Tour The Beautiful Abandoned Rainer-Lewis House In Alabama

This stunning mansion is sure to captivate you. Despite years of neglect, this eerie Alabama beauty has retained much of its charm. A delightful time capsule from the early 1900s, it seems almost frozen in time, complete with a wedding dress still hanging in the bedroom. Photographer Leland Kent of Abandoned Southeast takes you on a journey to uncover its secrets.

Nestled in the Deep South, this abandoned home boasts an impressive neo-classical revival design, reminiscent of a Roman temple. Its grand scale features a massive portico with four towering, elaborate Corinthian columns and a steeply-pitched decorative roof. Adding to its dramatic appeal are the immense Doric columns at the back and a romantic second-floor balcony.

The awe-inspiring neo-classical style continues inside, starting with an incredibly grand entrance hallway. A large staircase framed by exquisitely molded columns draws your eye through the symmetrical interior. Pristine white paint and marble-effect walls give it a clean, classic look. Only the dust-covered red carpet-runner hints at its abandonment.

Take a closer look, and you’ll see signs of decay—peeling paint on the staircase and even a missing chunk of wood. Yet, you can still admire the beautifully carved wooden spindles and the candelabra-like light fixture attached to the columns.

From the hallway, you can view one of the living rooms through vast double doors, another nod to the neo-classical design. Built in 1904, this house is in the charming historic town of Union Springs, Bullock County, Alabama, named for the 27 freshwater springs that once made the area fertile and attractive to settlers.

In this stunning reception room, floor-to-ceiling arched windows flood the space with light, creating an airy atmosphere. Though reports differ, the 12-room mansion is believed to have been built by either Sterling Price Rainer Jr. or his uncle, William Rainer, with construction starting in 1902 and finishing two years later. This places the house at the end of the Gilded Age, a period currently depicted in the HBO series “The Gilded Age” starring Cynthia Nixon.

Notice the show-stopping fireplace, mirroring the grand portico outside with its ceiling-high columns and beautiful symmetry. The polished dark wood floor contrasts with the light décor, while the Queen Anne-style furniture adds a classic touch. Remarkably, the room is in good condition despite the house reportedly being abandoned since around 2015.

The only hints that this room is uninhabited are the sparse furnishings and empty picture nails on the walls. Through the wide wooden pocket doors, you can glimpse another elegant living space. Sterling Price Rainer Jr., thought to have lived here in the early 20th century, was born in 1885, attended the University of Alabama, and became a prominent businessman in Union Springs.

Despite being stripped bare, this living room’s structural beauty shines through. As you enter, you’re greeted by stunning period features, including floor-to-ceiling Corinthian columns and a beautifully framed fireplace. The finely carved wood-coffered ceiling and the curving bay window add space and architectural interest to the room.

Imagine sitting on the window seat, taking in the view of the expansive grounds, ready to be revitalized. Historically, Union Springs was home to the Muscogee Native Americans, who were tragically displaced by the Federal Government’s Indian Removal Act of 1830. European settlers then moved in, capitalizing on the fertile land and turning the area into a booming center of industry, where Sterling Jr.’s father, Sterling Price Rainer Sr., found success as a businessman.

The adjoining sitting room has a slightly different style. It maintains a classical feel but lacks columns. However, look closely, and you’ll see gold-painted foliage-like flourishes, reminiscent of Corinthian columns, adorning the top of the fireplace. The elegant patio doors, framed by an arched stained-glass window, are the highlight of this room, leading out to a paved outdoor seating area overlooking the garden.

Compact and cozy, this small room might have been a library or study in recent years, though it could originally have been a servant’s room or food preparation area. The modern heater on the far wall stands out awkwardly, but the Tiffany-style ceiling light with blue and green stained glass adds a touch of beauty. Cracks in the walls and ceiling, along with peeling paint on the floor, reveal the years of neglect this historic home has endured.

A close-up side view of the staircase showcases its monumental presence. The wood-coffered walls have held up well over time, except for some disintegrating wood under the stairs, likely due to dampness. Remarkably, the delicate stair spindles remain untouched by decay. Sterling Jr. married Jean Lacoste Evans in 1909, five years after the home was built, and by 1918 they had three children.

At the top of the staircase, a stunning stained-glass window, likely Art Nouveau in style, features an ethereal woman in a pastoral scene. The window’s border of curling foliage and flowers also fits the Art Nouveau theme. Unfortunately, the wall beneath the stained glass shows significant rising damp, and a chunk of wallpaper is missing, highlighting the neglect this once-dream home has suffered.

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Halfway up the staircase, peeling paint and ripped wallpaper provide further evidence of long-term neglect. Although slavery was abolished in 1865, long before this house was built, businesses in the area did use slave labor before that date. In 1861, Alabama’s 435,080 slaves made up 45% of the state’s population. While it is unclear if the ancestors of the Sterlings and Rainers owned slaves, it is highly likely they did.

