After reading a recent article on the Daily Mail (of all places), I was inspired to tell the story of some of the beautiful historical structures that are now falling into a sad state of disrepair. It is a sad reality that nobody has been able to afford the upkeep of these stunning buildings; truly a loss for local communities. The article (see here) features pictures and short descriptions of crumbling estates from across Europe and North America; here I have chosen the three I found most intriguing and tell their story in more detail…
Halcyon Hall was built in 1893, by H. J. Davison Jr, and was the predominant building of the prestigious Bennett College. The building featured two hundred rooms across five stories. Originally built as a luxury hotel, Halcyon became home to Bennett College in 1907, after failing to take off within the hospitality sector.
Halcyon Hall: A Health and Safety Officers nightmare.
The Bennett School for Girls was founded by Miss May Bennett; a finishing school, if you will, where prestigious American families sent their daughters to learn how to walk with books balanced on their heads (well, isn’t that what happened at finishing schools?!). Women took a six year course of study, focusing on language, culture and fine arts.
The Bennett campus included a chapel, stables, dormitories, an outdoor theatre, and the Kettering Science Centre. It was the construction of this science centre that crippled the schools finances, hurling it into bankruptcy. Bennett College closed in 1978.
Halcyon Hall was never reopened and fell into complete disrepair. Large areas of the roof have since collapsed, and there is massive water damage after multiple pipe bursts. Despite several attempts during the 1980s to develop the property, Halcyon remains completely derelict to this day; aside from the creatures living within the trees that twine in and out of its walls and roof.
Chateau Miranda, also known as Noisy Castle, is a 19th century castle in Celles, Belgium. The castle is located in the Ardennes region, famous for its pate of course!
Chateau Miranda: Overgrown. Eerie. Abandoned.
Built in 1866 by an English architect named Milder, displaying a beautiful Scottish Gothic style, Chateau Miranda was the new family home of the Liedekerke-Beaufort family. The family had fled their previous home, Veves Castle, during the French Revolution (it was either flee or face the guillotine, and nobody wanted that!).
The descendants of the Liedekerke-Beaufort family remained in occupation of the chateau until the outbreak of the Second World War, where it was taken over by the National Railway Company of Belgium (NMBS) as an orphanage. It remained a facility for the use of children until 1980.
Sadly, this beautiful structure has stood empty since 1991. The municipality of Celles has offered to take over and make the necessary renovations, however the family has refused, and now the enormous building is now in a derelict state. It has since become a favourite venue of urban explorers.
Pithirtsi Castle was commissioned by the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth’s Grand Crown Hetman Stanislaw Koniecpolski in 1635 and building took five years to complete. The castle was then part of the Kingdom of Poland. It was widely regarded as the finest palace in the eastern borderlands of the former Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.
Pidhirtsi Castle: If it’s going cheap, I’ll buy it!
The castle has a colourful past. In 1648, it was victim of a failed attack by Ukranian Cossacks during the Khmelnytskyi Uprising. Three years later, the Cossacks returned and failed again. Pidhirtsi was fortified and strengthened, enabling the structure to resist numerous Tatar and Turkish assaults that took place during the late 17th century.
During the 17th century, improvements were made to the estate; including the addition of a church, a theatre and a complete third floor. Following the Partition of Poland in 1772, the castle became part of Austria; precious collections were partially auctioned by the Austrian-imposed administrator, and the grand interior was badly damaged.
In the summer of 1915, the Pidhirsti estate became headquarters of the Fifth Austrian-Hungarian Corps. As it was located near the front line, the threat of destruction by Russian artillery was real. Russian soldiers destroyed its interior after taking over the castle. The castle was further damaged during the Polish-Soviet War.
In February 1956, the castle almost completely burnt down, in a devastating fire that lasted for three weeks, leaving almost $12 million worth of damage. When the Ukraine regained its independence from the Soviet Union, there were plans to re-vamp Pidhirtsi and turn the buildings into a presidential residence. Currently, The Lviv Gallery of Arts is trying to restore the castle; however, restoration work is slow due to lack of funding.