When American businesses finally began to eclipse the success of their European counterparts, the robber barons took to real estate to show off their massive wealth, building meticulously-detailed mansions as a testament to their fortunes. Perhaps no one American town benefited more from the architectural arms race of the Gilded Age than Newport, R.I., where the likes of the Astors and Vanderbilts constructed lavish summer homes in the European style. This one, known as Fairholme, was built in 1875 to designs by Frank Furness featured a ballroom by Horace Trumbauer. Commissioned by Fairman Rogers, a prominent engineer from Philadelphia, Fairholme was among the first of Newport's great waterfront mansions. Later owned by the Drexel family, Count Alphonso Villa, and railroad baron Robert Young, it has been visited over the years by luminaries like the Duke and Duchess of Windsor and John F. Kennedy. The 20,000-square-foot main house presides over 4.3 acres of waterfront lawn, with an enormous walled swimming pool, pool house, and carriage house. The 16-bedroom, 14-bath manse is currently asking $17.9M.
? The cities too had their fair share of elaborate mansions built in the Gilded Age, but, thanks to development in the ensuing hundred odd years since, few survive. In NYC, the Schinasi Mansion, on Riverside Drive not far from Columbia University, is the last remaining detached single-family house in Manhattan. The 12,000-square-foot mansion retains almost all of its historic detail, including amazing coffered ceilings and a Prohibition-era trap door that leads to a tunnel that once extended all the way to the river. Built for "Turkish tobacco baron" Morris Schinasi, the 35-room marble mansion is currently listed for $14.95M.
? In the tradition of the English country house, sprawling homes began to spring up in Westchester, north of New York City, in the mid-1800s. This Mount Kisco, N.Y. estate, about an hour outside of the city, was built in 1901 for J. Borden Harriman, of the prominent American family, was later owned by the Vanderbilts, and then ended up in the hands of a "prominent European family." Known as Devonshire, the estate includes 101 acres of land, a 21,000-square-foot main house, a "carriage house, a Victorian-style guest cottage, and a caretaker’s house." The garage, which fits 10 cars, has a washing station and hydraulic lift. The main house features a grand staircase, eight bedrooms, a 10,000-bottle wine cellar, "gold-leaf moldings, wood and antique mirrored panelling, and marble floors." All that will be passed on to the next owner for the tidy sum of $26.5M.
? Baron Walter Von Richthofen, uncle of the famed flying ace "The Red Baron", built this Denver mansion in 1887, in homage to his ancestral home, on 335 acres. Today, the acreage has been cut down to just one gated acre, but the architectural majesty of the mansion remains. Measuring almost 15,000 square feet, Richthofen Castle boasts 35 rooms, including "drawing room, library, music alcove, servants quarters, butlers pantry, billiards room, Red Baron bar, eight bedrooms and seven bathrooms." That Red Baron bar is a sight to behold, with German fighter paraphernalia galore. Listed as a National Landmark, the castle is currently on the market for $3.75M.
? America's second Gilded Age, the 1980s, produced many lavish residences, but perhaps none are so emblematic of the spirit of the decade than this Miami penthouse, built for notorious real estate magnates Leona and Harry Helmsley. At one point the Helmsleys controlled the Empire State Building, along with a string of NYC hotels, but, by 1989, Harry was very ill and Leona was doing time for tax evasion. The couple never moved into the Helmsley Penthouse, completed in 1981, and sold it off to Saudi Shiek Saoud Al- Shaalan. The sheik transformed the modern apartment into an Arabian palace over two years, with the help of 27 Moroccan artisans and craftsmen. Now the unique top-floor aerie is listed for $4.2M.