Living: Next, the Stately Subdivision

In Palm Beach, white elephants produce million-dollar babies

The grand old mansions of America—hundreds of them—face the fate of all overblown and ultimately functionless creations, from Tyrannosaurus rex to Versailles. What to do with these residential relicts, some of them irreplaceable architectural treasures? European governments give their stateliest homes sociological security, with grants and tax concessions for their upkeep and public visitation. In the U.S., where the authorities can at best bestow landmark status on a white elephant, few inheritors can afford to inhabit one. Many great houses, from Rhode Island's Shadow Farm Estate to Chicago's Patterson McCormick manse, are being carved...

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