Wyndclyffe Castle, the home thought to have inspired the expression “keeping up with the Joneses,” is now a crumbling near-ruin that just sold for a mere $120,000. Look upon my house, ye mighty, and despair!
That’s according to the Associated Press, which notes that the house sold at auction. Built in 1853 by Elizabeth Schermerhorn Jones—Edith Wharton’s aunt—Wyndclyffe was once an elaborate beauty packed with voguish touches like a Tiffany skylight, thought to have prompted other mega-rich New Yorkers building in the Hudson Valley to try to top it. (What’s the point of having megabucks if you can’t use them to compete with your frenemies? And if there’s one thing learned from Wharton, it’s that they were all frenemies at best.)
The low price wasn’t some fluke of a depressed real estate market. Do a little casual Zillow browsing and you’ll see that you can’t get jack shit in Rhinebeck for less than $200,000. Though all those homes are all presumably habitable, whereas a Wall Street Journal report from when the auction was first announced makes the mansion sound very much not:
“Every 10 years someone comes with the promise of restoring it,” said Robert Yasinsac, co-author of a book titled, “Hudson Valley Ruins” that includes Wyndclyffe. “They don’t do anything either and the next one comes along.”
Large portions of the mansion have fallen in, with a gaping hole in one side of the building. The house once stood on an 80-acre estate, which was eventually subdivided. Today, it sits on a 2.5-acre lot; other homes and trees now sit between it and the Hudson.
Imagine owning a 24-room castle on a 2.5 acre lot. Dear God, the indignity!
The Journal notes that the property is fenced off with warnings about “dangerous conditions,” and “Potential bidders can only look at the property from outside the fence.” It’s a real alterations-cost-more-than-the-dress scenario. Blame the Great Depression, says ABC News:
“When Elizabeth passed away in 1876, Wyndclyffe was sold to a family who maintained the house into the 1920s, but the succession of owners that occupied the mansion through the Great Depression struggled to keep up with the repairs it required,” a press release from Maltz Auctions, the auctioneers who sold the mansion, reads.
“The house remained a private residence until 1936, and was finally abandoned sometime after 1950. By the 1970s, the house had already been abandoned for decades.”
Even it was still newish, Wharton apparently described it as an “expensive but dour specimen of Hudson River Gothic.” Would that we could get her take on the Calabasas domain of the Joneses self-appointed heirs, the Kardashians.