s my guess that as long as that wall stands, her spirit might very well continue to make that trip.”
We reached that car and true to Miss Bronwen’s prediction, beneath my wipers was a ticket from the Huntington constabulatory for illegal parking. She kindly refrained from saying “I told you so,” contenting herself with a subtle lifting of the eyebrow. I drove off, slowing in front of the wall which once held the ground in place upon which Mrs. Ferguson’s Monastery stood. I stopped the car and hopped out.
“Excuse me,” Miss B. called after me, “where are you going?”
I hurried to the door which once led up to the house, and tucked the ticket in the crack then came back to the car, put it in drive and pulled away.
“Mrs. Ferguson always enjoyed visitors. She’ll take care of it for me.”
Thank you so much for writing this; it’s brilliantly done and well-researched. As a fellow Gold Coast aficionado (and trespasser), I appreciate your intrepid spirit.
wonderful to read about Fergusons Castle! My brother and I remember going to the Castle when it was open to the public right before it was demolished in 1970. It has remained in each of our memories for all these years as a special day. Thank you for this reawakening of my memories which until now had seemed almost dreamlike.
Thanks for the story Todd !
Fergusonâ€™s Castle is a fond memory as kids we used to crawl around the ruins in the early 70’s after they knocked down the Castle. Still today I can’t get over why the town let a piece of history go to the birds. I never really knew the background of the Castle, but we went on guessing as we walked past the thick wall on a daily basis. I was too young to remember the mansion on the hill that was no longer in one piece. I was only eight in 1970, but do remember a lot of other things.
We grew up in Wincoma on the Long Island sound with great memories. We heard stories about Fergusonâ€™s Castle not knowing if they were true, such as someone found bonds in the underground tunnels that were worth millions? We played there as kids on a daily basis, we loved going underground in the gatehouse and climbed through the cracks of the castle ruins.
The back woods was a real treat to walk around. The water tanks out back which is what we called them, were real fun to climb into. Sometimes we used to cut through on our way home from Nathan Hale School to get to E-sure road. Occasionally buy smokes at the Yacht club, as some kids did then. I would have parked there too Todd, especially in the winter. “Those Huntington bay cops”.
I especially remember the Iron gate you showed on the web site. It hung on by one hinge all through the 70’s. What ever happened to it, we’ll never know? We always thought that the new home really did not belong there nor look right.
It would be great to get more pictures of it someday, I’ll never forget it.
Kerry Ann Carelli
We lived right next door to the castle, 74 east shore rd. and my sister kandy and would explore the castle all the time. It was so amazing to us and yes, I believe it’s haunted, but haunted good, we weren’t that scared. We were about 11 or_12 at the time, 1970+. We also went swimming at the yacht club, .it was so close we would walk there. And we went to Nathan Hale as well! In 1978 my father sold out beautiful house on East shore rd. and we moved to Marco Island, fl… Cried all the way there, never really forgave him for that! I’d love to buy our house back since we (my family) built it from ground up.
I drove by the Castle frequently in the 1960’s. My younger brother and sister were there often, as they played with the caretaker’s son. I always regretted not getting inside the Castle.
I also went to Nathan Hale school — “graduated “ in 1958. Don’t do the math! We lived on Bay Avenue, until my parents moved to CT in 1971.
Kathleen Busch Sharp
Our house was up on Bay Avenue. We lived there from the late 50’s until the end of the 60’s and my younger brothers and I walked the path that was a part of our property down to the castle. My youngest brother played there for hours pret house ending that the gate house was his secret fort. Fortunately, we moved before houses were built into “our” hillside. It was so beautiful in there. My brother died in 1970 and seeing these pictures brings back bittersweet memories of my baby brother. He would have loved hearing the history of his “secret” place.
Pamela Boyle Olthaus
Thank you for the history lesson and entertainment…how sad her story went. I grew up knowing about the castle but never ventured.It surprises me that it wasn’t made into a park or museum. I remember when I was told it was torn down, it was a sad moment for me. I wish all the decendant of that lovely lady well.
I’m a direct descendant of Dr Farquhar Ferguson, I Find this all very interesting, not sure of its accuracy though.
I had often wondered what happened to the descendants of the Ferguson family, so many questions?
Growing up in Wincoma, I wondered if there were a bit of Ferguson in all the kids of Huntington Bay? A free spirit, giving group of kids growing up together. Nathan Hale School, what a great place it was. Do you remember “Doggy” . Did he play at the Castle when he was a kid?
If you ever get the chance, please e-mail email@example.com I even bought the book, “A Dream Remembered”.
