Ward is interested in all things travel and runs the Castles in America website. He's also currently working on a fantasy novel.
A Mega Mansion in Progress
In the shadow of the Magic Kingdom in Disneyworld is the biggest single-family residence in America. It’s called simply Versailles, and as the name implies, it takes inspiration from the Palace of Versailles in Paris. Actually, it takes more than an inspiration, according to David Siegel, the builder and owner of this mega-home, he loved the Palace of Versailles so much, he decided to take the top most portion of the Palace of the Sun Kings and plop down a replica of it in Windermere, FL!
Everything about this palace is positively over the top. Versailles sits on a 10 acre waterfront estate with views of Lake Butler. A man-made hill was constructed for the mega mansion to be situated on and the grounds will have a gate house, two tennis courts, a baseball field, formal gardens, and five pools. No wood will be found in the exterior as the entire 90,000 square feet of this monster mega-home will be encased in concrete and then cladded with Italian Pavonazzo white marble. The front doors will be 20 feet high and made of the last Brazilian mahogany available for sale . . . a product now banned because it’s wood cut from the Brazilian rainforest.
What do you do with 90,000 square feet? As David Seigel’s wife Jackie, a former Ms. Florida, puts it, they were “running out of space for all of my ideas.” Versailles will include 13 bedrooms, 30 bathrooms, two movie theaters — a movie theater for adults modeled after the Paris Opera House and one for the kids, thirty car garage, two elevators, an indoor swimming pool; a bowling alley; an indoor roller rink that was originally planned to be an ice skating rink; staff quarters for the help; a video arcade; a 20,000 bottle wine cellar (“I don’t even like wine,” says David Siegel); an exotic fish aquarium room curated by SeaWorld; and a fitness center with a 10,000 square foot spa area. Whew. There’s even a four-story ballroom with capacity for 500–1,000 guests along with two twin staircases descending onto the floor with a balcony overlooking the entirety of the ballroom.
And don’t forget the master bedroom. It’ll be 4,000 square feet with a living room not including the guest suites and 1,500 square foot walk in closet! In a 90,000 square foot home, it’ll be easy to lose the kids, Jackie Siegel laments as they already are forced to use cell phones to find each other in their current 26,000 square foot home while Versailles is under construction.
The longest under construction home in the Orlando area with construction still ongoing as of 2020, this dizzying mega mansion came into prominence in the 2012 documentary Queen of Versailles. The movie documents the life of the surprisingly endearing Siegel family: David, Jackie, and their eight children but before you think it’s all sunshine and roses, the movie is a “rags to riches to rags tale” when the Siegels were especially hard hit by the Great Recession. David Siegel gained his fortune in the time share business. Called the “timeshare king,” his company Westgate Resorts operates 28 full-service timeshare resorts located in tourist hot spots like Gatlinburg, TN, Park City, UT, Branson, MO, and of course, in the Orlando area where the original Westgate Resorts originated. The crown jewel of Siegel’s empire was supposed to be the PH (Planet Hollywood) Towers Westgate, a 52-story tower on the Las Vegas Strip, but the mortgage crisis especially hit the timeshare industry hard. By the end of the movie, Siegel and his family began to contemplate having to downsize, halt construction and put Versailles in a fire sale, and Siegel lost PH Towers even after vowing that he’d only let it go over his dead body. They even had to send their kids to public school!
But wait. Since the movie, the Siegel’s were back on top. With the economic recovery after the Great Recession, most evidently for the 1%, Westgate Resorts boomed once again, and David even said business was “better than ever.” They have since taken Versailles off the market and resumed construction of their dream mega-home. The only modification they had to do was to turn the children’s playrooms into a yoga studio. Versailles was supposed to be finished by the end of 2000s or early 2010s, but because of their business troubles, their timeline extended indefinitely and since that time, the oldest of their eight children were grown and headed off to college. Business became so good that David Siegel, smarting from his loss of PH Towers, which is now the Hilton Elara Grand Vacations, came back to Las Vegas and bought the Las Vegas Hilton, a 30-story hotel, and turned it into the Las Vegas Resort and Casino. Mr. Siegel has words of wisdom for future or prospective tycoons. He said to the Orlando Business Journal, “I learned that day to never put all your eggs in one basket. Never be dependent that much on banks, because during good times they’re your best friend, but during bad times they’re your worst enemy.”
Tragedy, however, struck the Siegel family in the summer of 2015. Their 18-year-old daughter, Victoria, was found dead in their home from a prescription drug overdose. Victoria was caught in a love triangle with her boyfriend’s ex-girlfriend sending a distressing text message to her from her boyfriend’s phone. Whatever those text messages said, it was distressing enough that Victoria, who was already struggling with prescription drug addiction to treat her seizures, caused her to overdose on her medication. Their daughter’s death devastated the Siegel family and their maids, who considered the children as their own, and along with Versailles, David and Jackie now have a new mission. They’ve started the Victoria Siegel Foundation in Victoria’s memory, a charity patterned after the Betty Ford Clinic to raise awareness for and help teens with substance abuse problems.