5 Famous American Mansions

By Audrey W. | Arcadia Staff
Throughout the Gilded Age of American history, some of today’s most iconic mansions were built. They were constructed by the country’s financial and industrial elite, whose prosperous companies allowed them to reap massive benefits - luxurious homes being one of them. Inside many of these homes were vast collections of priceless art, furniture, and antiques that were mostly imported from Europe. Many of these structures and their original interiors have been preserved to honor a vibrant place in American history. These are 5 of the most famous mansions still standing in America today.

The Morris-Jumel Mansion.Morris-Jumel Mansion

As New York City’s oldest standing mansion, it’s no surprise that the Morris-Jumel Mansion is a favorite among historic home aficionados. It sits between what is now 140th and 180th streets in Manhattan, New York. The home was constructed in 1765 for Colonel Roger Morris and his wife to use a summer home. When the Revolutionary War broke out, the Colonel and his wife fled the house. George Washington used its location on a high hill overlooking the surrounding states as headquarters for his army.
 
After the war, the home was seized by the New York State Government, and sold to help pay off war debts. In 1810, the property was bought by Eliza and Stephen Jumel. The couple performed a series of renovations on the home that still stand today. By the 1880s, the City of New York had purchased the land and created Roger Morris Park, turning the mansion into a historic house and museum that encapsulates several years of innovative American history. 

Perry Hall Mansion.Perry Hall Mansion

In 1770, Corbin Lee built a new home on a 1,000-acre stretch of land overlooking the greater Baltimore area. He started construction in 1773, but met an untimely death later that year. His widow sold the home to Harry Dorsey Gough, who completed building the property and named it Perry Hall after a family castle in Birmingham, England. Gough transformed the landscape into a vast farm where slaves tended to cattle, harvested crops, and grew tobacco. When Gough died in 1808, 2,000 people attended the funeral held at his iconic home.
 
Perry Hall stayed in the Gough family line until 1852, when it was sold to investors who then divided out the property and sold pieces to immigrants largely from Germany. Over the next century, a small community called Germantown built up, and became known as a bustling and vibrant village just outside Baltimore. In 2001, the property was sold to Baltimore County for use as a museum and community center.

Strawberry Mansion.Strawberry Mansion

This historic Pennsylvanian home was built by Judge William Lewis during the mid-1780s. By the time he moved in, Lewis was an influential figure in the American government. He was appointed to the bench by George Washington, and served as an advisor for Alexander Hamilton. Lewis purchased the land when there were already a few buildings scattered throughout it. He built the home, named it Summerville, and lived there until his death in 1819.
 
Joseph Hemphill was the following owner. He added the current Greek Revival architectural designs to the building. After his death in 1842, the property was sold to the city. It was here that it earned its lasting name by serving strawberries and cream to the public, thus becoming Strawberry Mansion. Throughout the early 1900s, several groups worked to preserve the interior and exterior of the mansion. Today, visitors can take guided tours through the home to experience a slice of American history.

The Glessner House.Glessner House

When he set out to build the Glessner House, John Glessner wanted a design that was revolutionary for its time. It is a clash of medieval and modern, featuring rustic stone blocks, round arches, and elements of Romanesque design, all while appearing as an E from a bird’s eye view. The home was completed in 1887 after three years of construction. When Glessner died in 1936, the home was given to the American Institute of Architects, but they later returned it to the Glessner family when upkeep proved too costly.
 
In the 1960s, the home was saved from destruction by the Chicago Architecture Foundation. It opened to the public for tours in 1971, and has been maintained to the present day by entrance fees and generous donations. Today, the home is filled with delicate pieces of American and English art that were present when John Glessner and his family still lived in there. Visitors are encouraged to stroll through and consider what life might have looked like for the Glessner family it the late 1800s.

The Biltmore mansion and grounds.Biltmore Estate

Most people have heard of Biltmore Estate, as it is the largest standing mansion in America. It was built sbetween 1889 and 1895 under the ownership of George Washington Vanderbilt II. During the mid-1800s, Vanderbilt was making regular visits to Asheville, North Carolina with his mother. Falling in love with the area, he decided to erect a summer home in the area to stay at during his visits. It was an extensive endeavor, including 1,000 workers and 60 stonemasons. He filled the home with precious statues, tapestries, and paintings, making it one of the most luxurious estates in the country during the Gilded Age.
 
Today, the estate covers roughly 8,000 acres and is maintained by The Biltmore Company. Despite being open for public tours and events, the home remains in the ownership of the Vanderbilt family. Restaurants and gift shops were opened in 1979, following by a winery in 1985, and a 210-room inn for visitors.
 
While the world outside these homes has changed enormously since their construction, they have managed to remain true to a booming period in American history. The Gilded Age inspired the construction of many of today’s most famous mansions. Their original residents have long since passed, but thanks to a handful of dedicated individuals, they have largely been preserved in their original states. A stroll through one of these homes is a stroll through history and one many visitors won’t forget.