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Hamptons Life

May 21, 2018 3:43 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Sir Ivan Reigns In Water Mill

Ivan Wilzig stands on the balcony of his castle, overlooking the pool.
May 22, 2018 10:07 AM

The Hamptons has a well-earned reputation for boasting magnificent residences that rival castles in both size and grandeur, but only one home stands on the East End that is, quite literally, a castle. 

Known as Wilzig Castle, Sir Ivan’s Castle, or simply “the Castle,” the 12,000-square-foot dwelling off Deerfield Road in a hilly area of Water Mill is the summer home of Ivan Wilzig, a banker-turned-recording artist known for throwing over-the-top theme parties, such as his “Sinful 60th” birthday bash in 2016, where guests were required to “dress” like Adam and Eve, or his 2015 party, where guests had to arrive in costume as one of the Village People.

The parties held there have been gossip-page fodder since 1997, the Castle’s inaugural season after the rapid-paced 20-month design and building period, and the estate itself has been the subject of scores of shelter press articles and international home and travel television episodes.

Just last summer, it was named one of the 30 Most Incredible Castles in America by Best Hospitality Degrees.

Ivan Wilzig—who goes by the stage name Sir Ivan and also uses the persona Peaceman—has been the sole owner of the Castle for about a decade. But, he explained from Miami during a phone interview early this year, that he originally co-owned the estate with his brother, Alan Wilzig.

They purchased the 5 acres in 1996 for less than $300,000, according to Alan, and set about achieving Ivan’s dream of owning a castle.

“My brother—in order to get it done in time for Memorial Day weekend of the following summer—he had at least a hundred workers on site morning, noon and night,” Ivan said.

Alan was responsible for the design along with his then-girlfriend, now-ex-wife, Karin Hanssen, a Belgium artist and jewelry designer.

Alan and Karin—with the help of the brothers’ mother, Naomi Wilzig, and sister, Sherry—also sought out any medieval and Gothic decorations.

“We’re looking for dragons and gargoyles and griffins and anything that might be appropriate for a castle,” Ivan recalled. He added that Alan and Karin put everything into a storage facility and planned exactly what room each piece would be placed in, so everything from the chaise lounges to the shining suits of armor had destinations on move-in day.

Ivan said that part of the reason for the rush was so they could avoid renting a summer house for one more season. They previously rented on Flying Point Beach in Water Mill, and before that they owned a summer home together in East Quogue.

“My former spouse would literally be out there helping me manage the job when I couldn’t be out there during the midweek,” Alan said. “And then at the end, when we had the mad punch-list craziness to get everything done by Memorial Day ’97, she was out there full time for six months and ran the punch-list and the guys from the top of 16-foot scaffolding, variously in the great hall, upstairs dining room, all those giant rooms with 16 foot ceilings.”

Ivan said he came to the property when it was near completion, and witnessed the workers—“sound guys, pool guys, electricians, carpet guys”—working all over the estate like ants in an ant farm to meet the Memorial Day weekend deadline.

“It was really something to behold, and they did get it done,” Ivan said.

At the time, the brothers worked for their father’s bank—they come from a prominent northern New Jersey banking family. Speaking from his home in Taghkanic, where he now has a private professional racetrack, Alan said, “I don’t speak about what I paid to build it, but people would be astonished to know how little I built it for. But that’s what I was doing. You know, I built a hundred bank branches too. Going back to ’97, I was as much a builder as I was a banker.”

He said they were able to meet their deadline because he called in every favor from tradesmen in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

“One of the coolest things about the house, I always felt, is the jaw-dropping feeling that you get when you enter as most people do, which is pulling up into the parking area and walking around the left, or the south side of the house, and coming directly out onto the swimming pool deck. And then looking up and seeing that top of the central hall. It’s almost 50 feet tall—it’s 48 feet tall,” Alan said. Because the Castle is built on a hill, the side of the residence not facing the street could be taller than would typically be allowed under building code.

Ivan said the acreage of the estate appears to be much larger than it is.

“That’s the beauty of it,” he said. “When you’re on the great hall balcony, you see nothing but trees, thousands of acres. And because you can’t tell where the property ends, it looks like it all belongs to the castle, because there are no other homes to see.”

And, because of the elevation, the views of Peconic Bay and Robins Island are unparalleled, he said. “It’s the ultimate place to watch the sunset in the entire Hamptons.”

He said the castle is like something out of a Robin Hood movie.

“It looks like Sherwood Forest,” he said. “And I definitely, from that perch, that high up on the roof on the great hall balcony, feel like the Sheriff of Nottingham. We really made sure that it had every element of a European castle.”

He credited Alan and Karin for doing all the research. “Every single castle that has been built in history—Russian castles, German castles, Italian castles, Spanish castles, English, Irish—you name it. They studied them all.”

