Biloxi Lighthouse on the Mississippi Gulf Coast was built in 1847. In that long history it has had the most number of female keepers of any lighthouse in the country. Such history also includes numerous hurricanes, including Katrina. Biloxi Lighthouse also has the distinction of being the only one in America to be situated in the middle of a major US highway. It was on Mississippi’s license plates from 2007 to 2012 and on a US stamp in 2009. Daily tours are available. The first photo is dated 1892 and the third is from 1909.
Key West Lighthouse is located at the tip of the southern most city in the US. It was built in 1848 and, 158 years later, still has the Fresnel lens installed in 1858 although the lighthouse was deactivated in 1969. During its years of service the same family were the keepers for over 80 years. It sits all of 15 feet above sea level and is open for tours. The first photo is dated 1865
Martagora Island Lighthouse is located on the Texas Gulf Coast and was built in 1852. In 1859 it was disassembled and moved 2 miles inland due to erosion. It was frequently exposed to hurricanes and bugs so plentiful they would block out the light. Even worse, rattlesnakes were a constant threat and antivenum was always kept handy. The lighthouse was automated in 1956 and remained in service until 1995. It was relit on December 31, 1999, to help usher in the new millenium. The first photo is undated
Port Pontchartrain Lighthouse is located on Lake Pontchartrain Louisiana and was built in 1855. For 47 years–1882-1929– it had a series of three women lighthouse keepers. In 1939 the surrounding land was reclaimed resulting in an amusement park which lasted until 1983. In 1991 the University of New Orleans took over and made a research park but kept the lighthouse. In 2004 a 1.2 million-dollar restoration was completed. The first photo is dated 1900, the third is undated and the fifth is from the 1970s.
Thornewood is located in Lakewood WA and comprises 31,000 sq. ft. Starting in 1908, construction took four years at a cost of $1,000,000 ($10,000,000 in today’s dollars). Four-hundred-year-old bricks from an English castle were used. Later development reduced the acreage from 110 to just 4; however, restoration has brought back much of it’s previous splendor. A big boost came from Disney, which chose Thornewood as its haunted mansion in the mini series Rose Red by Stephen King. Today it is a B&B and wedding venue. The first picture shows Thornewood under construction in 1910.
Rhodes Hall is one of the last great original homes on Peachtree St. in Atlanta. It was completed in 1904 and built by a successful furniture retailer who offered reasonably priced furniture and installment plans–both innovations at the time. It cost $50,000 ($700,000 in today’s dollars) to build and boasted over 300 light bulbs at a time when such luxuries were rare. Five-hundred-pound blocks of stone from Stone Mountain 24 miles away were hauled in. Rhodes’ store still stands and today is a Residence Inn. Rhodes Hall is used as a wedding venue and was recently referred to as “the 800-pound gorilla currently home to the non-profit Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation.” The first photo is dated 1909.
Snyder Castle in Camdenton AR is also known as Ha Ha Tonka (“laughing spirit” in Osage). It was built in 1905 also utilizing local stone materials. Unfortunately, Snyder did not enjoy his new home for long as he was killed in one of Arkansas’ first auto accidents. It sat unfinished for 16 years, then tragedy struck again in 1942 when fire gutted the building. It sat idle again, this time for 36 years when it was taken over by the state of Arkansas as part of the Ha Ha Tonka State Park. The first and third photos date from early 1900s
The last castle isn’t really a castle at all–it was a “summer cottage” built by Cornelius Vanderbilt II. It has 70 rooms and 125,000 sq. ft., of which 62,000 is living area. The Breakers was built between 1893-95 at a cost of $11,000,000 ($110,000,000 in today’s dollars). Almost half of the 70 rooms were for the staff, who went about their duties via hidden passageways and doors rarely being seen. Today The Breakers is owned by The Preservation Society of Newport, which conducts tours for about 400,000 visitors per year. The first photo shows it from the front under construction in 1894 and then, in the third photo, newly completed in 1895 . The backyard view is dated 1909 (click to enlarge).
Oheka Castle was built between 1914 and 1919 by financier Otto Herman Kahn (hence, Oheka) on 443 acres on the highest point on Long Island, NY. It cost $11,000,000 ($110,000,000 in today’s dollars) making it second only to the Biltmore Mansion in Ashville NC as the most expensive home ever built. It has 127 rooms and totals 109,000 square feet and, at its height, employed 127 servants. After Kahn’s death in 1934, it became a military school then retreat for New York Sanitation Workers. In 1936 Kahn’s image was used as the Monopoly Man. Oheka sat idle for five years and then a developer purchased it in 1984. He spent $30,000,000 and 16 years restoring it to its former grandeur–the largest restoration ever! Today it is a wedding venue and a hotel, film, and TV location. Oheka was used in the opening scene of Citizen Kane and is reputed to be the inspiration for the Great Gatsby home. The first photo shows Oheka under construction, the third shows the sanitation workers in 1939, the fifth shows Kahn with Douglas Fairbanks and Charlie Chaplin.
Far less imposing is Bryan Castle built in Idaho Springs CO in 1880. It was acquired in 1965, and the new owner built a moat and a draw bridge and put in extensive landscaping which now all but hides the home. The first photo is dated 1895 and the third shows it as an apartment building in 1938.