The 56-Room Dery Mansion Is Only $579K -- Can It Be Saved?

For only about half a million dollars, you could live in a palace. You could enjoy your own 35-foot indoor pool, foxtrot across the spacious ballroom, park eight cars in the garage, host friends in the pub, and scan the skies in the observatory.

Hold up -- it's not so simple! It's certainly true that the 56-room Dery Mansion, built with brick and Colorado limestone, packs a lot into its 24,000 square feet. But listing agent Tim George of Century 21 Pinnacle cautions against falling too deep into the daydream. Located in Catasauqua, PA, 64 miles northwest of Philadelphia, this is definitely a fixer-upper in progress. A very large fixer-upper.

The property was built around 1900 at a cost of $1.5 million (that's $22 million, in today's money) by silk magnate Desiderius George Dery, who added even more glam space onto the structure in 1917. But he lost the home during the 1930s, when the silk industry collapsed, and it hasn't been used as a single-family home since. Instead, it housed renters and -- during World War II -- was a Civil Defense Airplane Spotters Post. One owner tried to convert it into 13 condo units.

Ten years ago, the current owners snapped up the property, intent on rolling out the finest restoration job in the region.

"They were going to bring it back as a bed-and-breakfast," says George. New windows and gas furnaces were added, and they removed the interior walls from when the building was cut up into apartments. But they never finished.

The new owner will need to finish installing the heating system, electrical, and plumbing. George estimates that it would take about $1.5 million to restore the mansion to its former glory -- but it's certainly habitable.

"It's not in any danger of collapsing," he says. "It's solid, and the outside is in very good shape."

Despite its shabby recent past, the mansion has impressive period details and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

"It has a staircase that goes up to the third floor that is wrought iron and wood. That really catches your eye," George says. Dery Lounge, in the basement, is not your typical rec room. This massive space still features stained-glass windows, marble fireplaces, woodwork detailing, and a cobblestone floor. The ballroom/banquet room is adjacent, and once served as a location for weddings. There are also elevators for passengers and freight that were installed around the time the home was built.

This area of Pennsylvania, formerly favored by the wealthy, has a proud architectural heritage -- George estimates that around 56 other local homes are on the National Register of Historic Places.

"There were more millionaires in that town than anywhere in the country with steel mills and silk mills," says George. Yet the average cost for neighboring homes today hovers between $120,000 and $150,000, making the Dery Mansion a true gem.