On the upper level of the house, serious water damage on the ceiling threatens the beautiful stained-glass window below. An elegant light fitting looks forlorn in the emptiness of this stripped-bare landing.

This intriguing bedroom features alcoves and a large bay window. It’s a sizable space with a wide fireplace and a grand four-poster bed that would have been very fashionable in its time. Sterling Jr. became a civil court judge and later the mayor of Union Springs, following in his father’s footsteps. According to Leland Kent, he also served as a deacon at the First Presbyterian Church for over 40 years.

The dirt-stained carpet is littered with debris, including peeling paint and items stuffed under the bed. An electrical appliance wire remains plugged in, and a pair of shoes sits abandoned in the middle of the floor, as if time has stood still.

Interestingly, a wedding gown and tuxedo are left behind in the bedroom, as if the couple suddenly fled before their big day. Sterling’s parents, Sterling Price Rainer Sr. and Minnie Lee Feagin, lived nearby in the Sterling-Price-Rainer house, a beautiful Victorian or Queen Anne-style property at 202 Chunnenuggee Avenue, which was on the market in recent years.

Here’s the other end of the bedroom, where empty shelves and vacant picture nails protrude from the walls. The carpet is stained and littered with cigarette butts. Sterling Jr. spent his entire life in Union Springs until his death in 1967 at age 82 and was laid to rest in the family plot at Oak Hill Cemetery. While the house bears his name, the identity of “Lewis” in the Rainer-Lewis House remains a mystery.

The bedroom’s vibrantly painted walls make a bold statement, with the fire surround continuing the building’s neo-classical theme. Notice the attractive metal fire cover. Interestingly, there seems to be a hidden door concealed behind a modern wardrobe on the left.

This blue room, similar in layout to the previous bedroom, features a still life painting on the wall and what looks like an old-fashioned radio or music player in the corner. Damp spots and cracks mar the ceiling, while splinters of paint dot the floor. A significant renovation will be required to make the house habitable again.

The pink bedroom is in particularly poor condition, with a crumbling ceiling and water stains on the floor. The neo-classical fire surround and the beautiful metal fireguard stand out amidst the damage. An electric cable dangerously grazes the damp floor, and a strand of Christmas tinsel hangs from one of the windows.

In this aging ensuite bathroom, even the fuzzy toilet seat cover has withstood the test of time, serving as a nostalgic reminder from the 1970s. The clawfoot bathtub, once a grand focal point of the room, now shows the wear and tear of the years.

Another upstairs room features a unique fireplace and a damaged ceiling. Signs of damp are evident, but it’s clear that this handsome space has the potential to become a luxurious bedroom once more. Through the nearby window, you can see the ornate railing of the second-floor balcony.

The highlight of this space is undoubtedly the stunning hearth. Framed by an intricately carved wooden surround with a mirrored mantel, it’s clear the house’s owners had wealth. The detailed shell relief across the metal is particularly lovely, offset by white brickwork.

At first glance, this vintage kitchen appears ready for use, with an abundance of wooden cupboards, an island unit, and a mammoth fridge. However, a closer look reveals a crumbling ceiling and chunks of plaster on the floor and worktops, with electrical wires dangerously dangling over the cooker.

This musty, rundown area seems like it could be an addition to the original historic house, possibly leading to a basement or workroom. From the 1930s, the home changed hands between various owners until 2012, when it was purchased by Dr. Hikes-McDonald. Buying the house for her retirement, she reportedly began restoration work on the home in 2013.

The porch appears to have once been a cozy spot for family gatherings, with a large swing seat, a rocker, and a chair. However, you can see how nature is reclaiming the space, with wild vines growing up the walls, across the ceiling, along the floor, and even creeping inside through an open door—it’s as if the vines might engulf the building entirely.

In this shot from the front lawn, you can admire the abandoned house in all its grandeur. Situated on a residential street surrounded by other properties, some of which are also historic homes, this one undoubtedly stands out as the grandest. Initially, Dr. Hikes-McDonald lived in the property with her brother and their pet poodle. However, just a few years later, they relocated to be closer to family, leaving the house empty for over six years.

The visible damage to the exterior is disheartening. The roof is deteriorating, and the large structural support column attached to the side of the house is crumbling. How much longer before the entire house collapses? If you look closely, you can just make out the house number ‘202,’ with the zero missing.

As you can see, the charming yellow and white paint of this southern gem is gradually deteriorating. With such rich history embedded in its walls, it would be a tragedy to witness this magnificent residence fall into ruin. A remarkable piece of Union Springs’ heritage, let’s hope this landmark mansion can be saved before it’s too late.

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