I am a descendant of Farquhar Ferguson also. My mother, Juliana Ferguson, was the daughter of Roderick Craig Ferguson, one of Farquhar’s sons. I am trying to get info on the Ferguson family. Do you have any info. on Farquhar’s family?
I have lots of information dating as far back as 1809 I can show you your GGgrand parents grave and have their names. They both came from Scotland, I still own a piece of the original property that was granted to them when they came to Canada in 1841. Doctor Farquhar grew up in Caribou Caribou Marsh before moving for the United States and becoming a Doctor I have been searching for your Family for years with no success, it is great to finally make contact as I did not know if there were any relatives left. My g grandfather was Farquhars brother his name was Neil he is burried with Farquhars Parents.
I am thrilled to have a Ferguson relative in North America! I wish I had known you when we were living in Connecticut (’72 – ’09). We moved to Portland, Oregon, 2 years ago. My 3 sons live here– and 2 grandsons. My husband and I took a trip to Nova Scotia when we were first married. We’ll have to do it again! Hopefully we’ll get to talk soon. My mother, Juliana, was Roderick Craig’s (he went by Craig) only child. She passed away last year. I was very close to my great aunt Juliana (Neil and Roderick’s sister), who also lived in Connecticut. Her son, Lathrop, died in the army, and her daughter, Juliana, developed multiple sclerosis in her early 20’s and died at 65. Such tragedies….. My great aunt was a lovely woman with a lot of spunk and a huge heart. I also have very fond memories of my grandfather. I am interested in any family info you have– also any relatives or Ferguson places to visit in Scotland. I leave on Sept. 12.
Looking forward to talking to you, Melissa
I have lots of information dating as far back as 1809 I can show you your GGgrand parents grave and have their names. They both came from Scotland, I still own a piece of the original property that was granted to them when they came to Canada in 1841. Doctor Farquhar grew up in Caribou Marsh before moving for the United States and becoming a Doctor I have been searching for your Family for years with no success, it is great to finally make contact as I did not know if there were any relatives left. My g grandfather was Farquhars brother his name was Neil he is burried with Farquhars Parents.
Dear Sandy, Colin and Melissa, or any of the other Ferguson descendants. Would any of you actually have a picture of Mrs. Juliana (Armour) Ferguson?
Would anyone know how I can find the original silent version of Romeo and Juliet, by Frances X? I’ve tried to locate it on the web over and over, not to be found anywhere. Maybe one of the Ferguson’s has the original film? I would really love to see what the Castle looked like live on film before they destroyed it. I was just too young to remember it in one piece. I can only remember the rubble out back and playing in the gate house many times as a kid. It was our stomping ground. I walked or rode my bike past that Castle almost every day of my childhood…can I help still thinking about it today?
One thing that bothers me most, after reading the book “A Dream Remembered” by Robert King, with all the other information I could find. Why after all Mrs. Ferguson “did everything for the kids”, why they all packed up and left her alone in the end? If the book is correct, she carried out a dream that she and her husband started working on before he died. It’s all an incredible story! Talk about a movie in the making, even Vincent Price had an interest in the Ferguson’s.
I wrote a couple of small things on this website and think Todd did a great job! Thank you!!!
I’ve been gone from Huntington over 20 years now, but one thing I will never get away from and what will most likely bring me back to Huntington again one day, Ferguson’s Castle. I know the four foot think front walls still stand over looking Huntington Harbor.
I got interested in this family when I started researching Danforth Brooks Ferguson. I traced the Ferguson back to a Donald and Margaret Fergusson living in Mira Bay, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia from about 1845 to 1891. In their village about 1 in 12 persons was a Fergusson! As a rule the Fergusson came to Cape Breton from Uist, Inverness, Scotland, see:
I’d like to correspond with you on the subject via firstname.lastname@example.org
I just found out that Mrs. Ferguson was my Great Great Grandmother. Her son, Danny Ferguson married my Great Grandmother, Ida Parker. After he died in the War, she married Mr. John Hernandez of Hernandez Tire & Supply Co. LI
So cool!! I’d love to get in touch with other relatives.
When your Great Great Grandmother was married to Danny Ferguson did they have any kids.
No, I don’t believe they produced offspring before he died. His death is where my connection to the Ferguson tale ends as my GGGrandmother re-married and went on to have children with that union.
