We’ll Never Know Why the Bells Mansion Was Abandoned

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Woman exploring abandoned Bell's Mansion

Some of the most mysterious and exciting spots to visit are the many abandoned locations across the country. The abandoned Bells Mansion is one of those locations that once stood in beauty and majesty. However, if you were to visit today, you’d find the crumbling and deteriorating remains of a property that has seen better days.

Today, we’re digging into the fascinating story of the Bells Mansion going from a dream home to shambles. Let’s take a look!

What Is the Bells Mansion? 

Bells Mansion is an abandoned mansion constructed in 1876 for lawyer and copper magnate Theodore M. Davis. Many refer to the abandoned Bells Mansion simply as “The Bells.” However, “The Reefs” was its initial name.

The mansion sits in New Jersey’s Brenton Point State Park, which the state started in the mansion’s centennial year of 1976. It’s a popular spot for locals who enjoy hiking, fishing, and bird watching. In addition, the ocean views are spectacular and provide the perfect view to enjoy a snack or relax.

During its prime, the mansion contained artwork, artifacts, and priceless pieces from Egypt and many of Davis’ adventures worldwide. Upon his death in 1915, he left his entire collection of rare paintings and artifacts to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. 

Where Is the Bells Mansion?

The Bells is in Brenton Point State Park, which is in Newport, R.I. It is the southeast corner of the state, and the area has an incredible view of the Atlantic Ocean.

While the mansion may have a view worth millions, history and a hurricane weren’t kind to it. As a result, it’s worth a fraction of what it could have been if the owners hadn’t abandoned it decades ago.

Traveler’s Tip: You’ll love exploring these Hidden Gems to Visit in These 5 New Jersey State Parks.

What Is the History of the Bells Mansion? 

Despite the current appearance of the abandoned Bells Mansion, it was the definition of luxury at one point. Theodore M. Davis used his massive bank account to construct his dream home in 1876. However, upon his death in 1915, his family sold the mansion to Milton J. Budlong and his wife, Jessie.

The couple lived in the mansion together for 13 years. However, the couple went through a nasty divorce in 1928. The federal government eventually seized the land in 1941 during World War II to construct a defense battery.

Once the war had finished, the government gave the land back to the Budlongs in 1946. However, the Budlongs, for reasons we’ll never know, walked away from the land and left it to rot.

A fire ripped through the property in 1960 and destroyed nearly everything. A couple of years later, the massive mansion was torn down. The only remaining structures from The Bells were the carriage house and a bungalow.

The State of Rhode Island took over possession of the property in 1969. The state classified it as an “open space property” and eventually converted it into a state park in 1976. It has been serving the state and guests since. 

Woman sitting in abandoned Bells Mansion

Why Was the Bells Mansion Abandoned?

The reasons for the Budlongs abandoning the property are unclear. However, there are many speculations that the 1928 divorce had something to do with it. It was a very nasty and messy one between the two.

Jessie passed away on October 12, 1935, and Milton on July 5, 1941. This was a couple of years before the federal government returned the property to the family. The heirs to the fortune likely wanted nothing to do with the land. As a result, it sat abandoned for over 20 years before the State of Rhode Island got involved and eventually made it a state park.

Can You Visit the Bells Mansion?

What remains of the Bells mansion is now Brenton Point State Park. The park is open to the public and has no admission or parking fees.

However, the carriage house and many remaining structures have been fenced off and are off-limits. Rangers regularly patrol this area as it has been a target of vandalism over the years. In addition, there have been several unapproved large parties that have taken place at the abandoned property.

The park allows guests to use the property’s observation tower, which is in excellent condition. This provides an incredible view of the property and what remains of The Bells. On a clear day, you can even spot the ocean over the top of the massive trees and thick forests that have matured since the creation of the property.

Traveler’s Tip: While in New Jersey take some time to Hike the Actual Stairway to Heaven.

Interior of abandoned Bells Mansion

Who Owns the Bells Mansion Now? 

The State of Rhode Island took over ownership and management of Bells Mansion and the property. The property falls under the Rhode Island State Parks division. As a result, rangers frequently patrol all 89 acres of the property to ensure that guests follow the rules and respect the property. 

The state park has become popular for picnicking, birding, fishing, and hiking. In addition, guests can enjoy one of the best ocean views in the entire state.

Would you ever visit the Bells Mansion?

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