In city settings, mansions are less-expected dwellings, especially in densely populated downtown areas where many people live crammed on top of one another. There, the thought of a 10,000-plus-square-foot building housing just one family is excessive. Some people prefer excess and have the fortune to back it up, and those families have left a legacy of impressively ornamented historic homes.
The ones intact today are like time capsules back to a bygone era of magnificent opulence. We’ve collected a lineup of them here, arranged in ascending order to the largest, with photos provided by Realtor.com, including no less than three mansions built on beer fortunes.
The profiles and footprints of urban palaces are a bit different from those of your average American mansions. In cities, mansions are often several stories taller, and they aren’t surrounded by sprawling estates. But don’t cry for these acreage-challenged city dwellers — the owners of urban mansions probably have country homes, too.
By Colleen Kane
Posted 5 January 2012
Price: $12.75 million
Square footage: 11,118
The former limestone/brick home of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Irish-American author and journalist Edwin O'Connor, who wrote “The Last Hurrah,” is on the market for first time since 1967. It is steps from the Public Garden and about a mile from the Omni Hotel’s whiskey bar, which is named “The Last Hurrah.”
The townhouse, which dates from 1905, is 33.5 feet wide and has formal entertaining rooms with mahogany doors and paneling and other elegant details like columns, less-formal private rooms like the charming skylighted bath, and an elevator.
Location: New York
Price: $30 million
Square footage: 11,256 square feet (13,132 including basement)
The 28-foot-wide mansion originally built for Walter N. Rothschild and Carola Warburg-Rothschild has fluctuated in price from $35 million to $25 million and now is offered at the middle point, according to a list on Curbed naming it one of the "Top 10 Manhattan Properties That Just Can’t Sell." Rothschild’s family helped found Abraham & Straus department store and Federated Department Stores.
A special feature of the properties on this Upper East Side block is a common rear garden area totaling nearly 6,800 square feet. A low fence defines the individual yards (the Rothschild home’s is 33 feet deep facing another 33-foot deep stretch), while the effect of a large grassy expanse is kept whole. The gardens are unofficially named for the neighboring Lehmans of Lehman Brothers fame.
Price: $9.9 million
Square footage: 12,0000
This house was built in 1896 for Prussian immigrant brewer Francis J. Dewes and is now a Chicago landmark listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The grand home has more recently served as a private event space. The house was renovated over six years by Botti Studio, which restored the stained glass, painted panels and ceilings, and tiled mosaic floors.
Although the Lincoln Park mansion retains many neo-Baroque details, the house has modern luxury property features like a game room, media room, wine cellar, chef’s kitchen, and a 1,200 square-foot master bedroom.
Location: New Orleans
Price: $12.5 million
Square footage: 12,072
This Garden District mansion was built between 1859 and 1865 for tobacco tycoon Walter Robinson. A Frommer’s walking tour featuring the home says the roof is a vat designed to collect rainwater, which then was distributed throughout the house, which constituted the neighborhood’s earliest indoor plumbing.
Other than that unique feature, the house looks much like classic New Orleans mansions from the past 150 years, with wrought-iron balconies, columns, traditional furnishings, and a lanai for passing humid afternoons. Only the updated kitchen with its giant granite-topped island betrays the current era.
Price: $6.995 million
Square footage: 14,000
This Italianate brownstone in the Art Museum area was built in 1882 for the Bergdolls, another wealthy family who made their fortune in the beer business. Luxist cited an article reporting that Grover Cleveland Bergdoll once hid from the World War I draft in this mansion and eventually fled to Germany.
The home has been restored with new plumbing, heating, air conditioning and electric. Another update: two cooks’ kitchens — one for the home cook and one for entertaining. Its formal drawing room was once the ballroom. It also has a library and a sunroom that leads out to gardens. The property is fenced and there is room to park eight cars.
Price: $9.5 million
Square footage: 15,000
This 1896 Italian Renaissance style mansion in Lincoln Park was built for brewer baron Joseph Theurer and later owned by the Wrigley family of chewing gum and baseball field fame. It boasts 85 feet of frontage on Lake Michigan and all the views that entails. The Chicago landmark registered as a national historic place last sold in 2004 for $9 million and is facing foreclosure.
This still-magnificent mansion has a library, ballroom and garden room. The exterior is crafted from terra cotta; materials used inside include marble, mahogany, limestone and tiles in mosaic. The coach house has two apartments and parking for five, but why leave the grounds when there’s an in-house pub?
Location: New York
Price: $49 million
Square footage: 15,225
This seven-level Italian Renaissance palazzo faces Central Park. The residence was designed by the acclaimed Gilded Age architect Stanford White, whose credits include the second version of Madison Square Garden and the Washington Square Arch in Greenwich Village.
The original owner was Henry Cook, who owned the entire block from Fifth to Madison avenues, East 79th to East 78th streets. Cook also owned the renowned Italianate “Berkshire Cottage” Wheatleigh in Lenox, Mass., which is now a hotel.
Location: New York
Price: $38 million
Square footage: 15,468
This six-story neo-Georgian townhouse was built in 1901 for Sarah J. Robbins, granddaughter of the president of the Erie Railroad. More recently, the building has served as the offices for the Whitney Museum but is being offered for sale as a private home once again.
Architect Grosvenor Atterbury designed it to best utilize and showcase the light, including a “light well” extending from the second floor to the top, and even the above-grade lowest level has light on two sides. The townhouse is considered one of Atterbury’s more remarkable works. A 33-foot terrace on the 5th floor offers views of Central Park.
Price: $18 million
Square footage: 26,000 square feet
They don’t build ‘em like they used to in 1872, when this 50-room Back Bay mansion was designed by Peabody & Stearns for railroad tycoon Frederick L. Ames. It features an astonishing carved oak staircase with cherubs and seahorses, Byzantine murals by French painter Benjamin Constant, a John LaFarge stained glass skylight and 28 fireplaces. More recently, rooms have been sublet for use as offices by lawyers, money managers and others.
They must not make millionaires like they used to either, or maybe those in the market for a house don’t share the same tastes as wealthy homebuilders in the gilded era because this property has been on the market since 2009 (for the first time since 1971), and remains there even at a price reduced by $5 million.