Marykay Walker Bond
I too am a descendant of the Ferguson family. I never did find out how or where we fit in; but my Father told me stories of how he; as a little boy was picked up by a limo and was driven to many a dinner party with his parents to the home. But not long before my Father passed away; he told me a story of how his parents were not his real parents; that his real Father road a motor cycle and carried him to who raised him; but never returned for him. I often wondered if those trips he remember going to the dinner parties at the Ferguson home was connected in any way; as the people whom I thought were my Grand Parents were not rich or people who drove in limo’s to go to fancy dinner parties; they were the old time Farmers from Long Island. My Great Grand Father lived with the Indians when he and his wife settled on Long Island; but sadly they would not have been my real Great Grand Parents; if the story my Father told me was true just before he died. But he did tell me we were related to the Family that lived in that castle over looking the harbor. I lived on Long Island for 40 years; then moved to North Carolina.
Hi Marykay, You mentioned North Carolina, Farquhar had a sister settle in North Carolina her name was Kate and she married a man with the last name of Wheeler.
I hope this may help you in your search.
Of all the blogs streamed here I get the impression that you have the deepest interest in the ferguson castle story.
The book ; ferguson’s castle a drea m remembered was based upon all the information that could be assembled in the late 1960’s. The book was a vanity press publication. No profits were made on the printing. We were able simply to simply cover costs. The book sold for $10.00 a copy and was promoted by Bob king the principal author and researcher. Bob worked with a group of residents that wanted to save the building. Oddly enough miria Carey’s mother was one of those residents. Amazing how things turn out. I knew miria when she was a little girl and her mom was a folk singer that performed in the Huntington area back then
So who am I, I am the coauthor of bob’s book and sponsored it’s publication. We wanted to leave a legacy because the building was torn down and there needed to be some record of what the castle was.
I can assure you that non of the content in the book was made up. It was an accurate report based upon interviews and research.
My sisters, brother and I lived on Maple Hill Road from 1950-1960. We used to take “journeys” down to “Fergy’s Castle.” We were sure there was a dungeon inside. We prowled around the outside and once snuck inside. A man suddenly appeared at the end of an enormous room and yelled “You God damn kids get the hell out of here.” We ran outside and hopped on our bicycles and pedalled away furiously scared out of our wits. We frequently walked down there through the woods which were getting whitled away each year. Too bad fergy’s is gone.
This e-mail is to Lee Harris, who wrote a reply on May 24, 2010.
I knew a Pam Harris on Maple Hill Road. She was my Village Green Elementary School “heart-throb”. Is she your sister? I would love to contact her. Please reply!!!About Ferguson’s Castle: As a youth in early high school, my buddy and I also used to prowl around the castle. We once got into the underground tunnels and somehow came upon an indoor swimming pool. For years, our family had a Jack-in-the Pulpit plant which I had adopted from the property and planted in our yard.
Dear Lee and Pan Harris,
I lived on the top of Maple Hill Road and used to walk to the Village Green School with the Harris kids. Betty was their mother and their father worked for PanAm.
They lived in a white, eye-brow Colonial behind Huntington Hospital.
I would be overjoyed to make contact with Pam, who was my friend in the same grade. I can still remember Thanksgiving Dinner at their house and playing “school” in the upstairs bedrooms.
We used to ride our bikes down to Ferguson’s Castle and imagine all sorts of stories.
If anyone knows how to contact Pam Harris, please let me know or pass on my email address.
Thanks very much.
I attended Village Green Elementary school from 1963 to 1969. I remember going on a field trip there. I would love to see some old pics or a film if anyone knows where there is one.
Dianne Deuel Baur
My family lived on Maple Hill Road in the fifties. My sisters, Denise, Susan and I have pleasant memories of Fergies Castle adventures and of the Harris family, their welcoming home and wonderful yard.
I lived on East Shore Road from ages 3 – 12 (1954-1963). I went to Nathan Hale School.
At that time, there were caretakers of the castle, the Mastersons. Jimmy Masterson was in my class. I remember going to the castle to sell girl scout cookies and being inside their quarters.
I also do not understand why Huntington didn’t preserve the castle. It would have been a wonderful tourist attraction.
I remember the Mastersons! Thank you for bringing back great memories. I grew up on Bay Avenue and knew Jimmy although I think he was a few years older than me. I believe he suffered from epliepsy if I remember correctly. A nice family. I wonder what became of them.
Wow your name brought back memories of the Glenview gang… I thought your house was considered Glenview but apparently it was Bay Ave….do you remember the Dankos, Sue Noonan, Joey Newell and those folks?
Jimmy Masterson was the one who let my 2 sibling into the Castle to play. A friend who still lives in Huntington said there was a tunnel from the Castle to the water— maybe during Prohibition?
Nathan Hale School is now condos??. Three years ago, we drove to the parking lot behind the school. An owner came out and said we went to school there. She let us in her condo.
Her main floor, with the beautiful windows, was the kindergarten, and the first grade was her bottom floor.
