Saturday, January 16, 2016

Curbed's "Extravagant U.S. Estates of the Gilded Age & Roaring '20s"

From Curbed:
From the 1890s through the 1920s, the United States became one of the wealthiest countries in the world, with scores of savvy industrialist making fortunes during the nation's rapid ascent. Corporate powerhouses in railroads, steel and consumer goods created a class of businessmen with incredible fortunes, as well as a desire to acquire the class and respect of their Old World counterparts. The result was a frenzy of extravagant building projects across the country. Adapting European architectural styles, especially those of the Renaissance, architects and designers created multi-million dollars mansions and estates that became the modern castles of America's upper class, a building boom that hasn't been matched since. While we may be able to equal the Gilded Age when it comes to income inequality, it's doubtful even in the era of $100 million properties that today's moneyed set will create homes that rival the mansions of oligarchs past. Here's a look at a few of the more fantastic properties built during that period....
#2 Villa Vizcaya
Ironically, James Deering, who derived his fortune from being an executive at the family business, Deering McCormick-International Harvester, considered himself a conservationist, so when he set about designing this palatial winter retreat (called the “Hearst Castle of the East”), he sited the Italian Renaissance villa on the shore to avoid cutting down too many trees. Placed amid 180 acres of mangrove swamp and tropical forest, the property is noteworthy for adapting Mediterranean and European architectural styles to the balmy Florida coast (the name references a northern Spanish province). French and Italian styles are reflected in the garden and fa├žade, designed by Colombian Diego Suarez and F. Burrall Hoffman, respectively. Deering even created his own crest of sorts for the estate, a caravel, a type of Spanish ship. The home reportedly cost $26 million to build in 1916 and employed 1,000 workers. In the '50s, it opened as a museum to the public and can be rented out for public parties. It's also hosted several important political events, including a meeting between President Reagan and Pope John Paul II.

#3 Biltmore Estate
At the largest private residence ever built in the United States, superlatives abound. George Washington Vanderbilt II spared no expense at his 125,000-acre estate in Asheville, North Carolina, which features the work of celebrated architect Richard Morris Hunt and landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted. Said to be modeled after three historic French chateaus in the Loire Valley, the sprawling estate may appear to be modeled after all of them, since the combined living space inside the numerous buildings totals 178,926 square feet (roughly four acres). Vanderbilt’s 12,000-square-foot stables could hold 20 of his own carriages, in addition to those of guests. To construct the home, a project which lasted from 1889 to 1896, a brick kiln and woodworking factory were built on site. The four-story home, divided into two wings, offers commanding views of the Blue Ridge Mountains as well as a vast collection of incredible statues, artwork and architectural eye candy, including a 70,000-gallon indoor pool, bowling alley, winter garden, 1,700-pound chandelier and a magnificent limestone staircase. Designated a national historic landmark in 1964, it’s currently a major tourist attraction and draws nearly a million visitors annually. 
#9Lynnewood Hall
 One of the largest surviving Gilded Age estates in the Philadelphia area, this formerly grand structure has a much sadder sorry than the others on this list. Though, on the plus side for those looking for a showy new home, it's the only one that is actually on the market. The 110-room Neoclassical Revival mansion, designed by celebrated architect Horace Trumbauer for businessman Peter A. B. Widener at the turn of the century, is currently without an owner, and would require roughly $50 million in repairs to be restored to its former glory. That’s a tall order, since the T-shaped home and estate once housed one the most impressive art collections in America (it had a Raphael room as well as 14 Rembrandts) and contained a luxurious interior, its own electric power plant, a polo field and a private racetrack.