Make no mistake, although America lacks the millennia-long history of Europe and Asia, there are some (surprisingly) extravagant American mansions, chateaux and castles as well.
Everyone knows about the lavish palaces in France and Italy. There are more than a thousand castles in Belgium alone, and once-mighty fortresses dot the European countryside. In the New World, too, there are several chateaux and mansions. Many of those were built by wealthy businessmen, magnates and tycoons, often resembling those historic buildings in Europe.
American Mansions – Extravagant Architecture in the New World
Let’s take a look at a selection of those American mansions. You’ll be surprised by their elaborateness, exorbitantness and excessiveness, fancy words that apply to fancy homes.
The Breakers – Newport, Rhode Island
Newport, Rhode Island is chock-full with imposing American mansions and villas. One of the greatest of them all is the Breakers in Bellevue Avenue Historic District.
This enormous house belonged to Cornelius Vanderbilt II, member of one of the wealthiest families in American history (more Vanderbilt mansions further in this list). The mansion has 70 rooms on five floors and dates from the 1890s. It’s one of America’s most popular historic homes/museums, drawing in almost half a million people every year.
Hearst Castle – San Simeon, California
One of the star attractions along California’s Highway 1, Hearst Castle is a National Historic Landmark and the former home of newspaper magnate William R. Hearst. Seven years after his death in 1951, it was opened to the public.
Currently, Hearst Castle is a hugely popular tourist attraction on the central California coast. People go there to admire the extravagance of the interior, see the large antique and art collections, and dine at the different eateries in and around the visitor center.
Vizcaya Museum and Gardens – Miami, Florida
Formerly known as Villa Vizcaya, the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens was the estate of agricultural equipment magnate James Deering. It lies on the shore of Biscayne Bay in Miami, Florida.
You can visit this 50-acre estate, tour the villa, stroll through the Italian Renaissance gardens and hike through the native woodlands—being a conservationist, Deering made sure to protect the present forest. This is without question one of the most stunning American mansions, surrounded by woods and lush gardens and boasting its very own waterfront.
Vanderbilt Mansion – Hyde Park, New York
Managed by the National Park Service, the Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site in Hyde Park, New York is now a museum. The home of Frederick William Vanderbilt from 1895 to 1938, it perfectly illustrates what life was like for Gilded Age tycoons.
Like other Vanderbilt homes, this is one of the greatest American mansions. That family certainly knew how to construct enormous, almost decadent, houses.
Old Westbury Gardens – Westbury, New York
The wonderful Old Westbury Gardens belonged to John Shaffer Phillips, an heir to a fortune made in the steel industry. Phillips built the house for his British wife, modeling it after her family’s property in Battle Abbey. They moved here in 1906.
The estate has been open to the public since 1959. For a fee, you can explore Westbury House and Gardens on guided tours. There are also regular events, such as concerts, antique car shows, horticultural workshops, lectures and book signings.
Oheka Castle – Huntington, New York
The second biggest private home in America, Oheka Castle lies on the northern shore of Long Island, New York. It was constructed between 1914 and 1919 as the country home of Otto Hermann Kahn, who was a widely successful financier and philanthropist. The name of the house is an acronym of the first letters of his name.
Nowadays, the house is a (pricey) hotel with more than thirty rooms and suites. It’s a popular venue for weddings, events and parties among celebrities and other people of wealth and fame. Oheka Castle has also been featured in several movies and TV shows.
Pittock Mansion – Portland, Oregon
Perched atop a hill and overlooking Portland, Oregon, Pittock Mansion is one of the greatest American mansions on the West Coast. Henry Pittock, who was a renowned publisher and businessman, built this house in 1909.
Visitor can tour a part of the 46-room building, walk the trails and picnic in the gardens, and enjoy beautiful panoramic views of downtown Portland.
Biltmore Estate – Asheville North Carolina
Lastly, the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina is the absolute epitome of personal wealth and success in the United States. Built in the late-19th century by George Washington Vanderbilt II, this chateaux-like building is the largest privately owned house in America.
The Vanderbilt family still owns the Biltmore, which is one of the prime examples of Gilded Age architecture in the United States, as well as, the number one tourist attraction in Asheville.