5 Abandoned Mansions We Love Right Now

Care to witness the home of a mysterious murder -- or perhaps a Kentucky businessman's castle-turned-hotel? Read on.Read More

This abandoned house in France (one we almost featured) is curious because the library comes with … a mess of books. (Source: iStock / yuelan)

If you’ve traveled much, you know the joy of discovering an abandoned building. Nothing beats exploring its age-old ruins, wondering what the inhabitants’ lives were like, and discovering odd relics of their past. While we’ve explored a few of these, there are plenty more we’d love to visit. If you’re as intrigued as we are by these edifices lost to time, then dig into our 5 favorite abandoned mansions below – and if you can, plan a trip to see them in person.

1: Bannerman’s Castle (Hudson Valley, NY)

Unfortunately, many a gilded age mansion in Hudson Valley was lost to the ages. Magnates of every industry set up shop here, stretching out on acres of beautiful, manicured lawns and welcoming the crème de la crème for raucous parties. (In fact, “The Great Gatsby” was set not far from here in the suburbs of New York City.)

Bannerman’s Castle is one such mansion, nested on a small island hugged by the Hudson River. Early settlers considered the place haunted by Indians, but this didn’t stop revolutionaries from using it as a strategic defense against the British trying to make their way up the Hudson River. Since American independence, the island has had only five owners, the last of which was Scotsman Francis Bannerman.

The Bannerman Castle needed propping after an accidental explosion. (Source: Shutterstock / littlenySTOCK)
The Bannerman Castle needed propping after an accidental explosion. (Source: Shutterstock / littlenySTOCK)

Bannerman, who made a business out of selling military surplus, amassed a great deal of wealth during the Civil War. Several decades later, while canoeing on the Hudson River, he spotted the island that now bears his name. He began construction on his “castle” in 1901 – patterned after traditional Scottish castles. The castle was completed about 15 years later.

After Bannerman’s death in 1918, however, the castle endured several devastating blows. As Bannerman used the castle both as a vacation home and a munitions store, it was always in danger of exploding. That very thing happened when 200 pounds of shells and powder erupted in 1920, destroying a major portion of the building. A few decades later, a storm sank the only ferry that serviced the island, leaving it abandoned for good.

Since the mid-1990s, however, Bannerman’s Island and Castle have seen a surge of restoration efforts. Access to the island has been restored and a trust has been set up to restore the castle. Still, the complex is in a sad state. We’re hoping to at least visit the island – and maybe, in time, parts of the restored castle.

2: Villa de Vecchi (Cortenova, Italy)

Everyone knows Lake Como and its hoity-toity reputation, but who has visited Villa de Vecchi? Just east of the celeb-studded lake sits this 19th-century mansion – a breathtaking villa that is unfortunately associated with several tragic tales.

Commissioned by accomplished military veteran and Italian Count Felix De Vecchi in the mid-1800s, Villa de Vecchi was designed to be a beautiful refuge for his family. While it was truly a modern feat of engineering, sporting heated water, dumbwaiters, pressurized fountains, and epic designs, it ultimately proved more fatal than fantastic. Around 1862, the count returned to his new home to find his wife murdered and daughter missing. He organized a search for his daughter but, after failing to find her, committed suicide barely a year later.

The mansion changed hands a few times after the De Vecchis left the property, but by the 1920s, it was left to ruin and rot. Today, the walls are covered with graffiti and rumors of pagan rituals held on the property persist. Is it any wonder Villa de Vecchi is known as the “Ghost Mansion”?

If you go, keep in mind that actually entering the house is trespassing; signs will tell you as much. Also, its in horrible disrepair and dangerous to explore. This one is best enjoyed at a distance.

3: Dacha Kvitko (Sochi, Russia)

Sochi has more to claim than being host of a Winter Olympics; it is also the home of sprawling Dacha Kvitko, an early 20th-century summer home right on the Black Sea. While facts are scarce on this one (making it even more intriguing), it’s likely the building was erected for a wealthy or high-ranking official in the late Czarist regime. Following the Communist Revolution, the property was likely commandeered and given to a member of the Soviet Party.

An aerial view of Dacha Kvitko (Source: Shutterstock / Vadim Fedotov)
An aerial view of Dacha Kvitko (Source: Shutterstock / Vadim Fedotov)

Regardless, the building has been abandoned for some time. Weeds are growing everywhere, the entrance is crumbling, and there are no windows to protect the interior. Evidence of peeling paint is still present, while stone façades and pillars are falling apart.

While there’s not a wild story to tell about Dacha Kvitko, the sheer mystery obscuring the abandoned mansion’s history is enough for us to add it to our bucket list.

4: Cambusnethan House (North Lanarkshire, Scotland)

Completed in around 1820, this now-abandoned mansion once soared among the trees. Built in Gothic style, it sported a tower house and spires, making it vaguely cathedral-esque. It should be no surprise that it was commissioned by landed aristocracy – the Lockharts, one of whom gained notoriety in the 1800s as Sir Water Scott’s biographer.

Cambusnethan House is kind of peaceful, if a little dilapidated. (Source: Shutterstock / Ulmus Media)
Cambusnethan House is kind of peaceful, if a little dilapidated. (Source: Shutterstock / Ulmus Media)

The mansion itself is one of only a few examples of true Gothic architecture in Scotland; several turrets, castellated roof lines, narrow windows, and carved motifs are apparent at every angle. At its most glorious, the Cambusnethan House was incredibly ornate, and while the family left the property by the 1900s, it was put to good use as a hotel, restaurant, and banquet hall for several years.

By 1984, however, the Cambusnethan House was abandoned. Predictably, it fell victim to ongoing vandalism and fire, compromising the integrity of the roof and walls. Several elements of the building have already collapsed; for this reason, visitors cannot explore the inside of the building. However, take heart that an organization was founded in 2014 to help restore the abandoned mansion – or at least, prevent further deterioration.

5: Ha Ha Tonka Castle (Camdenton, Missouri)

Back on U.S. soil, the Ha Ha Tonka Castle tells stories that seem like they belong in European history books. First of all, the ruins are profoundly, well, ancient-seeming – the roofs are gone, chunks of wall have disappeared, and windows are nowhere to be found. It’s like a medieval fortress gone to pot.

Underwritten by wealthy Kansan businessman Robert Snyder, the Ha Ha Tonka Castle was built around 1905. Snyder wanted a European-style castle – so much so that he brought over stone masons from Europe to help get the design and construction just right. Here’s the sad part: Snyder died in a car accident in 1906 and never got to see the castle completed.

His sons took over, however, and managed to complete the project by 1920. It was kind of all downhill from there, though. The family eventually ran out of money, owing largely to lawsuits about the use of the land on which the castle sits. They all ended up leaving.

A hotel took over after the kids left – a nice second life for what would have been an abandoned mansion – but that idyllic operation also suffered an awful end. A fire gutted the building in 1942, leaving behind the shell that we see today.

The state of Missouri bought the property and castle back in the 1970s and now allows visitors to explore what’s left of the Snyder dream.

Do you have favorite abandoned mansions or castles we didn’t mention? Let us know at editor@wideworldoftravel.com and we’ll share them with our readers! Oh, and if big, historic edifices are your personal fave, then we recommend checking out these breathtaking castles.