Biggest Houses in U.S. Start at 66,300 Square Feet
Since ancient times, the most powerful and wealthiest people have built massive, imposing homes for themselves to show everyone that their bank account was bigger.
America is one of the biggest offenders of making ridiculously large houses, from gaudy impressions of Versailles to exquisitely crafted mansions that are stunning to behold.
Take a tour of the 15 biggest houses ever built that are still standing in America, and get a feel for what it's like to live inside a really big house.
15. Grey Towers Castle
Location: Glenside, Pennsylvania
Built for: William Welsh Harrison
Square footage: 66,341
Bottom Line: Grey Towers Castle
Did you know Philadelphia used to have some of the biggest sugar refiners in the world? During the late 19th and early 20th century, Franklin Sugar Refinery was the biggest sugar producer in the country, and it was co-owned by a 31-year-old man named William Welsh Harrison.
After purchasing 138 acres worth of land, Harrison purchased a mansion. It was destroyed in a fire in 1893. In its place, he constructed Grey Towers Castle, fashioned after Alnwick Castle in England. It cost $250,000 to build in 1893.
After Harrison died in 1927, Arcadia University — then known as Beaver College — bought the 66,300-square-foot estate for $712,500 in 1929. It has remained within the university ever since, and now has multiple functions. Freshmen get to live on the third floor (freshmen? really?), while other parts of the former mansion are used for lectures, dances and dinners.
14. Hearst Castle
Location: San Simeon, California
Built for: William Randolph Hearst
Square footage: 68,500
Bottom Line: Hearst Castle
While it's not the biggest mansion in America, Hearst Castle is perhaps the most famous and the one with the coolest history. This was the estate that inspired (or more accurately, was satirized by) Charles Foster Kane's Xanadu mansion in "Citizen Kane."
Hearst just kept building on this land from 1920 until 1939, and stuffed it with all kinds of art, antiques and textiles. Architectural features were imported from all over the world to create the estate, which has a total of 42 bedrooms and 61 bathrooms on 127 acres.
Hearst was a rabid collector of arts. He bought an ancient Roman sarcophagus from circa 230 A.D. and a statue of Sekhmet from ancient Egypt that dates back to 1550 BCE. Both of them are still on the property, which can be toured.
The cost to construct and furnish the estate from 1919 to 1947 has been estimated from $7.2 million to under $10 million. The Neptune pool alone (pictured) cost nearly $500,000.
If you had to tour only one place on this list, this is it.
11. Woodlea (Tied)
Location: Briarcliff Manor, New York
Built for: Elliott Fitch Shepard
Square footage: 70,000
Bottom Line: Woodlea
Woodlea is the name of the main clubhouse that is now Sleepy Hollow Country Club in Briarcliff Manor. The mansion used to be owned by the Vanderbilts and was built for $2 million in 1895.
Later, William Rockefeller and Frank Vanderlip bought the house for just $165,000 in 1910. Rumor has it, the couple who owned it then didn't know the mansion was worth quite a lot more. Rockefeller and Vanderlip went ahead and established a clubhouse with a board of directors, and in 1912, the club bought the house from Rockefeller and Vanderflip for $350,000.
Bill Murray is a member here, so that might be worth the membership fees.
11. Lynnewood Hall (Tied)
Location: Elkins Park, Pennsylvania
Built for: Peter A.B. Widener
Square footage: 70,000
Bottom Line: Lynnewood Hall
This one doesn't have a happy story.
Lynnewood Hall was originally built for the extremely wealthy Peter A.B. Widner, who was one of the richest Americans in history at the time of his death. Widner was an investor in the International Mercantile Marine, the company that owned the RMS Titanic. His son, George, and George's wife, Elanor, along with their son Harry, were on the Titanic. Harry and George drowned, and Peter died three years later.
The Neoclassical revival has sat abandoned for a long time and has been pillaged and stripped of most of its furnishings and architectural details by the Faith Theological Seminary, which bought the mansion for $192,000 in 1952.
You're not allowed inside, but that doesn't stop some people. Check out this YouTube video for an awesome and unsanctioned tour.
