With six floors, 40 rooms, 36 fireplaces and 54,246 square feet of living space, Searles Castle in East Barrington is by far Massachusetts' largest home. Built back in 1885 as a "Berkshire Cottage" for an extremely wealthy railroad widow, the enormous estate has plenty of fancy features and scandalous secrets.

For years this massive mansion wouldn't have made the cut as the largest private residence in the state. In fact, it's only been a private home for less than 50 years of its existence, making it practically new for the current owner.

So what is the story behind Searles Castle?

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Searles Castle's Storied Past

For starters, it was never meant to be "Searles" Castle. Originally known as Kellogg Terrace, the home was commissioned for Mary Sherwood Hopkins by her husband Mark Hopkins, treasurer and one of the founders of Central Pacific Railroad.

Sadly Mr. Hopkins passed away in 1878 before construction ever began on the home and Mrs. Hopkins went on to finish the project with Edward Francis Searles, the designer of the home's interior.

The widow Hopkins and Mr. Searles spent a lot of time (and money) designing this home and although she was 22 years older than the designer, the pair ultimately married in 1887 and the home was renamed Barrington House.

Searles Castle

Many of course believed Searles married Hopkins for her $40 million fortune ($830 million in today's money) and her part ownership of the Central Pacific Railroad, so when Mrs. Hopkins-Searles passed away in 1891, the rumor mill in East Barrington was fired up.

Many blamed Searles for his wife's death and stories that he carried on an affair with a house servant started making the rounds. The tale was that Searles and the servant used secret staircases and passageways to meet up around the mansion, all while Mrs. Hopkins remained ill and bedridden.

Many even talked of the servant dying in a "mysterious accident" shortly after Mrs. Hopkins and that both women's ghosts haunt the house to this day.

Searles was even said to haunt the house after his death, though he would go on to pass in 1920 at his second Searles Castle, also known as Dupont Castle, in Methuen. The man even used his former wife's money to build a third Searles Castle in Windham, NH, which today is a very popular wedding venue.

Searles Castle Becomes a Home Again

Yet for the insane amounts of money used to build and decorate this house, it was sold for pennies on the dollar after Searles' death to the Barrington School for Girls. They shut down in 1950 and sold the mansion for just $100,000 to J.J. Joyce, who basically flipped the property to the Home Insurance Company and it became a conference center.

By the mid-1980s it was the John Dewey Academy, a therapeutic boarding school for "trouble teens." The school faced many accusations of abuse over the years and at the end of the 2021 school year, they were closed for good with the house back on the market.

Perhaps surprisingly, that is when the house became a home again. American painter Hunt Slonem bought the estate in July 2021 for a reported $3.25 million. That is barely 2% of the cost of the original building and decorating this Gilded Age mansion.

Clearly, Slonem knew he got a rare real estate deal and as he told The Berkshire Eagle,  "I’ve admired [the castle] forever, and I’m thrilled to turn it back into what I can."

Though we may never get to see what updates Slonem brings to this house, we can see the state it was in when he bought it.

See Inside the Largest Residence in Massachusetts

Despite its scandalous past and time as a private school, Searles Castle in Great Barrington is once again a private residence and at over 50,000 square feet it is by far the largest residence in all of Massachusetts.
Scroll through to see inside this marvel of a home built back in 1887.

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