I also remember being told that “Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein” was filmed at the castle. Does anyone know if that is true?
I heard that too, that it was Abbott and Costello meet Frankenstein was filmed there, and I remember we used to drive up to Huntington Harbor in the mid 70’s and it was crumbling and we went exploring. It was creepy at night, and luckily we never got a ticket or stopped by the police.
Thanks for writing. In the end it seemed to come down to money. It was an expensive place to keep up, and the county and town felt that it was beyond their scope, and at the time, preserving history just didn’t seem to be all that important. Short sighted in my opinion, but that’s the way these things far too often go.
I’ve not heard of any films other than Romeo and Juliet being filmed there. Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein, while not quite on a par with the Bard, is still a great movie, was filmed at Universal Studios in California.
I lived in Huntington Bay on Castle Harbor Road off of Bay Avenue from 1992 to 2002. My house was built in 1980 on property that had been part of the Ferguson Estate. I worked in Real Estate in Huntington from 1988 to 2004, and learned a lot of the history of Ferguson’t Castle. All of the property that is now Harbor Crest Court and Castle Harbor Road was acquired by a builder named Sesti in the late 70’s. Castle Harbor Road is in the Village of Huntington Bay, while Harbor Crest Court is in Huntington Town. I had a year round view of Huntington Harbor from my house. The house behind mine was 88 E. Shore Road, and is located next to the surviving gatehouse and walls on E. Shore Road. The house next door to me was built in the 60’s and had a driveway off of E. Shore Road. Their parcel was two or three acres and had a flat, level area at the end of what is now Castle Harbor Road. I was told that this area use to be the tennis courts of the Ferguson Estate. That house has since been torn down and replaced with a new home. Too bad no one was able to preserve Ferguson’s Castle, it was one of the great “Gold Coast” mansions. I remember reading that the Ferguson yacht “Mermaid” burned and sank while docked in Florida.
I too know of the castle. My girlfriend Imogene lived in the house next door and they had the tennis courts attached to their property. Her parents have since died. They had the house built there. There were caretakers that we remember that would discourage any intruders to the castle. Imogene and her husband now live in New Mexico as I do with my husband. Imogene and I have been friends since the 60’s, before the house was built. It is a shame that the castle was not able to be saved.
Just a quick update on my former next door neighbor’s house, and what may have been your friend Imogene’s house. It was a 1960’s style contemporary with the driveway off of E. Shore Road. There was also a gravel right-of-way driveway at the end of Castle Harbor Road that went to the back yard of this house, and the spot where the tennis courts of the Castle once were. Recently, this home was torn down, and a brand new larger one built. The driveway from E. Shore Road was eliminated, and the old right of way is the new driveway for the new home, now known as 16 Castle Harbor Road. I truly miss living there and the wonderful harbor views from the back of my house.
Thank you…I know it was a shame about her family house. Imogene still lives in New Mexico now. I believe her brother in law got the house and thats why it got torn down. It was trashed by some renters. Sad the castle had to be taken down. She has one picture of the gate house that she loves. Thank you for your info.
When my best friend and I were 14 or 15, we used to cut the lawn at the house next door to the castle. A contemporary house with the old tennis courts in the back yard and beautiful rhododendrons and mountain laurel covering the surrounding area. Also went to high school with Jim Masterson whose family were the caretakers of the castle before it was torn down. Growing up in Huntington during the 50’s & 60’s were good times.
If you are still in contact with Imogene (Van Bree) and her husband, Peter DeSantis, please tell them I said, “Hi”. I knew Imogene from the 60’s through the 80’s also but I lost contact with her quite a few years ago.
unfortunately imogene had a stroke when she was 48. her husband Nick just passed this past week. June 14, 2017. Pete and her divorced years ago.
Hi, Imogene and Pete divorced many years ago. She married Nick Peretta, unfortunately he passed on last year. I see Imogene, she had a devastating stroke about 30 years ago. I certainly will pass on information about you to her. Helen
The house next door to the Castle belonged to the Lynch family, who were friends of my grandparents. I left Huntington in 1969, and didn’t know that the house was torn down. Mr. Lynch kept his boat at the Yacht Club across the street.
Kerry Ann Carelli
Wow..we lived at 74 east shore rd. the grey huge house on the hill..Carelli was out name.
Kerry Ann Carelli
Crazy..I lived in the big grey house on the hill..74 east shore rd..70’s as well..the castle was torn down at the time, but fun to explore and get treasures…went to finley jr. high..?
i like this i love to visit this place
Thanks for these tidbits of history. I grew up in Huntington in the ’50’s and was fascinated by “the castle”. All sorts of misinformation circulated about it amongst us kids, including a legend of a baby falling off one of its walls,which I think was confused with the story of Bolt Castle. Like all the kids, I wanted to sneak in, but was put off by the poison ivy and the “No Tresspassing signs” (and the rumors the gatekeeper had a mean dog.) I’m currently writing a YA novel that uses the castle as one of its settings.
