It’s a harsh world out there, isn’t it? You can’t fail to have noticed that. Just grab a newspaper or scroll down a social media feed; you’ll see all kinds of grim headlines that you really didn’t need.
The sad fact is, life isn’t fair. Some of us cruise along on easy street, making cash effortlessly, while others work their sweet little souls out just to scrape by. There are some unfortunate people out there who eagerly open up the UberEats app, after hearing about it from a buddy, to learn that McDonald’s don’t deliver in their area. Where’s the justice? Nowhere, that’s where.
The bottom line us, some people have a much more comfortable lot in life than others. Can you even imagine having multiple big, luxurious properties, and a garage full of fancy cars? I sure as heck can’t.
The important thing to remember, though, is that all of these things are fleeting. Yes, we live in a world where you can become super rich overnight, but also one where you can lose it all again just as fast. What becomes of your magnificent mansions and castles then?
What becomes of them, period? Well, several different things can. In this rundown, we’re going to check out some of the world’s most poignant forgotten luxury properties. From those that have been left mouldering for centuries (Belgium’s Chateau De Noisy) to those that were recently abandoned following harrowing incidents (that one notorious mansion in Los Feliz, California), these properties have some fascinating tales to tell. So let’s get into it.
25 Villa De Vecchi, Cortenova, Italy: A Beautiful, Tragic Place
I can’t imagine a more beautiful, serene setting. Cortenova, in Italy, is characterised by stunning, forested mountains. If you’re looking for somewhere to get away from all the technology, noise and hustle and bustle of big city life, this is probably one of the finest places Europe has to offer.
As such, it’s no surprise at all that Count Felix De Vecchi opted to have his glorious mansion built right here. Sadly, it proved to be anything but the peaceful retreat he and his family had wanted.
Villa De Vecchi was thought to be cursed. Firstly, its architect, Alessandro Sidoli, passed away a year before its completion. Then, in 1862 (just five years after moving into the finished villa), the Count tragically lost his wife and their daughter was taken. Brokenhearted, he himself did not last too long afterward.
His brother’s family lived on the property until the 1940s, and it’s been abandoned since the sixties. All it attracts these days are vandals and those interested in its tragic legacy.
24 Kasteel Van Mesen, Lede, Belgium: A Long And Storied History
While we’re in Europe, let’s cross over to Belgium to admire a castle with a complex and super-busy past.
Kasteel Van Mesen (Mesen Castle) was once the property of the Marquess of Lede, and went on to serve all kinds of functions (beyond noble hob-nobbing) over its chequered life.
“Throughout the 1800s,” Colossal reports, “the complex was used as a gin distillery, a tobacco factory, and a sugar refinery. In 1897 the castle was then sold to a religious order who constructed an impressive neo-gothic chapel and turned the entire facility into a boarding school.”
The magnificent building is no more, tragically. After an attempt to have it designated a protected monument failed, it was demolished in 2011.
23 Wyckoff Villa, Carleton Island, New York: The House That The Remington Typewriter Built
It’s a curious thing, but the more grandiose a building once was in its prime, the more tragic its mouldering remains look as it falls into disrepair. This is certainly the case with Carleton Island’s Wyckoff Villa.
The lavish home was built by William O. Wyckoff in 1894, a man who had made a fortune with his Remington typewriter. The property was once considered “the grandest estate in the Thousand Islands,” but it’s been around seventy years since anybody has lived there, and it’s really starting to show:
“Its fading facade remains majestic even set behind a fence and barbed wire, its towering turrets covered in cobwebs, its once stately walls the victim of vandals despite the 'Keep Out' signs posted around the property,” writes Kim Lunman of The Brockville Recorder and Times.
22 Gwyrch Castle, North Wales: Cromwell, The Normans and Welshmen, Oh My!
Here’s another castle with a history that could certainly be described as ‘colourful.’ The ruins of Gwrych Castle are found in the north of Wales, near Abergele, Conwy, and according to local history, it dates back a long, long way.
