Originally built for Wall Street executive and steel tycoon Charles Hudson between 1906 and 1920 in what is now Muttontown, the once-magnificent Knollwood Estate had 60 rooms and was set on a 260-acre property, previously known as the Westbrook Farms.
Besides the palatial house, located deep in the property, the estate had a working farm with over a hundred Jersey cattle, as well as a 12-car garage and stable, a Colonial Revival style guest cottage, and lush gardens.
However, Charles Hudson never got the chance to spend time at the Knollwood Estate and, following his death in 1921, the property was sold to Gustavia Senff- the widow of former American Sugar Refining Company president Charles H. Senff. Her nephew inherited it upon her death 6 years later and eventually, in 1951, it was purchased for $102,800 by an unusual foreign dignitary- King Gustav S. Zog of Albania.
Formerly known for being among the youngest prime ministers in world history, Ahmet Muhtar Bej Zogolli, better know as King Zog, ruled Albania from 1925 to 1939. He became first president on January 22, 1925 and, three years later, he was declared the nation’s first ever king- although the regime was the same military dictatorship as before.
His reign ended on April 7, 1939 with the invasion of Albania by Mussolini’s troops. Aware that an invasion by Italy was imminent, the family had begun collecting their vast riches of gold and jewels months in advance. The King fled the country to Greece alongside the Albanian royal family. From there, they travelled to Istanbul, and then to Paris, where they were again forced to flee after the invasion of France in 1940.
King Zog and his family resided in England and then Egypt throughout the 1940’s.
Zog, by that time, was no stranger to attempts on his life, having reportedly survived over 55 assassination attempts during his relatively brief rule, including a 1931 attempt in Vienna which established him as the only leader in modern times to return fire on his assailant.
In 1951, Knollwood was purchased for their new home at a cost of $102,800, and he is said to have purchased it with the gold and jewels he had smuggled out of his kingdom years prior.
He had planned on turning Knollwood into his own personal micro-kingdom, complete with Albanian subjects, but somehow these plans never became truth. Actually he never even visited the estate or paid property taxes.
While the estate awaited the monarch who would never arrive, rumors circulated that Albanian treasure was hidden in its walls, prompting vandals to tear apart the unprotected property.
Unfortunately, by 1955, it had fallen to disrepair and was sold by the Albanian Parliament to Lansdell Christie who had most of it demolished in 1959 due to structural safety concerns. Other nearby structures were razed in the years that followed, and the estate was sold to Nassau County in 1969.
And King Zog?
He died at his residence in France in 1961, at the age of 65.
Today curious hikers can explore what remains of King Zog’s would-be palace on what is now part of Nassau County’s 550-acre Muttontown Preserve, and are accessible by walking trail.
Images from web – Google Research