The Withybrook shrunken medieval settlement dates back to the 12th century. One of the earliest structures, the All Saints’ Church, was restored in 1995. The area is deserted; however, it contains significant ancient monuments and is protected under the British Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act of 1979. It is also privately owned. The owners were recently fined £160,000 pounds for unauthorized destruction.
Withybrook is located in Warwickshire, England. Government documents show that people inhabited the area as far back as 1188. The area is now deserted and co-owned by mother and daughter, Heather and Elizabeth Mac. Along with Heather’s husband, John, they began excavating an area by ripping out plants, grading the land, and installing plumbing. The intent was to set up a yard for horses to graze. All of the work was unauthorized. The family were issued several warnings. They refused to stop.
Community residents appealed to the government. The Warwick Crown Court issued £160,000 pounds in fines and court fees. The Court cited the family’s lack of remorse for the high fines. They have until September to pay or face up to 14 months in jail.
Historically designated sites are important. The designations ensure preservation of culturally significant properties. Owners are well educated in the laws and know what can and cannot be done. Any changes must be approved by governing bodies. Although the Mac family are probably not the only people to commit heritage crimes, they received some of the highest fines known.
The Wyckoff Villa is not haunted. Further, stating that it is hasn’t help sell it. The abandoned structure has been on the real estate market since 2012, and still, no one bites.
Less than a mile south of the Canadian border sits Carleton Island. The island sits within a chain of islands in the St. Lawrence River known collectively as Thousand Islands. Accessible only by boat, the island has three burial grounds and 34 homes. The most infamous home is Wyckoff Villa, also known as Carleton Island Villa.
Wyckoff Villa was intended to join the ranks of other stately mansions on the other islands. Architect William Henry Miller designed the 15,000 square foot home, and building commenced in 1894. The owner was former Union Captain William Ozmun Wyckoff. Wyckoff returned from the Civil War to become a lawyer and court stenographer. Through the stenographer’s job, Wyckoff learned about a new invention: the typewriter.
The first commercially successful typewriters were sold by E. Remington and Sons in 1874. William Wyckoff began selling the typewriters on a part-time basis, eventually leaving his court-appointed stenographer position to form the Wyckoff, Seamans & Benedict company. In 1886, Remington sold the entire typewriter division to Wyckoff, Seamans & Benedict, and William became the company president. Wyckoff became a typewriter tycoon.
Shortly thereafter, Wyckoff and his wife, Frances Valeria Ives Wyckoff, began searching for a location to build a summer home. They settled on Carleton Island.
However, tragedy would follow. Construction progressed through 1894 and into 1895. A month before the home was ready, Mrs. Wyckoff died. On June 1, 1895, Frances died from either cancer or a heart attack (depending on the source). William moved into the enormous home on July 11th. He suffered a heart attack that very night and died.
No one would reside in the home again. The 11-bedroom, 50 room home sits on 6.9 acres. General Electric purchased the land, seeking to demolish the home and build a corporate resort. World War II placed the development on hold, eventually tanking the project entirely in the 1940s, when the company gutted the interior. Fixtures and material were stripped from inside. In fact, the marble underneath the 5-story tower was removed, thus causing the structure to become structurally unsound. The tower was eventually torn down.
The current owners have marketed the home as a tear-down (versus a fixer-upper as it would cost a reported $10-15 million) with the waterfront land sub-divided for future homes. The realtor receives weekly enquires; however, no one seems to want to purchase. Some media sites have labeled the villa as haunted.
The villa is not haunted. There isn’t one credible story claiming that the house is haunted. It has been described as creepy and spooky, which may be the case, but there aren’t any reliable stories showing evidence that the villa is haunted. Here, the lack of evidence is clear.
What is not clear is why no one has purchased the lot with the villa or any of the other lots. The price tag may be a reason; it is listed for $495,000. Or it may be that there aren’t any year-round residents or paved roads.
According to Airbnb, novelty lodgings are up 70%. Seems people want to spend the night in odd locations. Beginning next month, travelers can stay at the iconic Lucy the Elephant.
Lucy’s story is complicated. Lucy was built in 1881 by James V. Lafferty in Margate City, New Jersey. Her designs are even patented. In 1902, a family of 6 rented her for their home. They renovated her interior and added a second floor. Unfortunately, she endured natural disasters and abandonment.
