In a mansion on the outskirts of New York City, time as we know it stands still. Elegant pianos sit next to crumbling walls, snow decorates the floor under a toy rocking horse, and shelves of stylish shoes lie there, untouched for decades. But just what happened between these walls, and why has such a lavish home been abandoned to rot and decay?
In the late 1930s, mere miles from the bustling Big Apple, a grand mansion was built. And although little is known about the original owners, we can safely say that they must have been fairly well off. In its prime, after all, the 57-room property was likely a symbol of opulence and wealth.
Indeed, this mansion, which stands on a sprawling 6-acre estate, boasted two bars and even a private library. The residence’s bowling alley and indoor tennis court, meanwhile, provided plenty of opportunity for a more active kind of recreation.
Elsewhere, chandeliers, spiral staircases and antique furniture completed the mansion’s luxury appearance. It must have been, therefore, a realtor’s dream property. Yet, despite this, the last owners reportedly left in 1976 – and abandoned the building to its fate.
For 40 years or so, then, the mansion has sat empty, its rooms filled with relics from what was likely a happier time. However, according to rumor, the last owner had a habit of purchasing grand homes and purposely leaving them to decay.
Yet whatever the truth behind the mansion’s current abandoned state may be, it seems that the last inhabitants left in a hurry. Indeed, furnishings, toys, clothing, paintings and more can still be seen throughout the property. And all in all, they provide a stark reminder of the passage of time.
Furthermore, despite its proximity to one of the world’s busiest cities, the mansion seems to have remained largely untouched by trespassers and vandals – give or take the odd daubing of graffiti. One photographer, though, managed to cross the threshold and document the hauntingly beautiful scenes inside.
That photographer was New York-based Bryan Sansivero, who specializes in capturing scenes of urban decay. In 2008, for example, he filmed Shadows of Kings Park, an award-winning short movie about a derelict psychiatric facility in Kings Park, New York.
Later, however, he turned his attention to the abandoned mansion, the exact location of which he has hitherto declined to reveal. But the resulting photographs nevertheless offer a startling insight into a forgotten world. It’s no surprise, then, that they have gained media coverage across the globe.
And rightly so. Indeed, the images reveal a grand, red brick building stretching to three stories high. Its tall, imposing gates would once have cut the inhabitants off from the outside world. Now, though, they hang warped and broken from the posts.
Outside the property, meanwhile, is a garden filled with overgrown trees. And a sweeping double staircase, which would once have served as an impressive entrance to the mansion, lies half-buried in weeds and fallen leaves.
Meanwhile, in the grounds a huge warehouse-like building with a vaulted glass ceiling is strewn with broken furniture, twisted shopping carts and even an old car. Once the mansion’s impressive indoor tennis court, it now seems to function only as a local dumping ground.
And inside, the mansion’s greying ceilings and peeling wallpaper do little to distract from the aura of grandeur that pervades each room. In one reception room, for example, antique chairs and couches face a pair of grand pianos, as if waiting for a concert that will never occur.
In another, a closet opens to reveal a collection of vintage shoes left to gather dust. Look further still, and you’ll find a black and white photograph of a woman, left forgotten on a dresser. These vestiges help to paint a picture of the family that once called this mansion home.
And clearly children, too, must have lived in the house before it was abandoned. Indeed, one room contains books and what appears to be a boarding school trunk, while several toys have also been left scattered about the mansion. From dolls perched on couches to a stroller left in an empty room, these finds give Sansivero’s images a creepy, haunted aura.
Incredibly, what appears to be valuable furniture has also been left to rot inside the house, implying that whoever lived there was forced to leave in a hurry. A grand cabinet with gold inlay adorns the hallway, for one. A heavy, carved wooden desk, meanwhile, is still strewn with books in the study.
And although most of the mansion has the appearance of a time capsule from a bygone age, there are also the occasional signs of a more recent era. In one room in particular, a retro television set and stereo system stick out like sore thumbs among the oil paintings and antique tables and chairs.
Bizarrely, too, a section of hallway is covered in dust sheets, with a set of stepladders pushed up against the wall. These clues strongly suggest that whoever lived in the mansion was attempting to renovate it. So, in light of this, their sudden decision to up and leave seems all the more mysterious.
But although Sansivero’s photographs capture a surprisingly intact world, the mansion hasn’t completely escaped the ravages of the elements. In fact, in places snow has drifted in through open windows to lie thickly across the floor. Some humans have also ventured here, as evidenced by the graffiti that has found its way onto the peeling walls.
The images are so striking, in fact, that many online commenters have even claimed that the shots were faked. Indeed, some struggle to believe that intruders would have left the decorations intact while they daubed the interiors with paint. But whatever the true story behind this abandoned mansion may be, there’s no denying that Sansivero has conjured up a powerful reminder of a forgotten age.