There are a plethora of historic homes existing in the U.S. today. Some are noted for their connection to our heritage as a nation. Others are famous for their association to crime, criminals and movie stars. And, of course, you’ve got literary greats, real estate tycoons, media moguls, publish giants and all the rest. Here, you’ll find just a few with details that might surprise you.
Robert E. Lee’s old home, AKA Custis-Lee Mansion, became home of the honorable Arlington National Cemetery. Overlooking the Potomac River, the Greek revival style manor was selected by the government as the site for the cemetery to ensure that Lee never again returned to his home after the Civil War. Sitting on 1,100 acres, the mansion hosts two kitchens for the summer and winter. The most prominent features of the estate are the eight massive, 5-feet-in-diameter columns supporting the portico. The mansion is managed by the National Park Service, while the surrounding grounds, known as Arlington National Cemetery, are managed by the U.S. Department of the Army.
William Randolph Hearst, newspaper magnate and grandfather to the infamous Patti Hearst, once owned a mansion at 1101 N. Beverly Dr. in Beverly Hills, California with his actress girlfriend Marion Davies. Built in 1926, it’s estimated worth is $165 million with 9 bedrooms, 15 bathrooms, 20,570 square feet of living and sits on a 153,766 square foot lot. Just a small slice of heaven right there outside of Hollywood. If you were in the market to buy the property with a 30-year, fixed-rate loan at, let’s say, 4.91 percent with 20 percent down, you’d have estimated monthly payments of just $31,645. Can you say cha-ching?!
George Washington Vanderbilt II completed the construction of the Biltmore Estate in 1895, which is located in Asheville, North Carolina. With 250 rooms in 175,000 square feet of living space, the home is the largest privately owned estate in the U.S., and is still owned by Vanderbilt’s grandson, William A. V. Cecil II. The French Broad River divides the estate in half. Resting magnificently on 8,000 acres, the mansion echoes the sentiment of an elaborate French chateau and the excesses of the America’s Gilded Age. It was inducted in the National Historical Society and designated a National Historic Landmark in 1964. Tourists worldwide visit the palatial estate throughout the year. Featured are a 70,000 gallon indoor swimming pool, a bowling alley, a two-story library, dated antiquities throughout and 75 acres of formal gardens with a winery and triple A, 4-diamond, 213-room hotel called the Inn on Biltmore Estate. Tickets to tour the estate may be purchased in advance on the Biltmore website.
David Gamble of Proctor & Gamble fame hired architectural firm Greene & Greene (G&G) to design the Gamble House (AKA David B. Gamble House), which was completed by 1909. Located in Pasadena, California, the estate was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1977. Matching inlay was designed by G&G for the custom-made furniture and tile mantle surrounds, which were built by contractors Peter and John Hall. A secret door that leads to the kitchen is hidden in one of the wooden panels of the entry hall. Another panel leads to a clothes closet. The three-story, Arts and Crafts masterpiece, influenced by Japanese aesthetics, sits on an expansive acreage decorated generously with Arroyo stone paths that give the effect of running brooks. Realizing the artistic significance of the estate, the Gamble family deeded Gamble House in joint ownership to the City of Pasadena and the University of Southern California School of Architecture in 1966.
Al Capone stunned law enforcement with his ability to divert indictments and skirt the law. Infamous for his crime syndicate leadership during the Prohibition Era, Capone lived much more modestly in private in contrast to his flamboyant public persona. Located at 7244 S. Prairie Avenue in Chicago, Capone’s 4-bedroom, 2-bath, modest unit in the multi-family home was built in 1908. Last heard, the home was for sale for a mere $450,000. If you wanted to buy it at a 30-year, fixed-rate loan at 4.92 percent with 20 percent down, you’d pay an estimated $1,915 per month.
Nathaniel Hawthorne immortalized the House of the Seven Gables in his literary fictional novel with the same name. Located in Salem, Massachusetts, the home is currently a non-profit museum and still functions as an active settlement house hosting programs for children. Although Hawthorne never lived in the home, he visited his cousin Susannah Ingersoll who lived in the home when he was growing up. One quite clever creation found in the home is what looks like a wooden closet. The false back, however, opens to a hidden staircase leading up to the attic.
Erotica king Hugh Hefner lives in his current Playboy Mansion (AKA Playboy Mansion West) in Los Angeles, California. Located at 10236 Charing Cross Road in Holmby Hills, the manor is famous for its lavish parties and rumored orgies. Built in 1927, the 14,217 square foot home sits on a 219,107 square foot lot and was acquired by Hefner in 1971 for $1.1 million. With 29 rooms, the estate hosts a game room, wine cellar, an aviary, a zoo, tennis courts, waterfall and a swimming pool, along with a sauna and bathhouse. One room in the palatial home known as the “Elvis Suite” has been kept off limits to public viewing. Hefner said the room holds sentiment due to the one night that Elvis Presley stayed in it in the early seventies. He was accompanied by no less than eight girls. Although, sports stars, movies stars and rappers request the suite when they come there, Hefner says he’s kept it off limits.