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    See inside the McNeal Mansion, an abandoned 10,000-square-foot home from the 1800s that nature is reclaiming

    The McNeal Mansion is somehow still standing after decades of neglect.

    Richard Lewis Photography

    The McNeal Mansion in Burlington, New Jersey, is a ghost of its former grandeur.
    The 10,000-square-foot abandoned mansion was damaged over the years by fires and nature taking over.
    The decrepit property was captured in a photo series by photographer Richard Lewis.

    When the McNeal Mansion was built in 1890 as a family home for New Jersey industrialist Andrew McNeal, it was one of the grandest in the area.

    Today, the large 10,000-square-foot home in Burlington, New Jersey, is barely standing.

    New Jersey-based photographer Richard Lewis explored and photographed the crumbling mansion in 2016.

    He got into taking photos of run-down buildings after hearing that an abandoned Nike missile site near his home was going to be demolished for a housing development, “and decided someone had to photograph it for the record,” he told Business Insider in 2021.

    “I thought, I now have a reason to photograph these abandoned buildings, and it’s to honor and preserve that history. A lot of these abandoned places that aren’t in great shape are eventually going to disappear,” he continued.

    Depending on their size, restoration projects like the McNeal Mansion can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, but many abandoned buildings are beyond repair, despite efforts to revitalize them and repurpose them into functional homes or businesses.

    In 2016, the city of Burlington purchased the McNeal Mansion for $1.49 million, with plans to convert part of the property into a restaurant, the Burlington County Times reported. However, the plans were never completed, and the mansion has been left to decay ever since.

    Here’s a look inside the crumbling McNeal Mansion, which is a ghost of its former grandeur. 

    A version of this story was first published in 2021. It was updated in July 2024.

    Andrew McNeal was well known for founding a pipe plant and foundry, the McNeal Pike and Foundry Company, in 1866.The McNeal Mansion in Burlington, New Jersey.

    Richard Lewis Photography

    Using the wealth he acquired from his successful company, McNeal built a large mansion along the bank of the Delaware River.

    The United States Cast Iron Pipe and Foundry Company, now known simply as US Pipe, purchased McNeal’s company in 1899.The third-floor interior of the McNeal Mansion in Burlington, New Jersey.

    Richard Lewis Photography

    The conglomerate also bought the mansion and began using the massive home as the company’s headquarters.

    Andrew McNeal was the first and only person to call the mansion their home.A hallway inside the McNeal Mansion in Burlington, New Jersey.

    Richard Lewis Photography

    Following his departure from the mansion, the property was used for corporate reasons.

    The pipe company moved its headquarters to Alabama in 1953, leaving the mansion abandoned.Inside the McNeal Mansion in Burlington, New Jersey.

    Richard Lewis Photography

    “It’s an odd building, because even though it was originally a mansion it became a company headquarters later on with office space,” Lewis said. “In the center, it looks very ornate and decorative, but when you look at the wings they look very strange because they’re just these big open spaces. Knowing the history really helped me photograph it.”

    The home was left to rot for years until the company sold the derelict property to the municipality in 1975, according to the Burlington County Times.

    Several property developers have taken an interest in the mansion over the years, but their plans have fallen through.A section of the third floor inside the McNeal Mansion in Burlington, New Jersey.

    Richard Lewis Photography

    According to the Burlington County Times, one developer even purchased the home in 1987 with plans to convert it into a conference center, hotel, and restaurant. However, those plans never came to fruition, and the property was bought and resold multiple times.

    Parts of the mansion were destroyed by a fire in 2001.Burned remains of the McNeal Mansion in Burlington, New Jersey.

    LSG Adventures/YouTube

    However, much of the original structure was still standing as of 2016.

    There were more fires at the property in 2021, according to a local news station. Two buildings were destroyed and two further buildings were damaged in the incidents, but the main building was not affected, CBS News reported.

    In 2016, the city of Burlington purchased the mansion with plans to convert part of the property into a restaurant.A view of the third floor inside the McNeal Mansion in Burlington, New Jersey.

    Richard Lewis Photography

    “There’s a lot of interest. It really has the potential to be something interesting,” Jim Kennedy, the city’s economic development and redevelopment consultant, told the Burlington County Times at the time.

    It was during a trip to a test run of the restaurant concept that local photographer Richard Lewis said he was first intrigued by the historic property.An incomplete outdoor dining space outside the McNeal Mansion in Burlington, New Jersey.

    Richard Lewis Photography

    When developers opened up a bar and restaurant on the deck to raise some money for the restoration, Lewis visited with his wife and spotted the mansion from where they were sitting. 

    Lewis, who said he had a “great relationship” with the city manager, asked about the property and potentially photographing it.