Lucy the Elephant became a roadside American attraction. In 1969, Lucy was slated for demolition but salvaged by a group of local residents. By 1970, the Save Lucy Committee, LLC was formed, and Lucy was saved. She moved to a city-owned property and restored. Over 132,000 tourists visit her annually. Now she has become an Airbnb listing.
Through a partnership with Airbnb, which provided a generous donation as well as furnishing the interior, and the Save Lucy Committee, tourists may book overnight stays within her belly. The cost of $138 per night denotes her age. The price includes a gift certificate to a local restaurant for dinner, breakfast, and a mobile bathroom parked beside her.
Lucy truly is an iconic piece of Americana. In addition, she is designated as a National Historic Landmark. Although Lucy is not haunted, she makes for an interesting destination. Bookings begin March 5th. For more information, visit airbnb.com/lucy.
A story is making the Internet rounds claiming that Comfort Station No. 1 in downtown St. Petersburg, Florida is haunted. It’s not. However, its lack of ghosts should not detract from the stunning architecture that makes it one of the most beautiful and historic public restrooms in the United States.
St. Petersburg experienced large tourism in the 1920s. Hotel construction rose as people came to enjoy the warm winter weather. Architects drew inspiration from Europe building such historic hotels as The Hotel Cordova (1921), the Don CeSar Hotel (1928), and the Vinoy Park Hotel (1925). Shortly after designing the Vinoy, architect Henry L. Taylor (1884-1958) designed Comfort Station No. 1.
At the corner of 2nd Avenue and Bayshore Drive North sits an 8-sided brick building. Topped with Spanish tiles, the octagonal structure is modeled after the Lombardy Romanesque style. Although this is not Taylor’s most important architectural feat, it is one of his most debated.
Bids were taken in March 1927, with permits and construction commencing by the summer. It reportedly cost $16,000 and was completed and operational by May 10, 1928 when a Lost and Found ad ran in the St. Petersburg Times. Ironically, the person who ran the ad found a Masonic ring at the station. The February 1929 issue of The American City praised the facility—both functionally and aesthetically.
Urban legends continue to swirl. The first claimed that Taylor built the facility to resemble St. Mary Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church, situated at 515 4th Street South. Both structures are octagonal and share similar features. The story further claims that Taylor took umbrage to being shorted on the church project and designed the restrooms as an insult. This is factually incorrect. The bathroom was designed and built before the church, where construction began in 1929. Several newspaper articles, namely the September 9, 1992 St. Petersburg Times article, dispels this rumor.
Comfort Station No. 1 is sometimes called “Little St. Mary’s” or “St. Mary’s Comfort Station.” These are tributes to the similarities between the restroom and the church. While Taylor left no indication as to his reasoning on the design, some postulate that the restroom was a prototype for the large Byzantine style church.
One online tale also claims that Taylor himself haunts the station. Hardly. He built larger, more glamourous buildings to spend eternity.
Another Internet story refers to an elderly woman named “Agnes” who chats ladies up at the sink. After hours searching several online databases, I was unable to find an elderly woman who was alive in the 1930s (she reportedly was wearing clothes of that period) who died around the pier. Using a preconceived old-fashioned name doesn’t make the story true.
The comfort station sits along the retaining wall at the entrance to Pier Approach Park. Over the decades, the park consisted of several large piers: The Railroad Pier (1889); The Pier Pavilion (1895); The Electric Pier (1906); The Million Dollar Pier (1926); and The Inverted Pyramid Pier (1973). Engineers grew concerned by the saltwater erosion on the pilings; therefore, the pier is undergoing another rebuild/renovation.
There are numerous reasons why people hear sounds in the comfort station. First of all: it’s an oversized bathroom. The water lapping against the seawall also creates sounds. Hide tide, low tide; they all make waves. Boats entering/leaving the yacht basin. Acoustics against the tiles. Wildlife hovering about or scurrying underneath. In addition, fog and mist are frequent weather occurrences. Not one tale references actual investigations conducted to debunk.
Historic and old buildings are not necessarily haunted. I’ve visited this location numerous times (I used to live 16 blocks from here and would walk to the park). Never did I have an experience. Further, never did I hear about experiences. Visit Comfort Station No. 1 and reflect on a time when motorists did not have public conveniences and the one progressive city that took up matters by erecting a classic pit stop.