We kids went in and the boys climbed across a wall, and they said it was nearly a 30 ft drop, but not sure how accurate that was since it was night and since I was a chicken. it was scarey.
This is all great info. My family owns the gatehouse now. We purchased it in the late 70’s and rebuilt it to look just like the Gatehouse. There is actually a book written on the castle. When my parents purchased the house people from the neighborhood gave them pictures and told them all kinds of wonderful stories and memories they all had from the castle.
FYI I have lived there my entire life and never saw a ghost.
Kerry Ann Carelli
You may have lived there your entire life? And how old are you now? I moved from next door to the castle in 1979?? don’t remember you, strange huh? Beautiful castle it was???
Kerry Ann Carelli
Oops..moved in mid 1970
My family moved to East Shore Rd in 1964. Jimmy Masterson, who lived in the gatekeepers house, was a friend of mine and we had a treehouse we built in the castle woods. We mostly stayed away from the castle itself, as Jimmy’s family did not want us going there. However, we often played on the walls and i remember the castle being open on one occasion and that we were allowed in to help with the open house. I remember seeing some of the tombstones lying about and huge nail studded doors as well as terracotta carvings set into the walls.
Hello all, I have some of the original blueprints of The Monastery. My father worked on some construction jobs with the son of Allen Jackson, the original architect. He gave my father the blueprints as my father was an amateur architect and had a great love of the homes of the Gold Coast. I am trying to build a collection of The Monastery; pictures, articles, books, etc. If anyone has anything they could get me copies of or would like to sell. Please contact me at email@example.com. Thanks very much, Chris
I lived and grew up in Farmingdale, as a teenager, we would go up to the Castle. I remember all of us climbing across the top of the huge wall that was the ballroom, I am glad none of us got hurt in doing so. I remember the wall was thick and it was extremely high. It was a beautiful place even in its state of disrepair.
We never harmed the place, we found it intriguing and loved to explore it. Thank you for sharing the history of the home.
Early fall 1969… six teenagers, three males, three females. Our mission?…find the hidden cash box!… the box was just a rumor at the time but was enough incentive to proceed into The Haunted Castle as it was known to us.. The mission was well planed. Flashlights, crowbar, hammer, dark clothes and a map drawn on a napkin. Previous attempts by older, wiser associates resulted into confiscated vehicles, heavy fines and sometimes jail time… All failed to get in. We were dropped just east of the compound after midnight, made are way north through a wooded area up some steps to a heavily boarded up window. A cats paw gently pulled nails until I was able to squeeze through a lifted corner. Into a large black room I dropped. Flashlight looking to my right were two large french doors off a terrace which I was able to open for the rest of the crew. The room lead to a large balcony that looked out over a giant ballroom surrounded by two tiers of rooms almost like an indoor motel. The autumn moon lit up the room through a thousand panes of glass forming the ceiling. I remember thinking could the broken panes ever be replaced.. to the left was a giant locked door leading to the bowels of this now becoming eerie adventure. The sound of cracking glass from below had the girls begging retreat Ghosts? (laugh!) our ride won’t be back till 8am. We have to get that door open or we’ve risked allot for nothing.. We all heard the feint sound of a weeping woman… boy was I wrong! work on the door went slow because the girls kept clinging to us…
This is the beginning of an account I penned years ago before I ever heard the name Ferguson..
Shall I go on???
Always go on. Until the voices tell you to stop.
The Copa connection.. (Copacabana nite club N.Y.) An aunt of one of the crew had overheard a heated conversation while serving drinks there. The patron was being accused of skimming money and that they knew where it was hidden.. “at that haunted castle in Huntington Bay”. The box was also purported to contain a book of names and events that were not conducive to longevity.
That the castle had been bugged by unscrupulous individuals along with certain
authorities to ascertain the whereabouts of the cash box. Necessitating only
mouth to ear whisper and hand signal communication.
That the castle was haunted by a woman, dogs and demons. Any disrespect to the
premises of any kind would bring catastrophic consequence to all party’s. Our
motive was greed only, cash only and maybe a little romance.
to be continued:
A link to a portrait of our beautiful hostess….
Mrs. Juliana Armour Ferguson…
This is a most precious gift. To see the woman of the story! It almost reminds me of John Singer Sargent’s portrait of Isabella Gardner, who was also an accentric lady of wealth and aesthetics.
