What is it about celebrities that just seems to capture the imagination of the world? We religiously watch their movies, read their books, buy their music and support their sports teams. When they get a little old and middle-aged-spread-y, we even order whatever products they’re hawking on the shopping channel.
Whoever our heroes and idols happen to be, we’re utterly committed to them. Just watch what happens whenever Justin Bieber posts anything on social media, for instance. Why is this, though? That’s the question.
For one thing, it’s about living vicariously. After all, most of us mere mortals will never know the feeling of earning several thousand per minute. Your favourite soccer player scratched his hindquarters on the pitch? That’s about ten grand, right there.
It’s a completely different world, and that’s a lot of the appeal. It’s fun to follow movies stars’ red carpet lives, and to share in the gossip of who’s doing what with whose spouse.
You’ve got to capture that zeitgeist, because fame, fortune and riches don’t last forever, and exactly the notion applies to once-powerful and beautiful structures around the world. As a testament to that fact, let’s take off on a world tour of some of the most tragically beautiful abandoned mansions from around the world.
From the sad tale of Italy’s Villa de Vecchi to the mysterious Mudhouse Mansion in Ohio (supposedly the home of the original Bloody Mary), there’s something for everybody here. Castles and lush villas, mysteries and scandals… this rundown’s got it all. What are you waiting for? Let’s get this party started.
25 Halcyon Hall, United States: Now THAT’S A College
Let’s start things off with a building with a long and proud history. Halcyon Hall was built in 1893, in Millbrook, New York. Originally, it was a vast and luxurious hotel, boasting 200 rooms. It didn’t last long in that capacity, Town And Country Mag reports, before becoming the heart of Bennett College for women (1907).
Bennett College survived for just over seventy years, before closing down in 1978. As is often the case, it was a cash-flow problem… they didn’t dang well have any. The building fell into disrepair until 2014, when new owners purchased the site. They intend to tear down the building and make it into a park, but as The Millbrook Independent reported in August 2016, there’s a lot of legal shenanigans to work through before that happens.
24 Villa de Vecchi, Italy: What Happened Here?
Of all the properties on this list, I’d say that Villa de Vecchi has the most tragic and mysterious backstory. The once-magnificent villa was built in the nineteenth century, in the beautiful Lake Como region of Italy, for Count Felix de Vecchi.
His hope for a lavish-yet-peaceful family home, up in the mountains. It was not to be, sadly, because it was the scene of an awful and mysterious crime. Returning to the villa one day, Count Felix found that his wife had been slain and his daughter was missing. The grief-stricken noble took his own life, and today, his once-proud home sits in a state of decay.
23 Chateau Miranda, Belgium: It’s Not Very ‘Noisy’ Around Here Any More
That’s right, friends. This towering castle in Celles, Belgium is also known as Chateau de Noisy, which explains that super-slick pun in the headline there (rule number one of jokes: if you have to explain them, they’re terrible).
Hurrying right along, though, The Huffington Post reports that it was constructed for the Liedekerke-Beaufort family in 1866. Later, it would become an orphanage, and would continue in that capacity until 1980.
The family have since refused various companies who wanted to renovate the building, and the still-impressive structure continues to sadly moulder away. It’s a shame, as that’s a magnificent slice of architecture right there.
22 Jukuiju, Taiwan: A Tense Taiwanese Tale
For our next stop, we’re going to cross over to Taiwan, where another strikingly-beautiful feat of architecture awaits.
The Jukuiju estate was built in 1920 in Taichung. It’s notable for two things, as reported by The Huffington Post: Its intriguing mix of Japanese colonial and traditional Taiwanese architecture, and its curious history. Today, nobody can quite agree on the stately home’s past. Was it once the home of Chen Shaozong, successful businessman, or did it belong to poet Chen Ruoshi?
That depends who you ask. All we can say for sure is that such confusion only contributes to the mansion’s current crumbling state.
21 Cambusnethan House, Scotland: A Hearty Home
Now, here’s a story sure to resonate with any fiercely patriotic Scot. Cambusnethan House was the home of the Lockhart family, their residence since its completion in 1820. The family crest (a heart, lock and casket) was implemented into the architecture wherever possible, as per the family’s instructions.
