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Connecticut mega mansion among nation's largest

A 50,900-square-foot mansion under construction off Albany Avenue in West Hartford, Conn., is visible from the road on the ridge line of Avon Mountain.
A 50,900-square-foot mansion under construction off Albany Avenue in West Hartford, Conn., is visible from the road on the ridge line of Avon Mountain. (AP Photo)

WEST HARTFORD, Conn. --The enormity of the house Arnold Chase is building on Avon Mountain isn't fully apparent from the outside, where only 17,000 square feet of it lies in plain view.

It's the two-level, 33,500-square-foot basement complex, complete with a 103-seat movie theater, ticket booth, concession stand, game room and music annex, that will make it New England's largest occupied single-family home.

At nearly 50,900 square feet, the Chase home will be slightly larger than billionaire Bill Gates' home in Washington, about 4,000 square feet smaller than the White House and 20 times larger than the average-size home in America.

The average U.S. home measures about 2,500 square feet -- up from 1,995 square feet in 1988 -- according to the National Association of Home Builders. But while houses are getting bigger, rarely are they built as big as the new Chase house.

"What you're talking about is mega homes," said Gopal Ahluwalia, the home builders association's vice president for research. "There are few homes larger than 50,000 square feet."

The brick and stucco colonial can be seen easily from the road. But the Hartford-based businessman, who plans to vacate a comparatively tiny 8,900-square-foot home when he moves, doesn't want too many people to know about it. He refused an interview and had a freelance photographer seeking permission to photograph the house for The Associated Press cited for trespassing.

Besides the two-tiered movie theater, soda fountain and men's and women's bathrooms, the Chase home will include a 400-square foot "observatory," five bedrooms, eight full bathrooms and five half bathrooms, according to documents filed with the West Hartford planning office. The game room, in the "upper" basement, will take up nearly 4,900 square feet -- nearly twice as big as the average-size house.

"It's the same thing as why people buy a $150,000 car when the same function can be performed by a $25,000 car," Ahluwalia said. "I can afford it. I can have it. I want to have the biggest house in the world. Things like that."

Some question the morality of building a private home that large.

"Do you actually need to have that amount of space to live a good life?" said Susan A. Eisenhandler, a sociology professor at the University of Connecticut. "There are homeless people. There are impoverished people. There are serious social concerns, and we're not addressing that."

The only single-family residential structures in New England larger than Chase's are two mansions in Newport, which are now museums and no longer occupied.

The largest private home ever built in the United States is the Biltmore House in Asheville, N.C., comprising more than 174,000 square feet. Also on the national list are the 109,000-square-foot Oheka Castle in Huntington, N.Y., and Donald Trump's 80,000-square-foot Maison de l'Amitie in Palm Beach, Fla.

The Chase house was designed by Allan Greenberg's architectural firm in New York, which has worked on notable projects at the White House, State Department and the Holocaust Memorial in New York. The firm declined to comment.

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