The Rigel Estate

Rigel Mansion, from the north. June 25, 2000

    June 4, 2000, I'm in the NY Times for an article on documenting abandoned buildings. Later that week, I get a message on the answering machine from a guy named Pat in Hartsdale, he must have gone out of his way to find my number. "There's this abandoned mansion, right where you would never think to look," he says. "It's going to be torn down any day now."

    Actually, I had always suspected something existed in the woods there, just north of Woodlands High School, and directly across the road from Maria Regina High School. I just never took up the hunch to explore. Newspaper articles discussing the property transitions there mentioned an old estate, but never said whether anything still stood or not. Good thing Pat called me, because a month later, the house came down. Thanks, Pat =))

    The 1930 G.M. Hopkins Atlas of Westchester County shows a 24.87 acre plot belonging to John N. Rigel, with six buildings and maybe a well. It's possible he may have had a small gentleman's farm, in the neighborhood known as "Columbia Heights." The house did not appear to be much older than the early 1900s, and from what I could tell, it had elements of the Shingle style, with brick and stone ornamentation. My first, and only, visit came in late June, and the house was about 90% overgrown. I hoped to get some shots in the fall, when the leaves would be dead and gone by then. I went on vacation in July, and when I got back, the house and garage were demolished. The local fire department used the house for training exercises before it came down for good.

Rigel Mansion, front (west) door. June 25, 2000

    The house appeared to be abandoned for at least ten years. It had been completely gutted of furnishings, excepting the bathrooms. The only relic to be found was a 1988 phone book. The entrance foyer was spacious, with a ceiling of maybe 25-30 feet? A long chain dangled down, it probably held a fancy chandelier in its day. Some of the balustrades inside were missing, but there was not much vandalism. Maybe a standard "F#%! You" spray painted here and there, but that's about it. It actually seemed to be one of the less exciting abandoned houses I had been in. But still cool nonetheless. The property was cleared for the construction of the Solomon Schechter School, a private Jewish insitution. It's a shame the house had to come down, because it was one of the more intact abandoned houses I have been in.

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