This is all very interesting to me, especially since my parents are the ones who bought what was left of the Ferguson Castle and built the current structure on the remains of the old footings. They were sad to see that something so beautiful had been mostly destroyed and were careful to make use of existing old walls, reflecting pool, and whatever gave the character of the old house, including the long covered stairway that went from the street where the doorway pictured still exists.
However, I have to say that the new home is a wonderful place to live as it has a quite elegance, large scale rooms, a classical 2 story atrium/entranceway, and the magnificent views. While it is modern, it certainly has integrity…. not a monstrosity by any stretch of the imagination. It’s sad that excessive nostalgia has allowed you to judge the new home so harshly when you know it would have been impossible, impractical and, quite honestly pretensious to have tried to recreate the style and details of a castle which could only have been built with inexpensive labor and access to European artifacts at the time it was built. This would have probably resulted in a structure that was cartoonish at best.
And, for my parents, this home was a labor of love and something they should be proud of as they overcame the obstacles and challenges of the site and even incorporated solar and geothermal energy before most people were doing so.
In spite of this, I thank you for this enjoyable article.
Alright, that’s fair. I was rude to say that it’s a monstrosity and I apologize for that. In fact, it’s entirely possible that from above the walls there’s a symbiosis between old and new that could be quite nice. It’s just a bit jarring to see from street level. While it’s not my cup of tea, to label it a monstrosity, especially as I’ve never seen anything but the top is was quite unfair, so my apologies to you and your parents as well. It’s good to know that what remained was incorporated into the design, and that solar and geothermal energy was utilized The loss of the old houses is certainly a polarizing issue on Long Island, as it is elsewhere. And one shouldn’t begrudge those who come along after the fact the right to do with the property what they see fit. In all honesty, I’m not sure what I would have one with the remains myself, and I doubt that anyone could have really done anything which would have made all parties happy. Thanks for illuminating me on what is probably a very interesting postscript to the story.
Not a postscript! it’s just the beginning … “all the way to eternity”.. Dougie Maclean
. When I saw this film at an IMAX theater, I did noctie some of the same problems with the lines. So maybe the problem isn’t even the transfer, but the actual film itself. Maybe the transfer is just so high-detail it’s showing the film’s flaws. In any case, these line problems can be distracting at times & I found myself noticing them & focusing on them, rather than the movie itself. Which is not a good thing. Other video problems include graininess within certain colors, especially yellows or gold, like Lumiere. There is also an annoying strobe like problem, when the action seems to be going fast. This was most noctieable when Maurice is escaping the wolves. To finish up, we all know the movie is great. Unfortunately, this film just doesn’t look as good as let’s say Pinocchio or Snow White. Which is kind of amazing, considering those movies are 50+ years older than this one.
Kerry Ann Carelli
The structure was fine and BTW money was not an issue for the founder of amour hotdogs! Too bad you didn’t have the spirit to re-build such a historic beautiful castle? and BTW there are many many spirits in this castle?
How I dropped in here tonight is all very internet convoluted, but it got hold of me and I could not stop. I lived in Huntington from ’54 – ’69. I had taken a photo of the harbor doorway when I went back for my sister’s wedding in 1980. I was sickened to see what was left of such a beautiful structure.
I want to thank all of you who made comments that rekindled reminesces of my young days.
I LIVED RIGHT NEXT DOOR TO THE CASTLE, IN THE LATE 60’S. I HAVE SLIDES OF IT INSIDE AS WELL AS OUT SIDE. AND I AGREE IT IS ASHAMED WHAT THEY HAVE DONE. JUST WANTED TO LET YOU KNOW ABOUT THE PICTURES I HAVE, TAKE CARE IMOGENE
Hi Imogene, This is fantastic news! Color slides of the Castle would be of
immeasurable historical value.. Please go to fergusonscastle.com to see
what we are doing. Anything you can contribute would be greatly appreciated
and duly accredited… Thank You.. lease contact me @ firstname.lastname@example.org
To The Moderator
I’ve shared everything I have on the Castle. I thought when I started the site
there would be content contributions. Allot of interest but nothing I could hold in my hand. Pictures.. It was your story.. “Rise And Fall”.. above, that started a historical revival. Yes my friend it is all your fault!…..
If Imogene is not a hoax, color slides would indeed be a commodity..
I was not thinking straight in my nieve reply to her.. From her post I gather she
is not an Ebayer nor do I think she can transfer the slides digitally…
We shall see…
A friend and a fan…
To Irv R.
