A mansion is a large dwelling house. The word itself derives through Old French from the Latin word mansio "dwelling", an abstract noun derived from the verb manere "to dwell". The English word manse originally defined a property large enough for the parish priest to maintain himself, but a mansion is no longer self-sustaining in this way (compare a Roman or medieval villa). Manor comes from the same root—territorial holdings granted to a lord who would "remain" there.
Following the fall of Rome, the practice of building unfortified villas ceased. Today, the oldest inhabited mansions around the world usually began their existence as fortified houses in the Middle Ages. As social conditions slowly changed and stabilised fortifications were able to be reduced, and over the centuries gave way to comfort. It became fashionable and possible for homes to be beautiful rather than grim and forbidding allowing for the development of the modern mansion.
In British English, a mansion block refers to a block of flats or apartments designed for the appearance of grandeur.   In many parts of Asia, including Hong Kong and Japan, the word mansion also refers to a block of apartments. In modern Japan, a "manshon" (Japanese : マンション ), stemming from the English word "mansion", is used to refer to a multi-unit apartment complex or condominium.
In Europe, from the 15th century onwards, a combination of politics and advances in weaponry negated the need for the aristocracy to live in fortified castles. As a result, many were transformed into mansions without defences or demolished and rebuilt in a more modern, undefended style. Due to intermarriage and primogeniture inheritance amongst the aristocracy, it became common for one noble to often own several country houses. These would be visited rotationally throughout the year as their owner pursued the social and sporting circuit from country home to country home.  Many owners of a country house would also own a town mansion in their country's capital city. These town mansions were referred to as 'houses' in London, 'hôtels particuliers' in Paris, and 'palaces' in most European cities elsewhere. It might be noted that sometimes the house of a clergyman was called a "mansion house" (e.g., by the Revd James Blair, Commissary in Virginia for the Bishop of London, 1689–1745, a term related to the word "manse" commonly used in the Church of Scotland and in Non-Conformist churches. H.G. Herklots, The Church of England and the American Episcopal Church).[ citation needed ]
As the 16th century progressed and the Renaissance style slowly spread across Europe, the last vestiges of castle architecture and life changed; the central points of these great houses became redundant as owners wished to live separately from their servants, and no longer ate with them in a Great hall. All evidence and odours of cooking and staff were banished from the principal parts of the house into distant wings, while the owners began to live in airy rooms, above the ground floor, with privacy from their servants, who were now confined, unless required, to their specifically delegated areas—often the ground and uppermost attic floors. This was a period of great social change, as the educated prided themselves on enlightenment. 
The uses of these edifices paralleled that of the Roman villas. It was vital for powerful people and families to keep in social contact with each other as they were the primary moulders of society. The rounds of visits and entertainments were an essential part of the societal process, as painted in the novels of Jane Austen. State business was often discussed and determined in informal settings. Times of revolution reversed this value. During July/August 1789, a significant number of French country mansions (chateaux) were destroyed by the rural population as part of the Great Fear—a symbolic rejection of the feudal rights and restraints in effect under the Ancien Régime. 
Until World War I it was not unusual for a moderately sized mansion in England such as Cliveden to have an indoor staff of 20 and an outside staff of the same size,[ citation needed ] and in ducal mansions such as Chatsworth House the numbers could be far higher. In the great houses of Italy, the number of retainers was often even greater than in England; whole families plus extended relations would often inhabit warrens of rooms in basements and attics. Most European mansions were also the hub of vast estates.[ citation needed ]
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The 19th century saw the continuation of the building of mansions in the United States and Europe. Built by self-made men, these were often smaller than those built by the old European aristocracy. These new builders of mansions did not confine themselves to just the then-fashionable Gothic tastes in architecture, but also experimented with 19th-century versions of older Renaissance and Tudoresque styles; The Breakers in Rhode Island is a fine example of American Renaissance revivalism.