What’s so important about this? Well, according to legend, Lockart ancestors once carried the heart of Scottish hero Robert the Bruce home from the Holy Land.
Many homes like Cambusnethan were demolished in Scotland in the middle of the last century, and is in an awful state of disrepair itself. It’s now deemed too dangerous to enter.
20 Pidhirtsi Castle, Ukraine: Through The Fire And… Water
According to Business Insider, Ukraine’s Pidhirtsi Castle was originally a holiday home for one of Poland’s military elite. Architect Andrea dell’Aqua completed the impressive estate in 1640.
Centuries later, subsequent owners had neglected Pidhirtsi, and nature hasn’t been kind to it either. It’s been heavily damaged by fires and flooding. There’s still hope, though, as efforts are being made to find volunteers and investors to renovate the building to its former glory.
Naturally, though, it’s a huge, huge undertaking, and the project has floundered of late due to a lack of funds. That’s not to say that the right investors won’t come along, though.
19 The ‘European Castle’ Of Missouri: A Little Slice Of Europe In The US
With the United States being the comparatively super-young country it is, there isn’t a tradition of big ol’ luxurious Hey, check me out, I’m Duke Richington of Cashtastictown castle building over in America. That’s more of a European thing, generally speaking.
Nevertheless, some USA folk have managed to get in on the castle action. Robert Snyder was a businessman who wanted to have an imitation castle built in Missouri, which was named Ha Ha Tonka. The work began in 1905, but he met a tragic demise in a car accident before it was completed. Snyder’s sons lived there, then it became a hotel, but it burnt down in 1942. Some half-hearted work was done on the property in the decades that followed, but it’s still largely a wreck.
18 Kasteel Van Mesen, Belgium: The Multi-Purpose Mansion
Back over to Belgium next, friends. You might think that mansions are just meant as far-too-large-to-be-practical homes for celebs, but these buildings can serve all manner of other purposes besides.
Kasteel van Mesen, in Lede, Belgium, served more than most. It was a tobacco factory, a gin distillery and a boarding school for girls (not all at the same time, you understand, that wouldn’t have been smart at all).
The building was demolished in 2010, leaving just these super-spooky memories behind. There’s just something about abandoned buildings. They’re not right, they’re not meant to be.
17 Lillesden Estate Mansion, United Kingdom: Now That’s Foreboding
Speaking of the all-round unwelcoming and unsettling vibes that abandoned buildings tend to give off, check this out. Doesn’t this look the sort of place that would have a mysterious portal in the backyard, or something dodgy going on in the basement?
It’d be a perfect setting for a horror movie, but it was actually another girl’s school at one time. The Lillesden Estate was built in the 1850s and became the Lillesden School For Girls shortly after the First World War. It operated until 1999, when it was closed. Since then, only the steadily-encroaching grass has called it home.
16 Chateau De La Mothe Chandeniers, France: A Fancy French Folly
Now, this is another much-storied property. The castle is found in Poitou-Charentes in France, built way back in the 13th century for the Bauçay family.
It’s changed hands many times over the centuries, as you’d expect, enduring terrible damage during the French Revolution. Worse was to come in the 1930s, when a fire ravaged much of the interior.
Restoration efforts have largely come to nothing, but there’s good news on that front: a plucky group calling themselves the Friends of Chateau De La Mothe Chandeniers are redoubling their efforts to make the money required to save this beautiful building as we speak.
15 Pineheath House, United Kingdom: It’s Not What You Know, It’s *WHO* You Know
Some people, as we know, delighting in having some kind of claim to fame. Even something obscure will do. So Bruce Willis’s long-lost cousin’s husband’s uncle twice-removed’s pet parakeet once fixed your air conditioning, you don’t have to keep crowing about it.
Sir Dhunjibhoy and Lady Bomanji were certainly the real deal, though. Friends of the British head family in the early 1900s, they owned the lavish Pineheath House. On the lady’s demise in 1986 (her husband passed almost fifty years before), the estate was left untouched until the 2010s. Then, The Independent reports, it was bought by a businessman with hopes of restoration.
14 Mayfield House, Ireland: Time’s Up For Tanning
The problem with fame, success and celebrity status is, it’s a fickle thing. You can be a head of industry one day, only for that industry to all but disappear. Just look at Mayfield House.