According to CastleWales, it’s said that the first stronghold built on the site came courtesy of the Normans (who went castle-crazy all over Britain following the famous conquest of 1066). A Welsh forced claimed it soon after, replacing the timber fortress with one of stone. After Oliver Cromwell’s own men destroyed it in the 1600s, a luxurious 19th century country house was constructed here, which still stands today (at least, some of it does).
21 The Hegeler Carus Mansion, Illinois, United States: An Interior Design Masterclass
As we all know, people aren’t always the best at taking care of things. If you’re one of those who never puts the disks back in the right boxes, or leaves the empty cereal box right there in the cupboard, you’re part of the darn problem, friend.
With that in mind, it’s a sad inevitability that some of the work by some of the fine craftspeople of yesteryear is going to be lost forever. Take the Hegeler Carus Mansion of LaSalle, Illinois. This striking building is known as one of the best (very few, perhaps only) surviving examples of the work of legendary interior designer and furniture maker August Fiedler (according to Glessnerhouse).
20 Chateau Gaillard, Normandy, France: Richard The Lionheart’s Home From Home
If British history is your thing, you’ll probably know about Richard the Lionheart. He was the English king from 1189 until 1199, and during that decade, he spent precious little time in England. He was also the Duke of Normandy and Aquitaine, which was where he lived for the most part.
It seemed to be his French properties that he prioritised, which explains the original construction of Chateau Gaillard in Normandy. The way Normandy Tourism tells it, the castle was built,
“…to guard his Norman possessions and the nearby Norman capital of Rouen, from the powerful king of France, Philippe Auguste. Richard and Philippe had earlier set out on crusade to the Holy Land together, but had fallen out on the expedition.”
The ruins are still a majestic sight, and are open for tourists (the interior being open at specific times of year).
19 Sutton Scarsdale Hall, England: Now *That’s* A Mansion
Speaking of British history, the Georgian period was characterised by a specific architectural style. It’s still prevalent in stately homes across the country today, as seen in the sumptuous remains of Sutton Scarsdale Hall.
Construction of this decadent mansion began in 1724, and was completed five years later. English Heritage reports that it has been missing its roof since 1919 (some parts of the building were exported to America), but retains the beautiful plasterwork and views of the open countryside that its original owners must have so enjoyed.
There are other mansions of the period that are better preserved, but Sutton Scarsdale Hall loses none of its grandeur for that.
18 Spiš Castle, Slovakia: That Is One *BIG* Castle
Now, generally speaking, castles tend to be pretty darn big. That’s part of the whole thing, really. When it comes right down to it, castles have always been about two main factors: protection/fortification, and being impossibly swaggy and extra. After all, nothing says I’ve got more money than you quite like 400 different rooms and a couple of moats.
With that in mind, the big selling point of Spiš Castle in Slovakia is its sheer size. It’s one of the largest castle compounds in Europe, according to Slovakia Travel, and was added to UNESCO’s list of protected sites in 1993. It’s partially in ruins, but no less impressive for it.
17 Halcyon Hall, Bennett College, United States: An Historic Private School
Now, this was a turn up for the books. Halcyon Hall was originally intended as a luxury hotel. With its spacious rooms and desirable Millbrook, New York location, it seemed like a great idea, but the hotel just didn’t catch on.
The building was soon repurposed as a private school for girls, and enjoyed great success in that capacity. Indeed, it served as such for almost a century, having been founded in 1890 and not closing until 1978.
Nobody’s quite sure what to do with the mouldering buildings. Plans to tear it down and build a park in its place have fallen through, leaving its ultimate fate uncertain for now.
16 Chateau de Noisy, Belgium: It’s Not So Noisy Around Here These Days
Next up, we’re hopping back over to Belgium for a look at another of the country’s lost castles.
The Chateau De Noisy (officially named Chateau Miranda) was built by English architect Edward Milner in 1866. Originally the home of Count Liedekerke-Beaufort, it went on to be taken over by the National Railway Company of Belgium, who converted it into an orphanage and ‘holiday camp’ of sorts for sick children.
