60-Room White Elephant Trumpets Again

 by Mitchell Owens, from The New York Times, July 6, 1996

Advertisements for-fixer-uppers beckon with primordial force:  an abandoned house, a low price tag, the promise of getting something great for nothing much.

            Steven Naifeh, 43, and Gregory White Smith, 44, felt that seductive gravitational pull in 1989 while sitting in a sunless, back-of-the-building two-bedroom apartment in the El Dorado on Central Park West.  On a break from writing the final chapters of a biography of Jackson Pollock that would win them a Pulitzer Prize in 1991, they held a real estate brochure in their hands offering a white elephant par excellence:  Joye Cottage in Aiken, S.C., reputedly the biggest house in the state, located 17 miles northeast of Augusta, Ga.

            A 60-room behemoth long owned by New York’s millionaire Whitney clan and partly designed by Carrere & Hastings, the architects of the New York Public Library on Fifth Avenue, it was glamorous, historically significant-and too good to be true.

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Aerial view of the cottage

An aerial view of Joye Cottage

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