    “He said that a historian had come and taken photos of it on their cell phone, but didn’t even want to go inside,” Lewis told Business Insider. “Since he knew I was insured, he said if I could sign a liability waiver he would give me free access to the place. I was allowed to go in there and spend as much time as I wanted taking photos, as long as I shared those images with the city and the Burlington County Historical Society.”

    But the mansion is collapsing in on itself, which makes it a dangerous place for “urban explorers” and trespassers.A doorway inside the McNeal Mansion in Burlington, New Jersey.

    Richard Lewis Photography

    Lewis said that, over the years, he’s learned it’s important to get a lay of the land beforehand and watch where you walk.

    “The McNeal mansion is a stone building, so structurally it’s relatively sound,” he said. “In a lot of other abandoned buildings with wood frames, I won’t step where there’s just floor out of fear I’ll fall through it.”

    Safety was of the utmost importance for Lewis when photographing the McNeal Mansion — as was gaining permission to be there in the first place.The attic of the McNeal Mansion in Burlington, New Jersey.

    Richard Lewis Photography

    Lewis said he’ll wear a respirator, a hard hat, and steel-toed boots to protect himself should anything go awry while he’s photographing abandoned properties like the McNeal Mansion. He also lets the local police department know where he is and how long he’ll be there.

    “When you share your images on social media, you’re automatically identified with what they call the ‘urban ex’ crowd,” he told Business Insider. “I’m big on getting permission, and by doing so you get a good reputation for the work that you do. You get to the point where people come to you and ask you to photograph places.”

    He found a property that has become damaged, possibly beyond repair, over the years due to fire damage and neglect.The McNeal Mansion is somehow still standing after decades of neglect.

    Richard Lewis Photography

    “I was surprised by how devastated the place was,” Lewis said. “The McNeal Mansion was one of the most devastated buildings I’ve ever seen.”

    Lewis described the property as “total devastation” and looking like “part of a war zone.”An office space inside the McNeal Mansion in Burlington, New Jersey.

    Richard Lewis Photography

    “Despite all of this ornate woodwork, there was nothing restorable,” he said. “On the other hand, I was surprised by how much was still there. Inside and out, the building was solid stone. As devastated as it was, it was still standing.”

    Plans for developing the property seem to have stalled indefinitely, and officials are now urging people not to visit without permission or professional guidance.The front parlor of the McNeal Mansion in Burlington, New Jersey.

    Richard Lewis Photography

    “Anyone caught on the property will be charged and will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” police Chief Alan Snow told the Burlington County Times in 2017.

    “Trespassing on the McNeal Mansion is a very serious issue concerning public safety,” he continued. “They’re very dangerous properties. There are holes inside of these buildings, where you could drop a couple of floors at a time. There’s sharp iron around the buildings. If someone were to trip, they could be seriously hurt.”

    The opulent home also has a separate carriage house, which has also fallen into disrepair.A view from a window inside the McNeal Mansion in Burlington, New Jersey.

    Richard Lewis Photography

    The entire property has become reclaimed by nature, with debris and moss intruding into most rooms.

    Despite its derelict state, you can still catch a glimpse of what it might have looked like over a century ago.A hallway inside the McNeal Mansion in Burlington, New Jersey.

    Richard Lewis Photography

    Lewis said he was surprised to find that although the roof had been damaged and was caving in in some areas, much of it was still intact when he photographed the mansion in 2016.

    However, he explained that, as of 2021, most of the roof is now gone due to damage from fires at the property.

    The home still has some of its original grand features.A fireplace inside the McNeal Mansion in Burlington, New Jersey.

    Richard Lewis Photography

    Fireplaces and arched doorways can be found throughout the property.

    Perhaps the best way to honor and remember the historic McNeal Mansion — at least, for now — is to look at photographs of the property.Abandoned signs inside the McNeal Mansion in Burlington, New Jersey.

    Richard Lewis Photography

    “I found my creative voice while photographing these abandoned properties,” Lewis said. “I realized that this is not just local history, but it’s New Jersey history, and needs to be preserved. Even though they’ve tried to restore the home, it’s slated for demolition at this point.”

    Despite being a shell of its former grandeur, the home is somehow still standing after decades of neglect.A large room inside the McNeal Mansion in Burlington, New Jersey.

    Richard Lewis Photography

    After multiple fires, the home is now seemingly up for grabs again for developers who want to restore the property or simply demolish it.

    “To my knowledge, the mansion is at the point now where you can’t walk inside or you’ll fall through the floors,” Lewis said. “The roof is completely caved in … even though it was once a beautiful structure, it’s in really terrible shape.”

    Read the original article on Business Insider

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