Stranger Than Truth! Hey, You Could Look It Up


Some oddities from the world of real estate:

According to Guinness Book of Records, the title for the world’s longest continuous house construction belongs to the Winchester House in San Jose, which took 38 years to build.

The original eight-room house was built on the 161-acre estate of Oliver Fisher Winchester, the arms manufacturer whose reliable repeating rifles and pistols were popular with state militias during the Civil War.

But when Oliver died in 1886, his widow, Sarah, was told by a Boston psychic that the only way she could make up for all those killed by Winchester firearms would be to never stop construction on the estate. So off she went, dutifully turning the place into a mansion.


A Job Never Done

When she was done, it had 13 bathrooms, 52 skylights, 47 fireplaces, 10,000 windows, 40 staircases, 2,000 doorways and closets opening into blank walls, secret passageways, trap doors and three $10,000 elevators.

* Guinness doesn’t list the record for fastest home building job. But near as I can tell, the record was set in 1980 in Phoenix, when a 1,800-square-foot house was erected in a mere 19 hours and 37 minutes.

* The largest house ever built in America is the 250-room Biltmore House in Asheville, N.C. It was built by George Washington Vanderbilt at a cost of $4.4 million between 1890 and 1895. But that’s when it was surrounded by 119,000 acres. Today, with only 12,000 acres, it is valued at $5.5 million.

* The most expensive private house ever built was William Randolph Hearst’s San Simeon, which cost $30 million. The mansion has more than 130 rooms, a 104-foot-long heated pool, an 83-foot-long assembly hall and a garage for 25 limousines.

* The world’s largest “non-palatial residence” is St. Emmeram Castle in Regensburg, Germany. The 231,000-square-foot castle has 517 rooms--only 95 are used today--and is valued at $177 million.

* The largest palace is even larger, though. The Imperial Palace in Beijing covers 178 acres.

* The largest occupied palace belongs to the Sultan of Brunei. Completed in 1984 at a reported cost of $350 million, it has 1,788 rooms, 257 bathrooms and underground parking for the sultan’s 110 automobiles.


* The world’s largest hotel is the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, with 5,009 rooms. To spend a night in each room would take 13.7 years.

* But the hotel doesn’t have the largest gambling casino. That title belongs to Foxwoods Resort in Ledyard, Conn. The resort’s 193,000-square-foot gaming area holds 3,854 slot machines, 234 table games and 3,500 bingo seats.

* The world’s largest shopping center, the $1.1 billion West Edmonton Mall in Alberta, Canada, covers 5.2 million square feet on a 121-acre site. It has more than 800 stores, including 11 major department stores and parking for 20,000 cars.

About 500,000 shoppers visit the center every week, but that’s only about two-thirds of the visitors who come to the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minn., the largest shopping center and entertainment complex in the United States. It has only 4.2 million square feet and just 350 stores.


* The largest open stadium is Maracana Municipal Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, which holds 205,000, about twice as many as Michigan Football Stadium in Ann Arbor, the largest open stadium in this country.

* Virginia Hopkins Phillips of Onancock, Va., holds the title of the world’s “most durable resident,” according to Guinness. Phillips lived in the same house from her birth in 1891 until a few months before her death in 1993--102 years.

* Bryan Berg of Spirit Lake, Iowa, built the world’s tallest house of cards, 83 decks high--16 feet--in March 1995, breaking his own record of 81 stories set three years earlier.

* The tallest structure is a television transmitting tower near Fargo, N.D. It stands 2,063 feet--nearly one-half mile--high and was built in just 30 days by 11 workers.


* The tallest Lego tower is a 72-foot job built in 1994 in Luxembourg.

* The largest office building, according to Guinness, is the World Trade Center, a seven-building complex with 12 million square feet of rentable space, including 4.37 million--about 10 acres--in each of the famous twin towers.

* The Pentagon is the world’s largest administrative structure. Each of the outermost sides is 921 feet long, and the building’s perimeter is about 4,610 feet. It has five floors with a total floor area of 149.2 acres.

Commercial Biggies


The largest commercial buildings are the flower auction building Bloemenveiling Aalsmeer in Aalsmeer, Netherlands, and Boeing’s main assembly plant in Everett, Wash. The floor surface of the Netherlands structure measures 7.6 million square feet, while the Boeing plant has 472 million cubic feet of space on 1,025 acres.

* The container freight station in Hong Kong is the largest industrial building. It has 9.3 million square feet on 15 levels, and the entire area of each floor is directly accessible by 46-foot container trucks. The building includes nearly 17 miles of roadway.

* The world’s largest sanitary landfill is Reclamation Plant No. 1 in Staten Island, N.Y. According to Guinness, the facility covers 3,000 acres and processes about 14,000 tons of waste a day, six days a week.



Distributed by United Feature Syndicate.