The history of the mansion is a rich one, in both senses of the word. The word 'mansion' was first commonly used in the English language in the mid-fourteenth century and meant 'chief residence of a lord'. It stems from the Latin 'mansio', 'dwelling'. The idea of a mansion being a 'large and stately house' comes from the 1510s. Of course, the owners of such impressive homes tend to be wealthy. Perhaps this is why mansions hold such fascination for the public at large; they are sprawling, awe-inspiring, ostentatious displays of wealth that are a delight to behold.
Something about an historic mansion is mysterious and haunting. The walls contain the ghostly memories of people who lived in the spectacular, privileged environment of a hierarchical society that no longer exists. Mansions are imposing enough buildings in their heyday but their level of appeal and intrigue tends to increase with age. There are few buildings more awe-inspiring than old, crumbling or dilapidated mansions.
There are many reasons that a mansion might be left to go to ruin, such as war, repossession or simply total abandonment as a result of lack of money. The following are six of the world's most impressive derelict mansions, and some of the fascinating histories behind each one.
8 Lake Elsinore Naval and Military Academy
The Elsinore Naval and Military Academy was built in Southern California in the late 1920s, but never opened due to the impending Depression which compounded pre-existing financial troubles. In 1933, however, the building was opened as a military school for boys, which thrived and managed to survive until 1977. Since the Academy closed there has been a fire in the main lobby, and numerous classrooms burned down altogether in the 1980s. These days, the building is frequently home to squatters and often the site of vandalism, a real shame for such a spectacular structure.
7 Haddo House, Inverkeithny, Scotland
At number seven is the ruin of Haddo House in Inverkeithny, Scotland. Not to be confused with the popular wedding venue Haddo House in the wider area of Aberdeenshire, Inverkeithny's version is deemed to have been empty for over seventy years. It was abandoned when the owner didn't return from war, at which time his wife simply picked up and left.
6 Mansion, Taichung, Taiwan
5 Wyndclyffe Ruins, Rhinebeck, New York
At number five is the ruin of a mansion situated in Dutchess County, New York. The mansion was built in 1853 in Norman style, and was originally named 'Rhinecliff'. The building functioned as a holiday home for original owner, Elizabeth Schermerhorn Jones, should she fancy a weekend or summer break (incidentally, the phrase 'keeping up with the Joneses' is said to have originated from these particular Joneses and their ownership of the Wyndclyffe estate).
4 Tyrone House, Co. Galway, Ireland
3 The Mansion of Mr. H, Japan
2 Villa de Vecchi, Cortenova, Italy
1 The Ruins, Talisay City, Philippines
At number one is the skeleton of this imposing building in Talisay City, Negros Occidental, known as The Ruins. The mansion was originally built by Don Mariano Lacson, in memory of his first wife, Maria Braga, and is of Italianate architecture. The design includes an homage to the owner's wife in the inclusion of their initials, which are moulded onto the mansion. The mansion fell from its former to glory to its fascinating skeletal form during World War II, when the United States Armed Forces in the Far East allegedly set the building on fire to prevent it from being used as headquarters for the Japanese. The house's foundations miraculously endured, due to their composition of concrete and steel bars. The mansion remains a large tourist attraction to this day, and is a popular venue for wedding photos, which the guidebook Travel Philippines seems mysteriously to attribute to the pull of the mansion's surrounding flower beds.
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