When it comes to houses, there’s “as is” — and then there’s “as is.” In the case of the Windermere, Fla., property nicknamed “Versailles”, “as is” includes 90,000 partially built-out square feet, with room for 10 kitchens, 30 bathrooms, and a 7,200-square-foot ballroom big enough to seat 500 people.The biggest house in America also comes with a helluva story, chronicled in the documentary film, “The Queen of Versailles,” which debuted at this year’s Sundance Film Festival (and snagged top honours for director Lauren Greenfield).
The story of Windermere’s construction, and the strain it put on billionaire David Siegel, his wife Jackie and their eight children, is now set to reach a wider audience as Bravo has acquired the right to broadcast the film.
When last AOL Real Estate reported on the unfinished mega-mansion — as as an object lesson of a work in progress — it had just gone on the market for $75 million. According to what its makers and movie critics are saying about the “The Queen of Versailles,” the lessons go far beyond that, confronting issues of greed, the Great Recession and the American Dream.
The documentary chronicles the Siegels’ attempt to build the biggest and arguably most over-the-top house in America in the face of looming financial crisis.
The story: Jackie and David Siegel and their eight children live in a 26,000 square feet mansion in Orlando while overseeing construction of a dream castle — a 90,000 square foot palace modelled on Versailles, in France, that would include three swimming pools, a two-story wine cellar, a full-size baseball diamond, 10 kitchens, 30 bathrooms, and a 7,200 square feet ballroom big enough to seat 500.
But in 2008, their plans go awry as David Siegel’s Westgate Resorts timeshare empire takes a hit in the stock market crash — and turns the biggest house in America into perhaps its most distressed property.
“The Queen of Versailles” will premiere on the Bravo channel in 2013, alongside a lineup that already includes “The Real Housewives of Atlanta” and “Million Dollar Listing: New York.”
In the meantime, the drama continues as the Siegels have sued the Sundance Institute and Greenfield for defamation, for the way they were described in the documentary’s promotional material. The disputed didn’t keep Jackie Siegel from basking in the limelight at the film’s Sundance premiere, though. (That’s her on the left in the above photo, posing for a portrait with Greenfield.)
While it appears that the Siegels have since recovered their financial footing and plan to finish their dream palace in the next year or two, it is still for sale, Bloomberg BusinessWeek reports — but now at a $10 million discount, for $65 million.
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