The Mystery House
Sarah’s rambling house eventually became bizarre. Sarah built onto the house nonstop. She had hired a crew of 20 or more carpenters and the vast building project lasted 38 years. The work shifts were often rotating, meaning someone was laboring 24 hours per day, seven days a week, every week of the year.
A very partial inventory of the houses amenities included:
- 2,000 doors
- 150,000 panes of glass
- 47 fireplaces
- An annunciator system with 150 boxes
- Palladian and bull’s-eye windows
- 200 rooms
- Winding staircases and Jacob’s ladder
Room upon room, a seven-story tower and competing towers, cupolas, minarets, turrets, widow’s walks, skylights, ridgepoles, dormers, pediments—all mashed together and built and rebuilt. There were staircases leading to nowhere, doors that opened onto walls, trap doors, spy holes, and don’t forget her purchasing more and more acres of land.
She was preoccupied with entrance and exits; there was a staircase—one of 40—that ended at the ceiling. Halls winded back to their beginnings and rooms had rooms within rooms. One balcony was only inches wide. Chimneys stopped short of the ceiling. One room boasted two doors next to each other—one normal-sized, one small and child-sized. There was discovered a hidden wine cellar sealed shut as if it were a pharaoh’s tomb.
Sarah Winchester’s estate would have the distinction of being the most expensive residence to build, $130 million in 2015 dollars. She, of course, had a loyal staff, an impenetrable hedge and a pack of bloodhounds to roam the property.