During the 19th century, like the major thoroughfares of all important cities, Fifth Avenue in New York City, was lined with mansions. Many of these were designed by the leading architects of the day, often in European Gothic Revival style, and were built by families who were making their fortunes, and thus achieving their social aspirations. However, nearly all of these have now been demolished, thus depriving New York of a boulevard to rival, in the architectural sense, those in Paris, London or Rome—where the many large mansions and palazzi built or remodeled during this era still survive. Mansions built in the countryside were not spared either. One of the most spectacular estates of the U.S., Whitemarsh Hall, was demolished in 1980, along with its extensive gardens, to make way for suburban developments.
Grand Federal style mansions designed by Samuel McIntire inhabit an area that, in 2012, is the largest collection of 17th- and 18th-century structures in the United States of America. This district in Salem, Massachusetts, is called the McIntire Historic District with the center being Chestnut Street.  McIntire's training came from his father and from books. He and his brothers, Joseph and Angler, began their careers as housewrights and carpenters while in their teens but, early on, Samuel's work caught the eye of Salem's pre-eminent merchant, Elias Hasket Derby. Over the next quarter century, McIntire built or remodelled a number of homes for Derby and members of his extended family. McIntire also worked occasionally on Derby's vessels, and wasn't averse to fixing a wagon or building a birdhouse if his patron so desired.  Hamilton Hall is a National Historic Landmark at 9 Chestnut Street in Salem, Massachusetts. Hamilton Hall was built in 1805 by Samuel McIntire and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1970.   "King" Derby's stamp of approval opened many other doors for McIntire, who went on to design and build mansions for John Gardner, Jerethmiel Peirce, Simon Forrester, and other wealthy Salem shipowners. He also built, on elegant Chestnut Street, a function hall (named for Alexander Hamilton) and church for the town's merchant class. McIntire also designed the former Salem Court House and Registry of Deeds.
After 1793, Samuel McIntire worked exclusively in the architectural style developed by Robert Adam in Great Britain and brought to America by the great Boston architect, Charles Bulfinch. The delicate Adam style, which emphasized decorative elements and ornamentation, was tailor-made for McIntire, whose unerring sense of design and proportion was exceeded only by his skill as a woodcarver. Carved swags, rosettes, garlands, and his signature sheaths of wheat dominate wood surfaces in McIntire homes built between 1793 and his death in 1811.
Even in Europe, some 19th-century mansions were often built as replicas of older houses, the Château de Ferrières in France was inspired by Mentmore Towers, which in turn is a copy of Wollaton Hall. Other mansions were built in the new and innovative styles of the new era such as the arts and crafts style: The Breakers is a pastiche of an Italian Renaissance palazzo; Waddesdon Manor in Buckinghamshire is a faithful mixture of various French châteaux. One of the most enduring and most frequently copied styles for a mansion is the Palladian – particularly so in the 18th century. However, the Gothic style was probably the most popular choice of design in the 19th century. The most bizarre example of this was probably Fonthill Abbey which actually set out to imitate the mansions which had truly evolved from medieval Gothic abbeys following the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the 16th century.
Mansions built during and after the 19th century were seldom supported by the large estates of their predecessors. These new mansions were often built as the week-end retreats of businessmen who commuted to their offices by the new railways, which enabled them to leave the city more easily.[ citation needed ]
In Latin America, the grand rural estate, the Hacienda, Estancia, in Portuguese speaking Brazil Fazenda or Estância, with the mansion as its stately center, is a characteristic feature.
Mansions tended to follow European architectural styles. Whereas until the second half of the 19th century, Portugal and Spain as the colonial (or former colonial) powers were the eminent models for architecture and upper-class lifestyle, towards the end of the 19th century they were sometimes replaced by then more dominant powers like France or England.
In comparably developed, densely populated countries like Mexico, feudal estates and their mansions were as grand and stately as in the Mediterranean old world, whereas where estates were founded in the sparsely populated remote areas like the Pampa of Argentina or Uruguay, where iron pillars, doors, windows, and furniture had to be brought from Europe by ship and afterwards ox cart, buildings were smaller, but normally still aspiring to evoke a stately impression, often featuring, like their earlier Italian counterparts, a morador.
In Venezuela, the traditional Spanish mansions with a garden in the center of the property are usually referred as "Quinta".
