While many of us stress about rent or mortgage, medical bills, and whether or not we can swing a vacation, the titans who erected the most unbelievably excessive homes in US history couldn’t imagine such trivialities. Their over-the-top homes easily rival any castles in Europe, and many in the US Gilded Age tried to do exactly that with features ranging from six separate swimming pools; a full zoo; 8 acres of terraced, exquisitely manicured gardens; or an in-house chapel with a mosaic ceiling of medieval-era tiles.
US history has been peppered with magnates who lord over the masses, and they do so with unbelievably outlandish mansions, castles, and chateaus. Their creations are truly a sight to behold, the likes of which are seemingly unimaginable.
To say that William Randolph Hearst’s estate was gigantic would be a massive understatement; his whopping 250,000 acres in San Simeon, CA, hosted his decadent castle. Hearst’s 68,500-square-foot mansion, modeled after a Spanish medieval cathedral, broke ground in 1919 and did not complete construction until 1947. The project set the magnate back $5.6 million. Today it is worth about $700 million.
“It was the place god would have built if he had the money,” George Bernard Shaw said of the property which boasted, among other audacious treasures, a zoo that was once the largest in the world. Today it operates as the Hearst San Simeon State Historical Monument and offers guided tours.
This monstrosity in Windermere, FL, will be largest home in America upon its completion in 2020, after 17 years of construction. The structure takes up an incredible 90,000 square feet, and as billionaire Jackie Siegel likes to say, “It's the same size as a Super Walmart.” The mega-mansion and the Siegels were made famous after the release of the 2012 documentary Queen of Versailles, which chronicled the construction of their dream home in the midst of the 2008 recession.
Settled in 10 acres and costing a whopping $100 million, the monstrosity is said to include a bowling alley, a full-sized roller rink, and a 30-car garage.
Nicknamed the “White House of the West” due to having hosted so many prominent politicians, William Ralston’s mansion boasted 55,360 square feet, four floors, and 80 rooms. The crowning jewel was a grand mirrored ballroom resembling the Hall of Mirrors in Versailles. While the architecture is reminiscent of an Italian villa, the interior is in a style deemed “Steamboat Gothic.”
Built in 1868 on 4 acres, the mansion in Belmont, CA, was the center of Notre Dame de Namur University until the building closed in 2012 for an estimated $12 million in renovations. The property has been designated a California Historical Landmark and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
The Vanderbilt family’s “summer cottage” on 13 acres in Newport, RI, boasts a Neo-Italian Renaissance-inspired facade and interiors that remind one of Versailles. Some rooms in this behemoth were actually constructed in Europe, then sent to the US to be reassembled.
Built in 1895 for $7 million, the equivalent of more than $150 million today, the current estimated worth of the mansion is around $400 million. The local Preservation Society now owns the home and operates it as a museum.