Imogene is not a hoax, she is not an ebayer…….we have been friends since we were about 12 years old. The Van Bree’s moved into the house when Imogene was in her young teens. Just wonderful memories of the castle and its grounds. They had the tennis courts, and a nice path that led to a bench made out of branches where deer would wander.
Here is an excerpt from a four-page article titled “The Chief of Clannfhearguis” that appeared in the March 1983 issue of Explorers Journal published by The Explorers Club in New York City. Seamus Ferguson was The Chief. The author, Henry S. Evans, writes,
“A few years and a war later I returned to the city in 1947 and was proposed by the Chief and elected to membership. Among the first things we did together was to visit the Castle MacFergus overlooking Huntington Bay on the north shore of Long Island. After World War I, an affluent family built the Castle with a tower suite set aside for The Chief. Now it was empty.
The Chief described life in the Castle as a bit of the Highlands transported. When he was in residence, they flew his flag before the building. Each morning he was awakened by the skirling of a bagpipe played by a bekilted bagpiper strutting about the column-bordered courtyard beneath his window.”
The comment above can be substantiated by fact. Seumas Clannfhearghuis was an
explorer and chief of Clannfhearghuis. He would of been treated as royalty at the Castle. Although the were no suites in the tower itself there were guest rooms on the third floor overlooking the cloistered courtyard. It would be safe to assume that the bekilted bagpiper was Juliana’s idea. As far as his flag being flown, it wouldn’t have for the Clannfhearghuis crest was emboldenly etched above the front entrance door. The crest was inscribed with the words “Clannfhearghuis Gu Brath” translated to Clan Fergus Forever. Seumas Clannfhearghuis died on March 26th, 1961 in N.Y.
Thanks Charles for the insight..
Earlier this week I typed a fairly long comment regarding the castle — in relation to a man named Seamus Clannfhearguis. Did you receive it? Thanks.
Thank you for presenting such a loving and wonderful tribute to the Ferguson Castle. It is very touching and reassuring to me to read all the comments and wonderful memories others have of the Castle. I am fortunate to be able to have several remnants of the Castle incorporated within my home, and I treasure them and the memories hundreds of hours I have spent within its walls. One minor correction to my book, research at the time credited the Ferguson yacht to be named “The Mermaid.” While interviewing a daughter-in-law of Juliana, she informed me that the yacht was actually called the “Osiris.” She then gave me several family photographs of the Castle for my collection, among them was one of the yacht with its name clearly seen on its bow. Thank you again for bring life back to the Ferguson Castle.
Thank for bringing to life the history of Ferguson Castle. I’ve never walked up close to see it, but used to pass by frequently when visiting a friend of mine who lived on Kanes Lane. It’s been about 30 years since I moved away from Huntington Village, but I seem to recall that someone had purchased the property and renovated the castle into something that looked quite contemporary. It’s been a while. I could be mistaken. Anyway, I remember the castle, Huntington Bay and of course the Village.
It was not renovated. It was knocked down in 1970 and since the walls were around 5′ thick, the demolition crews had their work cut out for them. I sat in my car on the other side of the Harbor and cried knowing what was happening to the Castle we loved so much. After the Castle was knocked down, a smaller “Spanish style” home was built. Only the gatehouse and I believe, at least a part of the wall on the side of the original driveway was spared.
Kerry Ann Carelli
It was torn apart when our family built our grey house next to the castle..ours was on the hill to the left of the castle..!74 east shore rd. What memories I am lucky to have
this is great – I have not thought about this place in 20 years or more thank you
Thanks for the great story and all the comments. My father worked as a laborer during the construction of the Castle. Sometime in the l ate 40’s Mr Cord hired him to do some masonry repairs and replace the skylight. I went with him and as an architectural student it was a treat for me. The hall with the marble columns and the dining room which was a
copy of the lower Church of St. Frances Cathedral of Assisi was amazing. Unlike the Vanderbilt Museum there was no funds to preserve it.
Kathy Stengel Pikaard
My grandmother, Ida Parker Ferguson Hernandez was married to Danforth Ferguson and they had Dalene Ferguson. After “Danny” died, Ida married John Hernandez, my grandfather and had 3 more children, John Jr., Ramona and Audrey, my mother. My Aunt Dale died in 2003 in North Carolina. I have many memories of going past Ferguson’s castle and hearing family stories. I was born in Huntington and lived there until 1973.