It went on in this capacity until into the 1970s, slowly becoming abandoned over the next couple of decades. Sadly, the upkeep for the derelict building became too expensive, and despite protests, it was demolished in 2017.
15 Hafodunos Hall, Wales: Back To Its Former Glory?
Here we are again in Wales, another country steeped in history and littered with fascinating ruins. Hafodunos Hall is one building that dates back much further than you might think at first.
Well, technically, that is. You see, there’s been a hall on this site for centuries. The previous one was built in 1674, but there’s evidence that people have lived here since at least 1530.
Hafodunos Hall as we know it today, however, was built by Henry Robertson Sandbach in the 1860s. The family sold it seventy years later, and it was used for various purposes (it was a nursing home at one point) before being ravaged by fire in 2004.
There’s still hope for Hafodunos, though: new owners bought the property in 2010, with an eye to restoring it.
14 Rocca Calascio, Abruzzo, Italy: Italy’s Answer To Hogwarts?
There’s something magical about clifftop castles, isn’t there? I don’t mean magical in the sense that they make me think of Hogwarts castle (they do, sure, but that’s not where I’m going with this), there’s just an awe-inspiring that these crumbling ruins give me as I ascend towards them.
If you understand the feeling I’m talking about, you’re sure to appreciate this next entry. Rocca Calascio is a 10th century (at least) fort in Abruzzo. It’s one of the oldest and the highest in the country, standing at 1460m above sea level.
It has a fascinating life story to tell, too, having been added to and developed over the centuries (including by the Medicis in the late 16th century) until an earthquake largely destroyed it in 1703.
13 The Notorious Los Feliz Mansion, Los Angeles, United States: Dare You Look Closer?
If you’re not familiar with the backstory, this Spanish colonial-inspired mansion in Los Angeles looks like quite the idyllic place to live. Los Feliz is a prime location, after all, and the views (and, more importantly, the house prices) are extraordinary.
Sadly, though, it was the site of a terrible crime in 1959. The troubled homeowner, Dr Harold Perelson, attacked his wife one December night.
The Daily Mail picks up the story, explaining the house’s fate in the years since:
“…this once-vibrant family abode has lain abandoned ever since as the new owners never moved in.
For decades, streams of curious visitors have climbed the hill to peer through the windows at the dust-covered dolls, crusting cans of food, and half-made beds - but none were ever allowed in.”
The house was put on the market in recent years, which has meant that the grim relics from its former owners have had to be largely cleared away.
12 Ruperra Castle, Wales: Another Welsh Wonder
Okay, come on now, Wales. Let’s just quiet down a little now. I know you’re super proud of your castles and mansions, but you’re starting to monopolise things around here. Just settle down a bit.
That’s right, we’re heading back off to Britain again for a look at Ruperra Castle. This Jacobean fortress was built in 1625 by Sir Thomas Morgan. This proud, grand building has hosted royalty, and was claimed by the Ministry of Defense during the conflict of the late 1930s/early 1940s.
Like so many ancient and historically-significant estates, it’s been quite the financial burden, and owners have struggled to know what to do with it. As of right now, locals hope that the Ruperra Castle Preservation Trust can find a way to restore it.
11 Pidhirtsi Castle, Ukraine: Heck, Why Not?
Over we go to Ukraine next, to admire a 17th century castle very different to other contemporary fortresses.
This one was built in the village of Pidhirtsi, over a period of five years from 1635. Architect Andrea del Agua was at the helm, and the project was an unusual one for the time: it was to be a castle not for practical, traditional, defensive purposes, but for pleasure and leisure.
“a notion that is accentuated by its Italianate gardens and the two churches on the grounds, leaving the impression of a palace or a country house rather than a military castle,” as The Vintage News states. It was a stunning building in its prime, they go on:
“In its center stands the breathtaking palace that is the oldest in Ukraine and Eastern Europe. Its interior was created in a Western European style, which is reflected in the names of its many halls, such as Green, Crimson, Knightly, Mirrored, and Golden–all a reference to the valuable Turkish cloth that covered the walls and the furniture.”