This glorious home in Ireland was built in the 1840s. It was the residence of the Malcomsons, bigwigs of the tanning industry they’d founded at the town of Portlaw.
A century or so later, that industry was all but kaput. According to Love Property, Mayfield House became humble office space, and was soon vacated in the mid-1990s. The once-elegant home has been left abandoned since. Again, though, possible restoration is not off the cards.
13 Darul-Aman Palace, Afghanistan: A Palace In Every Sense Of The Word
As Love Property reports, Afghanistan’s Darul-Aman Palace was built around one hundred years ago, as part of an initiative to modernise the country.
Late that decade (in 1929), though, Amanullah Khan was exiled, and all of those hopes disappeared. In the time that followed, the lavish building was used for several other purposes (the Kabul University School of Medicine called it home for a time). In the 1960s, it was damaged by fire, and it the 1990s, it was damaged again by shelling, then attacked again in 2012.
Despite all of these hardships, the palace is currently undergoing a multi-million dollar makeover, set to be completed sometime next year.
12 The Mudhouse Mansion, United States: Sounds Kind Of Messy
You know how it can be with these mysterious buildings. Urban legends start, are embellished and passed around. Over time, it becomes difficult to tell where the tall tales end and the truth begins.
The enigmatic Mudhouse Mansion of Ohio is one of these buildings. It’s estimated to have been built any time from the 1840s to the 1900s, depending on who you ask. All kinds of frightening stories have built up around it, too. According to some, this was the home of the original, ‘real’ Bloody Mary.
Whatever the truth may be, it’s all academic now. Mudhouse Mansion was demolished in September 2015.
11 The McNeal Mansion, New Jersey: The Pipe Palace
For our next stop, we’re crossing over the United States to New Jersey, where another historic building rests on the Delaware River.
The McNeal Mansion was the home of Andrew McNeal, founder of a… foundry. In 1899, nine years after its construction, U.S Pipe bought the estate to serve as its headquarters, an arrangement which lasted until they left in 1953.
Since then, the Mansion has sat dormant until 2016, when the city took over and started to put a redevelopment plan into motion. As of now, the plan has hit a dead end and the house remains empty and forgotten, but we’ll see what the future brings.
10 Mavisbank House, Scotland: A Home Fit For A Baronet
Back over to the United Kingdom now, Scotland boasts a whole array of luxurious country houses. One of them is Mavisbank House, which was built for Sir John Clerk of Penicuik, 2nd Baronet, in 1727.
The family sold the fabulous estate in 1815, and it was converted into a psychiatric hospital. Additional wings were added, later demolished, and then a fire ravaged the building in 1973. The car dealer who owned the house at the time left, and it’s largely been left to its own devices since. As we’ve established pretty well by now, that’s never good for a property, and nobody quite knows what to do with it at the moment.
9 Prince Said Halim’s Palace, Egypt: The Pinnacle Of Egyptian Architecture
Now that’s a beautiful thing. When it comes to Egyptian architecture, of course, we tend to think of iconic ancient wonders like the pyramids of Giza and the Great Sphinx. As time has moved on and the country has modernised, though, it turns out that they’re handy with more than just a chisel.
This wonderful building in the Egyptian capital of Cairo was built in 1899. In more recent times, it served as a very exclusive school for boys, but it hasn’t been used as such since 2004. What has it been since? Well, a pretty albeit crumbling façade, mostly.
8 Carleton Villa, United States: The House That Remington Built
Back in the United States and New York now, Carleton Villa is another sad case. This vast estate was built in 1894, for William Wyckoff (who, as The Line Up explains, got rich on an empire of Remington typewriters).
Sadly, Wyckoff's wife passed away from cancer just before the family were set to move in, and worse still was to come: He himself had a heart attack on his very first night in Carleton Villa. It’s a tragic tale indeed, and it follows that nobody would be keen to swoop in and snap the house up. As of now, it still sits deserted.
7 Hafodunos Hall, Wales: A Happy Ending?
Of all the lavish homes we’ve seen so far in this rundown, most of them have been stalled in an unfortunate state of disrepair. Not only are they uninhabited and forgotten, but well-meaning groups and volunteers who have wanted to renovate these properties have ultimately been unable to.