Alan said he bought all of the Rizzoli coffee-table books he could find on castle architecture, from the Palace of Versailles to the Baroque style. “My brother’s only contribution and insistence, at the same time, was, ‘it’s got to be a castle and it’s got to have,’ as he put it, ‘the up-and-down ramparts,’ which I later learned are called crenellations.”

Alan recalled his brother told him, “I’ve had castle dreams my whole life. All I care is that it is a castle, that a 5-year-old kid can tell in five minutes that it is a castle. After that, you can do whatever you want. You can do whatever you want in the interior. You can do whatever kind of swimming pool you want. I didn’t care about any of it. All I care about is that the pool is 90 degrees and that it looks like a castle.”

The design drew on favorite architectural features that they found. Ivan called the finished product “a smorgasbord of castle detail.”

It has 8 bedrooms, a dungeon and even a nightclub. Outside, in addition to the heated pool, is plenty of room for entertaining, and a tennis court.

Alan said the first party at the Castle in 1997 was the Jungle Masquerade, a benefit for the Rainforest Alliance. Admission was $250, he said, but the word spread and the party took on a life of its own. People were trying to sneak into the party inside the trunks of Rolls-Royces, he said, and he sold the last 10 tickets at the door for $2,000 each to Wall Street bankers who were desperate to impress their dates.

Among the guests were future President Donald Trump, his ex-wife Ivana Trump, and his soon-to-be second ex-wife Marla Maples. Alan said none of them interacted, and Mr. Trump brought MLB slugger Sammy Sosa as his guest.

Alan said that one party encapsulated the whole reason he felt they had built the house.

“Then somebody drops a bomb on Page Six,” he said. A gossip item in the New York Post about the party reported on a sex act allegedly performed at the party in a hot tub, with onlookers.

“Then kaboom, explosion,” Alan said. “My father goes berserk. My brother is locked out of his office at work. Totally shamed—not my brother, because he’s shameless—but my father is just beside himself, and the whole thing just blows up in our faces in the worst way.”

He said their father, Holocaust survivor Siggy Wilzig of Trust Company of New Jersey, said to them something along the lines of, “I didn’t survive Auschwitz for this!”

The Castle and what was written about it became a point of contention for the brothers. Alan said that, despite a nearly 10-year age difference, they were the closest brothers anyone could ever meet. “My parents would tease that from the time my parents came home from the maternity ward with me, my brother received me as if they made me specifically for him,” he said.

But they were literally “at each other’s throats” over the Castle, Alan said.

He admitted that—in order to disassociate his name from Castle gossip—in 2001 he purposely leaked a false story: He said that Ivan bought his half of the estate.

However, that wasn’t actually the truth until 2004, after their father died of multiple myeloma, an incurable blood cancer.

Alan said their father’s illness brought him and his brother together, and their father was able to quietly enjoy the Castle in his last couple of years.

But after their father died, and the bank was sold, each brother was in a position to have his own estate, rather than share one, Alan said. “For the first time, we were actually liquid rich, and not just rich on paper by owning a big share of a public company bank.”

It was also around that time that Alan and Karin started a family.

“When he decided to get married and have children, I bought his half out,” Ivan said. “And then I owned 100 percent of it. For the past 10 years, I have owned it exclusively.”

Since taking full possession, Ivan has not made many changes to the original design, though he did add gold leaf to the balcony and railings, and a pond was added to the front yard. He said the water—with seven waterfalls cascading on either side of a drawbridge—appears to be a moat that wraps around the Castle, because it trails off in the woods.

“We have the largest gates—according to Peconic Gate—in the entire Hamptons,” he noted.

The Castle is not on the market, and Ivan said that he does not receive cold calls from interested buyers. But he does receive many requests to rent the property for a photo shoot, runway show or music video location.

He keeps those to a minimum, so to not create problems for the locals, he said. Though he continues to host his own parties there and lends the Castle for charity events.

Another reason he’s turned down requests to film there is that he did not want the Castle to be overexposed before he could shoot his own music video there in his “tech-hippie” style—which he described as techno music with hippie themes. He finally did with “I Am Peaceman,” featuring Debbie Gibson, released last year.

“It was filmed at the Castle, with the use of drones, which made it even more dramatic,” he said.

The Castle has helped his music career for years, as it has exposed him to new fans.

“I have been on every major network in Germany, every major network in France, showing the Castle, showing my parties, etc., and the Hamptons. And then, they license it and syndicate it and send it all over the globe. … It’s become a global phenomenon.”

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So your Dad survives the holocaust and works his butt off and builds a strong business, so the next generation can build castles to host orgies, and spend millions on race cars so he can drive fast around a track he builds in his back yard. Hmm Wonder what they're over compensating for. It's no wonder Karen left
By PatrickKing (15), Sah Harbor on May 22, 18 5:30 PM
Ummm who gives a flying F?
By bigfresh (4666), north sea on May 22, 18 5:56 PM