In recent years, Pidhirtsi has served as a museum and a gallery, as funds try to find ways to support it.
10 Olsztyn Castle, Silesia, Poland: Not Easy To Get To (Or Pronounce) But Totally Worth It
When it comes to Europe’s biggest tourist attractions, city-wise, the usual names are going to crop up: Paris. Rome. London. Milan. Barcelona. Among those titans of traveller hype, Olsztyn, a humble Polish village, might barely register. However, you don’t want to sleep in this beautiful, historic place. That’s for certain.
The big-ticket item for visitors is Olsztyn Castle, which is situated of the Trail of the Eagles’ Nests. It’s a stunning vista, and worthy of such a historically-significant fortress. As Krakow In Your Pocket explains,
“The last great ruin on the trail, Olsztyn Castle occupies a hill overlooking the town of the same name just outside Częstochowa. Dating back a bit earlier to the late 13th century, the castle was one of the most important strongholds along the Silesia-Małopolska border and the site of frequent clashes during which the defenders proved their mettle.”
9 Wyndcliffe Mansion, New York, United States: Looking Just A Little Rough Around The Edges
Back we go to America next, for a look at the magnificent Wyndcliffe Mansion in New York.
The formerly magnificent Wyndcliffe Mansion, I should say. Like most things from 1853, it’s not quite the same as it used to be. Not that I’m judging, you understand. I mean, if I’d been born in the 1850s, I wouldn’t look nearly as good as this luxurious estate does now.
Hurrying right along, this was the home of Elizabeth Schermerhorn Jones, a mainstay of New York’s elite. As Atlas Obscura puts it,
“Wyndcliffe was so magnificent and imposing it inspired a fashion among her similarly wealthy contemporaries to build their own palatial mansions along the Hudson Valley. But Elizabeth’s was the first and the grandest, and is thought to be the inspiration for the phrase “to keep up with the Joneses.”
8 Kilchurn, Scotland: Because, In Scotland, They Do Castles *Right*
Oh, yes indeed. I know I’ve already done the whole ‘Hogwarts’ thing, but I’m going to make the reference again. The fact is, the fictional wizarding school could only have been located up in the highlands. It’s a beautiful, mystical, historical place, characterised by the kind of lush countryside we just don’t appreciate as much as we should.
So, too, is Kilchurn Castle. Located on a rocky peninsula in the shadow of Loch Awe, it was built in the 1400s and owned by Sir Colin Campbell, the 1st Lord of Glenorchy. Campbell’s family would go on to become one of the most powerful in Scotland, and they certainly had the swanky castle to match.
7 The Liu Family Mansion, Taiwan: Its Reputation Precedes It
How are you with tales of the supernatural, and supposedly spook-tastic locations? Everyone’s got a different tolerance for that sort of thing. Some of us travel the world to see scary places like Mexico’s Island of the Dolls, while others immediately pledge NEVER TO EVER EVER GO THERE.
If you’re in the latter group, you’ll probably want to give the Liu Family Mansion a very wide berth. This once-stunning property near Chiayi has become known as one of Taiwan’s most haunted places, and nobody can say quite why. The Liu family suddenly abandoned the property in the 1950s, which is where the mystery began:
Unsurprisingly, the mansion has largely been left to moulder away ever since.
6 Krzyżtopór Castle, Poland: A Little Imagination Goes A Long Way
By this point in the rundown, you might think you’ve had your fill of castles. Some of these places are truly stunning, there’s no denying that, but still. I don’t know how many castles are too many castles, but we could be approaching the cut-off here.
Krzyżtopór Castle is something special, though. Lonely Planet has dubbed it “arguably Poland’s most bizarre ruin,” and… well, they’re not kidding.
All kinds of stories surround it. For one thing, “It was designed to embody a calendar, with four towers representing the four seasons, 12 halls for the 12 months of the year, 52 rooms for the 52 weeks, and 365 windows for 365 days – plus one to be used only during leap years.”
There was also said to be a tunnel running beneath the property, which linked it to that of the owner’s brother. Sadly, said owner (Krzysztof Ossoliński) passed away in 1645, just a year after his dream home was completed.