My Dad was from Huntington whose House was right next door to Fergusons Castle. Grandma Estelle Bennett raised her 4 sons and 1 daughter there. Bruce ,David , Paul, Francois’ and Faith . The View of the Harbor from grandmas front yard was the same as you would get from the Harbor gate view of the Castle. Down the street the Heatherton’s lived (merry mailman) the beautiful Joey Heatherton his daughter was my dads friend, as an Artist he drew a lot of pictures of her. Reading this blog brought a lot of memories of running up the Hill to see the Castle and Dad saying don’t go up there its Haunted…..lol
Kerry Ann Carelli
Don’t recall your family..we were on the right..looking at The castle..74 e shore rd…hmmm
Ann Harmon Eastwood
I lived in Bay Crest and knew your Grandmother Stella and remember her green house. I played with Elizabeth, John David and Brucie.
I remember Doggie, mentioned by Joe too.
Ferguson’s Castle left an indelible mark on my life. I remember the beauty of the chapel and the huge broken glass covered courtyard, as well as the terror of descending to the basement to seek the reputed “rum runners” tunnel to the harbor. I remember being chased by a large dog belonging to some delinquent looking fellows, and falling up-to my armpits into a laundry chute or heating duct. But the thing I loved most were the overgrown gardens. Huge azaleas and rhododendrons, remnants of steps, fountains, pools and statuary. I eventually became an estate gardener as a result. When we were young we found an old gazebo on the castle grounds. We rode home on our bikes to to get tools to fix it up, we raked out the leaves and even filled an old glass jar with flowers, when suddenly we heard voices! We hid in the bushes. Some men came into the gazebo, looked at the “vase” of flowers curiously, before they set it aside and spread their blueprints on the table – they were the developers…
The angel gate that hung between the two posts (shown in the castle story above), is now in Canada. My usually honest mother always loved it. Just before the castle was demolished, she stole it!
The original silent Romeo ~ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZDUnJYCROm8
I had gone to the Castle when the historical society was trying to raise funds to save this site. It had to be back in the 60’s. I always wonder what had happen to the castle and was sad to hear its fate. The tour was about an hour long and a history of the castle was covered. At that time of the tour it was told that one part of Abbott and Costello meet Frankenstein was filmed there.
I remember that in one of the large rooms the ceilings were domed in such a way that you could stand in one corner, whisper, and the sound would carry over to the other far corner like they were standing next to you.
The ball room had the Egyptian tablets set in the balcony, some of which had all reedy been stolen. It was truly an beautiful site even in the condition it was in at that time!
Wow ~ this is my great grandmother. http://www.the-athenaeum.org/art/full.php?ID=42977
I used to live right next to the castle…on east shore rd…we would go into the castle and explore..we had so much fun and saved so many things that we picked up…being so young..it was exciting..then i went back to huntington when i was older, and the castle was remodeled…so beautiful…wish i could give back some of the.stuff i collected when i was little..and say hi to ths new ow..ners..239-234-0935…naples.fl
As a young girl, my friends and I would walk past this castle and wanted so badly to go up and take a look, but we would never dare to! My father was raised in Halesite and lived in a house just up the road from here. Now I wish I had asked him more questions. He probably had stories to tell. Really enjoyed this story!
did you also know that the movie “Abbott and Costello meet Frankenstein” was also filmed there?
Played there in the 60’s
What a beautiful story, But so sad..Mrs Ferguson did have a big heart. I wished I lived in her time and wished I would of helped her and of course we could of shared storys….
There is so many wasteful movies out there… Mrs ferguson would be an interesting story and of course educational!!!!!!!
So please let’s get the film rolling !!!!!!
Jeanette Diou Rispoli
I grow up on Long Island in the sixties. I remember in High school walking around Ferguson Castle at night. It was pretty scary.
Enjoyed all the information about the castle and the stories everyone has added.
Great story. I lived off Bay Ave., Halesite in 1940, 50 and 60. Remember going into the castle late at night. Very spooky. I remember Walter the Guard chasing us. Fond memories. I also have the book.
Great story. I lived off Bay Ave., Halesite in 1940, 50 and 60. Remember going into the castle late at night. Very spooky. I remember Walter the Guard chasing us. Fond memories. I also have the book.
Robert King, author of “Ferguson’s Castle: A Dream Remembered” and I as kids in High School tried to save the Castle in the late 60’s. I do not know how to add a link but if you do a search for Juliana Armour Ferguson you will find links to a portrait that was painted of her by Joquin Sorolla y Bastida that is part of the art collection of Smith College. It was wonderful to see so many descendants find each other. We searched but in the late 60s, we did not have the internet. Thanks for the wonderful story! Enjoy the portrait.
I have a Beautiful cornerpiece of the planter but once stood at the front door of the castle if anybody’s interested
We lived on Fleets Cove Rd and often passed the castle to visit our friends Alan & Celia Honig and their 2 sons, Adam & Noel in Wincoma. It was beautiful. What a shame the Town of Huntington didn’t preserve it.