The ultra-rich: they're just like everyone else, except they have exponentially more money and are constantly challenged to find imaginative ways to spend it all. One of the more popular ways to park millions of trust fund dollars is, of course, the grand family estate, typically a renowned, historic mansion surrounded by acreage that can be accessorized with an aristocratic-sounding name to make it more salable when (a) the family runs out of money, (b) greedy, squabbling inheritors decide to sell it off piecemeal, or (c) both. Here are four such estates (and one bonus estate), all of them palatial, all of them expensive beyond belief, and all of them monuments to the family fortunes which built them.
Rancho San Carlos
The tawny crags of the mountains outside Santa Barbara set the scene for the 237-acre Rancho San Carlos, which has been in the same family for over 100 years, and has recently hit the market with an asking price of $125M. Described as a "small city" by the listing agent, the estate has a 30,000 square foot main house, 100 acres of active fruit orchards, and ten residential cottages which once served as servant's housing. The Mediterranean Revival manse was designed by Reginald Johnson, who garden apartment aficionados may recognize as the architect of L.A.'s Village Green complex.
The Mellon Family Estate
With the passing this year of gardener-cum-heiress Bunny Mellon, the genteel Virginia estate on which her late husband's family had lived since the early part of the 20th century has gone on the market with a prodigious ask of $70M. Somewhat surprisingly given the price, the main house is not included in the listing, with potential buyers having to make do with the 10,000 square foot Brick House (which was built by Paul Mellon for his first wife), though the IM Pei –designed pool house is part of the offering.
The Doheny's Bel Air Compound
Few L.A. families are as storied as the Doheny clan, whose massive oil-fed fortune has been the stuff of legend since paterfamilias Edward struck black gold in the low rolling hills adjacent to downtown Los Angeles. This 3.5-acre Bel Air estate belonged to Edward's grandson William, and is asking an eye-popping $45M. The 10,000 square foot Hollywood Regency mansion comes complete with "a sun room, billiards room, library, card room"; sadly, there is no bowling alley in which to recreate the "I drink your milkshake" scene from There Will Be Blood, which was inspired by the family's story.
Home for over 60 years to banking heiress Celia Tobin Clarke and her progeny, House-On-Hill has (as noted by Curbed SF) "hosted at least four U.S. Presidents (Nixon, Ford, Reagan, and Bush), as well as British prime minister Margaret Thatcher and King Hussein of Jordan." Its blue-blood pedigree thus well-established, the 35,000-square-foot mansion nevertheless struggled to find a buyer, languishing on the market for over two years until being recently picked up for $22.8M.
Clear Lake Compound
Not yet in the pantheon of great family estates, but definitely one to watch, is this enormous, newly-built Texas compound. As featured in a breathless profile in the Houston Chronicle, this massive new compound being constructed in the Lone Star state will eventually be comprised of six homes (one for the un-named oilman who's the family patriarch, the rest for his kids and their families) and an 8,000-square-foot recreation center. With three French Country-style homes already built, and the rec center up and running with its Junior Olympic-sized pool, Clear Lake looks set to be a center of the anonymous petro-clan's life far into the future.
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