11. Idle Hour (Tied)
Location: Oakdale, New York
Built for: William K. Vanderbilt
Square footage: 70,000
Bottom Line: Idle Hour
Idle Hour is a Vanderbilt mansion that was originally a wooden 110-room home. After a fire consumed it in 1899, the Vanderbilts (specifically, Alva and William Kissam Vanderbilt) rebuilt the mansion out of stone for $3 million.
After the Vanderbilts died, the home was briefly occupied by Dutch Schultz, a prohibition mobster and bootlegger who was murdered by the mob after Schultz tried to kill Lucky Luciano.
Adelphi College bought the mansion in 1968 and turned it into Dowling College. Dowling College shut down in 2016, laying off all of its faculty and telling all of its students that their college is going kaput with three days' notice.
It's now vacant.
Location: Highlandville, Missouri
Built for: Steven T. Huft
Square footage: 72,215 (under construction)
Bottom Line: Pensmore
Pensmore is a mansion located in the Ozarks that is still under construction. The owner and builder is Steven T. Huff, a multimillionaire astrophysicist and ex-CIA agent who founded a company that makes software for military and agency companies (and then sold it for millions).
Pensmore is being constructed as kind of a proof-of-concept. He's inventing a new kind of structure made of sustainable construction materials that are strong enough to resist fire, earthquakes and an EF5 tornado. Its location in the mountains makes it free from government inspection or regulations.
When Pensmore is completed, it will have 13 bedrooms, 14 bathrooms, and probably some other insane stuff we can't wait to hear about.
9. Indian Neck Hall
Location: Oakdale, New York
Built for: Frederick Gilbert Bourne
Square footage: 75,000
Bottom Line: Indian Neck Hall
The curiously named Indian Neck Hall was once the home of Singer Sewing Machine Company president Frederick Gilbert Bourne.
Several years after Bourne's death, the mansion was sold, and the estate became La Salle Military Academy. The mansion housed the school's offices on the main level and dorms upstairs. In the basement, there's an abandoned swimming pool. According to local legend, Bourne sold the mansion to the Christian Brothers for $1 after his son drowned in the pool.
Today, the mansion is now part of St. John's University.
Location: Florham Park, New Jersey
Built for: Hamilton and Florence Vanderbilt Twombly
Square footage: 80,000
Bottom Line: Florham
Florham is yet another Vanderbilt estate that is now part of a university. The massive, English Baroque revival has 110 rooms, numerous greenhouses, a Louis XV ballroom, Renaissance fireplaces imported from Italy, and a tunnel-based heating system designed by Thomas Edison.
The estate is estimated to have cost $5 million to build and furnish and required some 600 laborers to create from top to bottom. Those workers came from Italy and went on to form Madison's Italian community. According to the mansion's website, Florham "was the epitome of architectural splendor and the undisputed center of Morris County’s social life of not less than 200 millionaires."
In 1957, the estate was broken up, and the mansion was sold to Fairleigh Dickinson University.
Location: Windermere, Florida
Built for: David A. Siegel
Year: Still under construction
Square footage: 85,000
Bottom Line: Versailles
Versailles is the horribly tacky brainchild of David A. Siegel, who founded the timeshare company Westgate Resorts.
The gaudy property has been under construction for 20 years and will, at some point, have "14 bedrooms, 32 bathrooms, 11 kitchens, a movie theater, a roller rink, a bowling alley, a 30-car garage, three levels, two elevators — including one that is gold — and a slew of other amenities," according to the Orlando Business Journal.
The house can be seen in the 2012 documentary, "The Queen of Versailles," which documents the Siegels' attempt to build the stupidly big house and also their business dealings. Siegel sued the filmmakers for defamation, lost, and had to pay them $750,000.
5. Meadow Brook Hall (Tied)
Location: Rochester Hills, Michigan
Built for: Matilda Dodge Wilson
Square footage: 88,000
Bottom Line: Meadowbrook Hall
This giant Tudor revival was built for $4 million by Dodge heiress Matilda Dodge Wilson and her husband, lumber magnate Alfred Wilson. The estate includes an 18-hole golf course (which was originally a nine-hole golf course built by the Wilsons) on 1,443 acres.
