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'Sinister' Desert Art Palace Was Built Without Floor Plans

Built way out in the desert of Wapiti Valley, Wyo., this rambling, log cabin-style structure—officially known as the Smith Mansion—has long been the stuff of local legend, the most salient of which suggests that artist and engineer Smith Lee built the place after a vision came to him. "His original intent was to build a home for his family, and it just took on a life of its own," says Lee's daughter in a Times profile. "He never knew what his next step was going to be." Indeed, the entire five-story, 75-foot structure was built completely without floor plans, instead rather precariously stacked into place, and occasionally held together with only 2x4s nailed together by hand. Though running water and electricity were never part of the plan, handmade amenities like giant built-in benches, swings and an up-cycled wood stove kept the place mostly livable.

Since a fall from the pagoda-style roof killed Lee in 1992, the mansion's sat largely abandoned, save for visiting tourists (on their way to Burning Man) and the world's great many photographers with a taste for ruins. Lee's family insists the place has taken on a "sinister feel" since his passing, but are still trying to gain funding to preserve the DIY palace. Check out the cause, this way.

· Take a peek inside Yellowstone's abandoned mansion [Road Trippers]
· Gone With the Whimsy [NYT]