Iconic American Mansions That Have Long Since Been Torn Down

Mansions form the 1800s, particularly those from the Gilded Age (roughly 1870-1900), had a special sort of grandeur that oftentimes mimicked the finest manor houses and castles of Europe. Dozens of rooms, each lavishly decorated, were offset by a bevy of amenities like tennis courts, solariums, billiard rooms, and expansive libraries. The architecture of homes like these was unrivaled in the U.S., with ornaments on every latch, hinge, and window both inside and out. But, despite the enormous wealth it took to build these glorious homes for the elite, there are many that only stood for a few decades.

Changing tastes in the realm of architecture, combined with the wildly unreasonable cost of upkeep on these mansions, made them seem more like burdens than pieces of history. Here are 7 mansions from the Gilded Age that just didn’t make it.

Whiteholme

This Rhode Island mansion was built in 1903 as one of the Newport, Rhode Island, summer “cottages” of the East Coast wealthy, this sprawling home featured inspirations from French and Italian villas, including porticos in stone at either end of the house and a terra cotta tile roof.

The last sale of the house to private ownership occurred in 1944, but when the building was sold again in 1963 to Salve Regina University it was torn down immediately to make way for a residence hall. The mansion was the first commission of noted architect, John Russell Pope (who later designed the Jefferson Memorial and the National Gallery in Washington, D.C.).

Foraker Mansion

This Washington mansion was built for Joseph Benson Foraker in the 1910s in the historic Dupont Circle neighborhood of old D.C. Foraker was at one time the governor of Ohio, and later became a senator.

The Beaux-Arts style mansion, with elaborate dormer style windows and a portico entrance at front, was designed by Paul J. Pelz, the architect responsible for the U.S. Library of Congress. The Foraker mansion was torn down in 1960 to make way for an extension building for the Foundry United Methodist Church.

Beacon Towers

Sands Point was originally a neighborhood owned by 3 of the wealthiest families in the the U.S.: the Sands, the Vanderbilts, and the Cornwells. This section of Long Island in Nassau County was very exclusive, with notable families like the Guggenheims later moving in as well. It was given the nickname of the “Gold Coast” since so many wealthy families had homes there.

Beacon Towers was built in 1918 for Alva Belmont, mother of Consuelo Vanderbilt. The incredible home was designed as an exploration of fantasy, combining elements of Gothic style with Spanish, Moorish, and French influences. The home is widely thought to have been the inspiration for the description of Jay Gatsby’s house in both the 1925 novel, The Great Gatsby, and the 2013 film adaptation of the book.

The house was later home to William Randolph Hearst, who made many improvements to the property- including a new roof and some additions. Despite this the building was demolished in 1945, only 3 years after Hearst sold it. Today the magnificent original gatehouse is all that remains of Beacon Towers.

Riverside

Riverside was the name of Charles Schwab’s West Side mansion in New York City. The steel king (under whom Bethlehem Steel flourished) lost his fortunes in the Stock Market Crash of 1929, yet he bequeathed his mansion in his will to the city of New York. When he died in 1939, the city refused to take on stewardship of the grand Beaux-Arts 75-room mansion and it was demolished in 1948.

When Riverside was built its location on the Upper West Side was considered quite the wrong side of Central Park by the elite, though it was by far the largest and grandest mansion built in Manhattan at the time.

Spear Mansion Hotel

This mansion was used as a hotel in St. Augustine, Florida, for many years. It was a huge deal when renovations for the mansion were made- offering a state-of-the-art electric bell system for calling staff to one’s room and private bathrooms for guests in 1903.

The building sat across from the St. Joseph’s Academy School, an entity which later bought the property and then tore down the Spear Mansion in 1938.

Silas Palmer House

This Moorish-meets-Gothic mansion at the corners of Van Ness and Washington Streets in San Francisco was apparently torn down to make way for a car sales lot.

Today, the location is filled with condos, but as of 1940 (when the above photo was snapped) the gorgeous mansion was still standing.

The Pullman Mansion

In 1872 the Pullman mansion was completed in Chicago, Illinois. The railroad king had earned his fortunes creating and manufacturing the now-famous Pullman sleeper cars which allowed railway passengers traveling long distances on the newly-completed Transcontinental Railroad to have some privacy and sleep on their journeys. This level of luxury and service was for decades the most high-class way to travel, though Pullman’s company was rife with problems in his later years.

The 21,000-square-foot mansion was built to include a bowling alley, a pipe organ, a theatre, and later a huge solarium was added. The mansion was torn down in 1922– only one year after Pullman’s widow (the last occupant of the house) had died.

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