Magnificent Must-See Mansions

Take an elegant journey through America’s greatest estates from a bygone era: See gold-leaf ceilings, indoor swimming pools and more at some very posh places sure to leave you a bit ... envious.

Photo By: Meadow Brook Hall

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Photo By: Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens

Photo By: Edsel & Eleanor Ford House

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Photo By: Virginia Robinson Estate

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Meadow Brook Hall (Rochester Hills, MI)

Explore the fourth-largest historic home in the United States. Spanning 110 rooms, the 88,000 square-foot mansion was built in a Tudor Revival style, between 1926 and 1929, by the widow of auto pioneer John Francis Dodge. The mansion and surrounding 1,400-acre grounds were donated to Michigan State University in 1957.

Hearst Castle (San Simeon, CA)

This Mediterranean Revival-style mansion was designed for newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst by Julia Morgan, the first woman architect licensed in California. Morgan’s vision, shaped over the course of a 28-year collaboration with Hearst, features 56 bedrooms, 61 bathrooms, 19 sitting rooms, 127 acres of gardens and so much more -- including the world’s largest private zoo.

Flagler Museum (Palm Beach, FL)

Once hailed by a New York newspaper as "more wonderful than any palace in Europe, grander and more magnificent than any other private dwelling in the world," this 55-room mansion, built by oil tycoon Henry Flagler in 1901, later came close to demolition -- until one of Flagler’s granddaughters saved it in 1959. You’ll need a good 2 hours to tour the property -- must-see stops include the Louis XV-style Grand Ballroom and the atrium garden.

Hillwood Estate (Washington, DC)

Post Cereal heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post had 3 estates, including Mar-a-Lago on Palm Beach Island. Donald Trump now owns that one, but the real star of Post’s collection is Hillwood Estate. Post loved this urban oasis in the heart of DC more than any of her other estates -- her ashes are interred in the estate’s Rose Garden. The biggest draw is the estate’s decorative arts collection, from Faberge eggs to 18th and 19th-century French art.

Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens (Akron, OH)

This swanky country estate ranks as the 12th largest house in the United States. The Tudor Revival-style home, which originally spanned 3,000 acres (it’s now on 70 acres), was built between 1912 and 1915 by the founder of the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company. Above the manor’s front door is a stone inscription: “Non nobis solum,” meaning, “Not for us alone.” In keeping with that motto, the estate is open seasonally to the public.

Edsel and Eleanor Ford House (Grosse Pointe Shores, MI)

This 87-acre estate, just northeast of Detroit, was the home of Edsel Ford (Henry’s son) and his wife, Eleanor. Before her death in 1976, Eleanor stated that the property be used for the “benefit of the public.” Today, visitors can tour the 20,000-square-foot home to see the intimate family photos that take you back to 1927, when the home was built, and beyond, to the home’s heyday in the 1940s. On the grounds, be sure to check out Josephine Ford’s child-sized playhouse, built by her grandmother in 1930.

Oheka Castle (Huntington, NY)

Head to Long Island’s Gold Coast for a tour of this sprawling estate -- the second-largest private home in the US. The estate comprises 127 rooms and over 109,000 square feet. Oheka was built between 1914 and 1919 to serve as the country home of investment banker Otto Hermann Kahn (the name Oheka is an acronym for his name). Oheka also served as partial inspiration for Gatsby’s estate in Fitzgerald’s novel.

Moody Mansion (Galveston, TX)

Step into turn-of-the-century splendor at this sprawling 28,000-square-foot, 4-story mansion. Completed in 1895, the estate was the home of American financier William Lewis Moody Jr. – once proclaimed by TIME magazine to be one of the 10 wealthiest men in America. Now a museum, the estate offers tours of 20 rooms. Among the beautiful touches is a gold leaf ceiling in the dining room.

Virginia Robinson Estate (Beverly Hills)

Beverly Hills is home to plenty of jaw-dropping homes, but only one is open to public tours. This 6-acre estate, once home to Harry and Virginia Robinson (of Robinson’s department store), was built in 1911. The estate’s architectural highlight is its playhouse/pool pavilion, which was added in 1924. Its memorable features include a reflecting swimming pool, as well as Tuscan columns and arches with sgraffiti, an Italian style of wall décor similar to fresco.

Pabst Mansion (Milwaukee)

This Flemish Renaissance Revival-style beaut was home to German-American beer baron Frederick Pabst between 1892 and 1908. The property was later purchased by the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, and for the next 67 years, it served as home to 5 archbishops. Centrally located in downtown Milwaukee, the estate is open year-round to the public, offering visitors a chance to behold the estate’s signature feature: intricate woodwork.

Glensheen (Duluth, MN)

This 7.6-acre estate was built between 1905 and 1908 by lawyer and businessman Chester Adgate Congdon. The lakefront property features 38 rooms, and an exterior inspired by neoclassical French and English touches. Throughout the house are fine works of art by American and European masters of the day. But the mansion also has a dark side: In 1977, Congdon’s daughter and her nurse were murdered here. While tour guides at the mansion were once prohibited from speaking about the murders, today they’ll speak briefly about it ... upon request.

Staatsburgh State Historic Site (Dutchess County, NY)

This gorgeous home in the tranquil hamlet of Staatsburg, NY, is regarded by architecture scholars as one of the finest examples of an estate built during America’s Gilded Age. Tour the grounds and see a massive portico, balustrades, floral swags and pilasters that all add up to one big impression: The owners sure had it good here.

Biltmore Estate (Asheville, NC)

In the mountains of Asheville, NC, this luxurious Châteauesque-styled mansion awaits. Built by George Washington Vanderbilt II between 1889 and 1895, Biltmore is the largest privately owned house in America – it spans an astonishing 178,926 square feet and 250 rooms. You’ll be fascinated to see how the era’s wealthy lived: Tour highlights include an indoor swimming pool, bowling alley, 2-story library and early 20th-century exercise equipment.

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