The dream of the self-built home has yielded many a curious structure, but few have sustained the strange aura and the clout of the miraculous Smith Mansion in Wapiti Valley, Wyoming. The monstrous inhabitable collage assembled single-handedly by local legend Francis Lee Smith has its own set of tales as tall as its rickety wooden lookout tower. Staggering pagoda-like rooftops and what the New York Times described eloquently as “writhing balustrades of warped pine” paint stories of a raving madman, who some believe erected the hilltop house as precaution for a falsely impending volcano eruption and others believe were merely making a twisted vision into reality. You want the truth? Read on.
The truth is, Francis Lee Smith was an engineer and family man, whose “original intent was to build a home for his family, and it just took on a life of its own,” explained Smith’s daughter Sunny Larsen to the Times. The whimsical dream eventually took his life; in 1992, more than a dozen years after construction began, Smith fell to his death from one of the mansion’s balcony, and the house was sapped of its organic energy.
According to Larsen, Smith Mansion took on an eerie “sinister air” ever since its builder left it incomplete. The puzzle of misshapen spaces and mismatched woodwork quickly fell into disrepair, like Howl’s Moving Castle robbed of its soul. Now, Larsen is trying to raise money to save this fascinating relic of her childhood. To learn more about the house and the restoration, visit SmithMansion.org.
[All photos via The New York Times]