4. Shadow Brook (Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health)

Image via Wikimedia Commons 

Shadow Brook can be regarded as one of the more unfortunate of the Gilded Age mansions. The house, which was the largest home in the country for a year (George W. Vanderbilt opened Biltmore in Asheville, North Carolina) was abandoned by its owners just six years after its inauguration, and the building ultimately succumbed to a fire that burnt the estate beyond repair.

The property of Shadow Brook was originally purchased by Samual Gray Ward in 1844, and was where his Oakwood mansion was situated. In 1892 Anson Phelps Stokes bought the estate, along with additional land. The Oakwood building was demolished and Shadow Brook, an L-shaped, English Tudor-style estate was constructed in 1893. Various timber farms were also constructed in the valley below the estate, where Stokes family members continued to live until the 1950’s.

The estate was soon plagued with misfortune, as Stoke crushed his leg in a riding accident that resulted in an amputation. Afterwards, Stoke left his mansion and moved to Connecticut in 1898, stating that he could not enjoy Shadow Brook as much as he had before the accident, since he could no longer ride and play golf.

The mansion was mostly vacant until 1906, when it was sold to Spencer P. Shotter, who left in 1912 after losing his fortune in a federal lawsuit case. The home was sold to Andrew Carnegie in 1917; however he later died at the estate in 1919. Afterwards, the estate was sold to the New England Province of Society of Jesus in 1922, which converted the estate into a Jesuit novitiate.

The estate continued serving the society until on March 10, 1956, shortly after midnight, an oil explosion occurred in the boiler room that ultimately consumed the whole estate, burning it to the ground and taking the lives of three Jesuit priests and a lay brother. While the fire left the 125 residents displaced, plans were already in place for a fireproof residence on the site.

The new Shadow Brook building opened in 1958 and served as a seminary until 1970. Afterwards, the estate was vacant until 1983, when it was sold to a Hindu ashram that established the Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health in the building.