5 Cambusnethan House, Scotland: A Tragic Legacy
So, yes. I don’t know about you, but I sure as heckola don’t have any castles or other huge cavernous properties lying around. That’s a privilege for those with Kardashian-style bank accounts.
That sort of thing, however, is fleeting. It doesn’t matter how rich or famous you are, you’re certainly not guaranteed to remain that way. A lot of the properties on this rundown were abandoned by formerly super-rich owners whose wells ran dry.
Cambusnethan House is another wonderful property that fell all the way from glory. It was constructed in the early 1800s, as a mock Priory for the Lockhart of Castlehill family, as Buildings At Risk reports. They held mock-Medieval banquets here in the 1970s, but the building has been left derelict since the mid-80s.
Organisations have been set up to preserve the house, so we’ll see what’s in its future.
4 Helmsley Castle, York, England: The Woodpecker’s Pride And Joy
As we saw earlier with Scotland, the British Isles are a land of rolling hills, serene countryside and… you know, cows and sheep and stuff. I tend to forget that, living in the built-up and smoky metropolis of London, but there’s so much beautiful greenery and history to enjoy here, if you know where to look.
If you don’t, I’ll tell you where to look: Yorkshire, friends. The market town of Helmsley is home to Helmsley Castle, originally built in the 12th century by Walter ‘The Woodpecker’ Espec (according to yorkshire.com). Modernised in the centuries that followed, much of this fascinating and imposing building still survives, and tours are available (on the weekends only). The visitor’s centre provides some of the history of the ruins (Cromwell famous destroyed the Great Keep, Helmsley Castle being in the hands of K.Charles during his spat with the Roundheads).
3 The Mudhouse Mansion, Ohio, United States: Don’t Say Its Name Three Times In Front Of A Mirror
All of the castles and mansions we’ve seen over the course of this rundown share one thing in common: a unique place in the public imagination. Some are better-known and more popular than others, granted, but many of them date back hundreds of years, and there’s something inherently interesting about that.
Something supernatural, as well. Generations have lived and passed away on these properties, and some have developed links with hauntings and ‘presences’ as a result. The Liu family’s mansion in Taiwan is famous for this, as was the Mudhouse Mansion of Ohio. Absurd legends around this unprepossessing building grew and grew over the years, to the extent that it was said to be the home of the Bloody Mary of urban legends!
Its owner, however, considered the Mudhouse Mansion “just a farmhouse,” and had it demolished in 2015.
2 Cēsis Castle, Latvia: Where The Old Meets The New
For our next stunning, history-rich property, we’re jetting over to the Baltic States. Cēsis in Latvia, to be precise, where one of the region’s most-visited tourist attractions is found.
Another protected heritage site, Cēsis Castle boasts 800 years of history. If these walls could talk, they’d say things like, “Hey, buddy, did you know that Ivan the Terrible once tried to besiege me? Because he totally did. That’s a claim to fame, right there, if you’ll excuse me tooting my own horn.”
Anyway, this proud fortress was inhabited until the latter part of the 17th century, when it was abandoned until it enjoyed a revival in public interest. Today, it’s a thriving hotspot for visitors.
1 Lynnewood Hall, Pennsylvania, United States: Sure Looks Good For Its Age
Many of the properties we’ve seen here have been in one heckola of a sorry state. Fallen into complete ruin, or else demolished entirely as the financial burden of renovating them became too much to consider.
Lynnewood Hall, of Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, has fared much better. Construction of the lavish home began in 1897, and was completed at the turn of the century. It’s been deemed by TownAndCountryMag as "perhaps the most amazing mansion still standing and falling apart," and it certainly is a wonder.
The good news, for any super-rich A-listers reading this, is that you can buy Lynnewood Hall for yourself right now. It’s been vacant and on the market for some time, and is available for a cool $15.5 million.
Resources: Atlas Obscura, Colossal, The Brockville Recorder and Times, English Heritage, Visit Scotland, Huffington Post, Lonely Planet.