Also known as the Dodge Mansion, the home spans 88,000 square feet of living space and has 110 rooms and features an original dining room ceiling made out of plaster by the Italian-American architectural sculptor Corrado Giuseppe Parducii. Numerous artworks from artists such as Anthony van Dyck and Thomas Gainsborough are still located on the property as is Tiffany glass and Stickley furniture.
The mansion, which the Wilsons lived in until their deaths in the 1960s, was donated to Oakland University in 1957. It now functions as an event space, and you can tour it.
5. Shadow Lawn (Tied)
Location: West Long Branch, New Jersey
Built for: Hubert T. Parson
Square footage: 88,000
Bottom Line: Shadow Lawn
Built for F.W. Woolworth Company president Hubert T. Parson, Shadow Lawn only remained in Parson's hands for 11 years. The department store magnate went bankrupt by the Great Depression and lost Shadow Lawn in 1939 for not paying $132,000 in taxes.
It cost $10.5 million to build and includes 130 rooms. After selling for $100 into municipal ownership, it became a girl's school, then sold to Monmouth University for $350,000 in 1955.
Shadow Lane used to be called Woodrow Wilson Hall, but was renamed Shadow Lawn in 2020 by the university due to President Wilson being a monumental racist.
Location: Winterthur, Delaware
Built for: Henry Francis du Pont
Square footage: 96,582
Bottom Line: Winterhur Mansion
Winterthur was the home of Henry Francis du Pont, who was born into one of America's most prominent and wealthiest families.
Now a museum of Americana antiques and art, the Winterthur has 175 rooms and is set on nearly 1,000 acres. Du Pont was a horticulturalist and designed a sprawling, 60-acre naturalistic garden on the property, which can be toured by the public.
As can the museum, which houses almost 90,000 American antiques dating from 1640 to 1860.
3. Arden House
Location: Harriman, New York
Built for: Edward Henry Harriman
Square footage: 97,188
Bottom Line: Arden House
Railroad magnate Edward Henry Harriman — of whom the entire surrounding town is named after — acquired approximately 40,000 acres of land to build his magnificent, 97,000-square-foot home. It took four years to build. Unfortunately, Harriman died just a few months after the estate was constructed.
The fruits of his labor went to his descendants, who then lent it to the U.S. Navy after the United States entered World War II. The navy turned it into a convalescent hospital.
Notably, Adren House is the first conference center in America after it was deeded to Columbia University. It went up for sale in 2010 and sold to a Chinese-backed nonprofit for just $6.5 million in 2011. It now has "only" 452 acres.
2. Oheka Castle
Location: West Hills, New York
Built for: Otto Hermann Kahn
Square footage: 109,000
Bottom Line: Oheka Castle
Oheka Castle was built by investment banker Otto Hermann Kahn, who positioned the castle in 443 acres on one of the highest points in Long Island. It cost $11 million to build — about $165 million today — and it wasn't even his main house. This was his summer home, where he could hold parties and entertain the world's wealthiest and most desirable people.
After Kahn died in 1934, the house changed hands several times and eventually became a military school. That school screwed up the historical details pretty badly by changing the walls and dividing the mansion's expansive rooms. After the school went bankrupt in the late 1970s, it stood vacant and went in disrepair. Eventually, a developer bought it in 1984 and restored it to its original beauty.
Today, Oheka Castle is a hotel, event and wedding space.
1. Biltmore Estate
Location: Asheville, North Carolina
Built by: George Washington Vanderbilt II
Square footage: 178,926
Bottom Line: The Biltmore Estate
Built for the late George Washington Vanderbilt II, the Biltmore estate is one of the most extravagant homes in the entire world and the biggest in the United States.
Vanderbilt built the 250-room mansion on 700 sprawling acres that included 50 farms and five cemeteries and toured the world for design inspiration and antiques for decoration. The mansion took six years to build and required a custom-built brick kiln which produced 32,000 bricks a day, as well as its own on-site woodworking factory. Over 1,000 workers and 60 stonemasons were needed to construct the home.
Today, the home is owned by George Vanderbilt II's descendants, although that doesn't include news anchor Anderson Cooper. The Biltmore Estate is open for tours and holds holiday events.
Related:Most Expensive Homes in the World