Across America, elegant historic houses become 8-figure tear downs

A 19th-century mansion at the tip of a peninsula in Darien, Conn. The owners had it demolished before raising the asking price to $14 million

The nouveau riche are at it again – this time razing charming old mansions to make way for modern monstrosities. Tsk, tsk.

Take for instance one 19th-century mansion at the tip of a peninsula in Darien, Conn. Three years ago it sold for $11.5 million. Today, the 5-acre property is back on the market asking $14 million sans the mansion, according to the Wall Street Journal. The sellers bulldozed the 14-bedroom home. No doubt some tasteless McMansion will soon rise from its oak-paneled ashes.

“It had unique, priceless fixtures. Each room downstairs had a different pattern of beautiful, parquet floors,” Sheila Daley, 72, a bookstore owner in Darien, told the Journal.

The listing agent Doug Werner of William Pitt Sotheby’s International Realty argued that it “would have cost a fortune to renovate.” But we are guessing anyone willing to pay $14 million for land, could well have afforded a proper renovation.

Experts say that it has become routine for eight-figure homes to be treated as tear downs for wealthy folks who simply cannot be bothered with squeak floorboards.

But in at least some cases the old guard is putting up a fight.

“People have been tearing down important houses and putting up schlock. Would someone buy a Picasso and then hire someone to paint over it?” Tom Fisher, a professor of architecture at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, asks.

We wouldn’t put it past them.

  • Christopher,
    Have you ever looked at historical photos of the Fairfield County area or any other like suburban market? Or any major metro market like NYC? Chances are you’ll see farms or vacant land where you now see homes. Couldn’t the neighboring farmer make that same argument when the home in photo was built?
    Can you just hear that neighboring farmer at the time: “look at that big house, what a waste of good farm land, and the size of it, who needs a house that big”.
    Some people like Picasso, some don’t, it’s a matter of taste, same with redeveloping older housing stock in desirable locations. History goes back a long way…why is what was built at a certain time or looks a certain way to be preserved, especially if the economics don’t make sense in today’s world?
    Evolution, not revolution.

  • Cedar Cat

    It breaks my heart to see these beautiful homes destroyed. The Gatsby mansion was torn down on Long Island recently, as well as a beautiful monastery. We do not see the treasures in front of our eyes. That’s “new money” for you. It’s their house, though, you know. So what can you do? There’s no accounting for taste, after all.