That doesn’t seem to be the case with Hafodunos Hall in Wales, though. Situated near Llangernyw, it was built in the 1860s, and its wonderful garden is being restored by the National Garden Scheme (as reported by Wales Online). Its new owner, Dr. Richard Wood, is working on doing the same for the building itself.
6 Bannerman Castle, United States: When A Castle Just Isn’t Enough
How do you push ostentatiousness to its absolute limit? I’ll tell you how. You get yourself a whole dang castle, and it’s still not enough. So you also get an island to put it on. Now that’s spending like Kanye West on the day he gets his allowance from Kim.
The island in question is Pollepel Island, on the Hudson River north of Manhattan. It was bought by Francis Bannerman at the turn of the century, who wanted to store his munitions there. Shortly after he passed away, his stockpile exploded, leaving parts of the estate in ruins. The whole island has been empty for at least seventy years.
5 Elda Castle, United States: Very Abercrombie And Fitch
Now, not many of us mere mortals have the freedom to nab ourselves a 50 acre plot of land, consult our architect partners and create our perfect vision of a castle home together. Heck, I consider it extravagant to go to Nando’s and get two sides with a meal (spicy rice and creamy mash? Hey, big spender).
Nevertheless, this is exactly what David T. Abercrombie (of Abercrombie and Fitch) and his wife Lucy Abbott Cate did in the 1920s. When the couple passed away, however, the estate fell into disrepair. If you’re looking for the biggest and most expensive fixer-upper of all time, though, it is on the market.
4 The Mansions Of Old Perithia, Greece: Hey, Where Did Everybody Go?
As we all know, Greece has a reputation around the world as a treasure trove for history buffs. The ruins, the temples, the birthplace of one of the greatest civilisations of all time… it’s just awe-inspiring.
Over on the island of Corfu, there are ruins of a very different sort. The village of Old Perithia is all but abandoned now, but according to Corfu Greece, it’s still home to around 130 buildings and homes. Some of which are truly stunning. The residents mostly left after an epidemic hit just before World War Two, but a few plucky residents remain behind.
3 Kinmel Hall, Wales: How Times Have Changed
It’s odd how things fall from grace and go out of fashion, isn’t it? I’m sitting here in my MC Hammer parachute pants, with a huge 60s disco afro and a Walkman, because I know that one of these things is primed for a comeback any day now.
Time can be a cruel thing. As Wales Online reports, Kinmel Hall was once considered the ‘Welsh Versailles,’ one of the finest houses in the country, but is all but forgotten now. The estimated cost to restore it to its former glory is around $26 million, which goes some way to explaining the situation.
2 Muromtzevo Mansion, Russia: Boitzov’s Trademark
Well, holy heckola. This place is quite a sight, isn’t it? You’re looking at Muromtzevo Mansion in Sudogda, Russia.
In a hilarious example of the Look ma, no wageslip privilege of the very rich, this castle was constructed for a bet. According to Atlas Obscura, “a Russian nobleman traveling through France made acquaintance with a French lord. The two began to squabble over the superiority of each country, and after tiring of the lord extolling the ornate architecture of France, the Russian declared that he could erect a castle of equal magnificence in his own country.”
The Russian noble contacted master architect P.S. Boitzov, who went ahead and did just that. At the advent of the Russian Revolution, though, he had to flee, and the castle was left to become a college, a hospital, and later, left silent and abandoned.
1 Boldt Castle, United States: Don’t Be Heartless
If you thought you’d heard some tragic stories over the course of this rundown, then buckle up for this one. This is the best (which is to say, the worst) of all.
Boldt Castle was built by George Boldt, millionaire hotel manager from New York. In 1900, he embarked on a project to construct a vast six-storey home, one of the biggest private residences in the country, as an ode to the wife he adored. When she passed away in 1904, construction was immediately stopped. Boldt never returned, and the castle remains there on Heart Island, a testament to his love.
It’s a fascinating building, and tours are very popular.
References: Town And Country Mag, Huffington Post, Business Insider, Can You Actually, English Russia, The Independent, Love Property, The Line Up, Wales Online, Corfu-Greece, The Millbrook Independent, Atlas Obscura