Welcome back to Period Dramas, a weekly column that alternates between rounding up historic homes on the market and answering questions we’ve always had about older structures.
While a number of 18th- and 19th-century mansions were built as summer retreats, if you ask us—they look best with a dusting of snow.
Thankfully for us, the past few months have brought their fair share of winter weather (we’re looking at you, bomb cyclone). From Asheville to Newport, we’ve rounded up our favorite mansions that become even dreamier after a snow storm.
Completed in 1895 for George Washington Vanderbilt II, Biltmore is perhaps best known as America’s largest Gilded Age mansion. Prominent architect Richard Morris Hunt designed the 250-room house, which spans over 175,000 square feet. While the house is open to the public, it remains privately owned by Vanderbilt descendants.
Built for railroad tycoon James J. Hill in 1891, the Richardsonian Romanesque mansion encompasses over 36,000 square feet along St. Paul’s posh Summit Avenue. The mansion was designed by the Boston-based architectural firm Peabody, Stearns, and Furber—a favorite of the Newport crowd.
Built by Horace Trumbauer in 1901, The Elms was almost demolished after the original owners died and the person who inherited the mansion sold it to developers. Thankfully, the Newport Preservation Society stepped in and bought the mansion before it met the wrecking ball.
Originally built in 1838, Lyndhurst doubled in size into the mansion it is today when New York merchant George Merritt owned it around 1865. The house is one of the best examples of Gothic revival architecture.
Built by Horace Trumbauer, the Duke mansion is one of the last remaining Gilded Age mansions along Fifth Avenue, which were mostly demolished in the 1920s and 1930s. Many of the surviving mansions didn’t meet the wrecking ball because they were transformed into museums—like the Cooper Hewitt—or, in this case, a school. The mansion is now home to NYU’s Institute of Fine Arts.
The Phipps’s mansion Old Westbury Gardens has been open to the public since 1959. Peggy Phipps Bergner, who originally inherited the house and opened the house to the public, used to ride around the grounds in a golf cart and greet guests.
The oldest house in this lot, this Federal home was built in 1808 for wealthy merchant Nathaniel Russell. The interiors sport impeccably restored and maintained examples of 19th-century distemper paint.
Built in the Second Empire style, the 31-room house was completed in 1881 for Colonel Harvey Vaile. The brick house sports a 48,000-gallon wine cellar.
The most famous of the Newport mansions, The Breakers was originally a Shingle-style mansion (built by Peabody and Stearns) which burned down in the 1880s. The imposing stone mansion you see today is the work of Richard Morris Hunt for the Vanderbilt family.