4. Cornelius Vanderbilt II Mansion

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Front side of Vanderbilt Mansion. Image via Library of Congress

Any list that has the words “over the top” would not be complete without mentioning the Vanderbilts. The family built their success upon Cornelius Vanderbilt’s shipping and railroad empire and was prominent during the Gilded Age. Up until the mid- 20th century, Cornelius Vanderbilt’s descendants continue to build extravagant mansions and chateaus in locations such as Newport, Rhode Island and Upstate New York. Despite the family’s decline, the name Vanderbilt has become an emblem of wealth and power.

In 1882, Cornelius Vanderbilt II used a $5 million inheritance from his father the Commodore to purchase and demolish three brownstones on the southwest corner of 57th Street and 5th Avenue to build his new mansion. In 1893, the same mansion was expanded, and although considered as “restrained” by Vanderbilt standards, was reported as the largest single family house in New York City at the time.

Following the downturn of the Vanderbilt empire, the mansion was sold to Braisted Realty for around $7 million in 1926. Today, the property that sits on the original address of the Cornelius Vanderbilt II mansion has become the department store Bergdorf Goodman, and remnants of the structure can be found in various locations within New York City.