Some realtors in the US term mansions as houses that have a minimum of 8,000-square-foot (740 m2) of floor space.  Others claim a viable minimum could instead be 5,000-square-foot (460 m2) of floor space, especially in a city environment. 
The architecture of the United States demonstrates a broad variety of architectural styles and built forms over the country's history of over two centuries of independence and former Spanish, French, Dutch and British rule.
A villa is a type of house that was originally an ancient Roman upper class country house. Since its origins in the Roman villa, the idea and function of a villa have evolved considerably. After the fall of the Roman Republic, villas became small farming compounds, which were increasingly fortified in Late Antiquity, sometimes transferred to the Church for reuse as a monastery. Then they gradually re-evolved through the Middle Ages into elegant upper-class country homes. In the Early Modern period, any comfortable detached house with a garden near a city or town was likely to be described as a villa; most survivals have now been engulfed by suburbia. In modern parlance, "villa" can refer to various types and sizes of residences, ranging from the suburban semi-detached double villa to, in some countries, especially around the Mediterranean, residences of above average size in the countryside.
From the late 1870s to the 1920s, the Vanderbilt family employed some of the best Beaux-Arts architects and decorators in the United States to build an unequaled string of townhouses in New York City and palaces on the East Coast of the United States. Many of the Vanderbilt houses are now National Historic Landmarks. Some photographs of Vanderbilt residences in New York are included in the Photographic series of American Architecture by Albert Levy (1870s).
Mentmore Towers, historically known simply as "Mentmore", is a 19th-century English country house built between 1852 and 1854 for the Rothschild family in the village of Mentmore in Buckinghamshire. Sir Joseph Paxton and his son-in-law, George Henry Stokes, designed the building in the 19th-century revival of late 16th and early 17th-century Elizabethan and Jacobean styles called Jacobethan. The house was designed for the banker and collector of fine art Baron Mayer de Rothschild as a country home, and as a display case for his collection of fine art. The mansion has been described as one of the greatest houses of the Victorian era. Mentmore was inherited by Hannah Primrose, Countess of Rosebery, née Rothschild, and owned by her descendants, the Earls of Rosebery.
In suburban communities, McMansion is a pejorative term for a large "mass-produced" dwelling marketed to the upper middle class mainly in the United States. Virginia Savage McAlester, who also gave a first description of the common features which define this building style, coined the more neutral term Millennium Mansion.
Montacute House is a late Elizabethan mansion with a garden in Montacute, South Somerset.
A manor house was historically the main residence of the lord of the manor. The house formed the administrative centre of a manor in the European feudal system; within its great hall were held the lord's manorial courts, communal meals with manorial tenants and great banquets. The term is today loosely applied to various country houses, frequently dating from the Late Middle Ages, which formerly housed the landed gentry.
The architecture of England is the architecture of modern England and in the historic Kingdom of England. It often includes buildings created under English influence or by English architects in other parts of the world, particularly in the English and later British colonies and Empire, which developed into the Commonwealth of Nations.
An English country house is a large house or mansion in the English countryside. Such houses were often owned by individuals who also owned a town house. This allowed them to spend time in the country and in the city—hence, for these people, the term distinguished between town and country. However, the term also encompasses houses that were, and often still are, the full-time residence for the landed gentry who ruled rural Britain until the Reform Act 1832. Frequently, the formal business of the counties was transacted in these country houses, having functional antecedents in manor houses.
The Italianate style was a distinct 19th-century phase in the history of Classical architecture. Like Palladianism and Neoclassicism, the Italianate style drew its inspiration from the models and architectural vocabulary of 16th-century Italian Renaissance architecture, synthesising these with picturesque aesthetics. The style of architecture that was thus created, though also characterised as "Neo-Renaissance", was essentially of its own time. "The backward look transforms its object," Siegfried Giedion wrote of historicist architectural styles; "every spectator at every period—at every moment, indeed—inevitably transforms the past according to his own nature."
The Vyne is a Grade I listed 16th-century country house in the parish of Sherborne St John, near Basingstoke, in Hampshire, England. The house was first built circa 1500–10 in the Tudor style by William Sandys, 1st Baron Sandys, Lord Chamberlain to King Henry VIII. In the 17th century it was transformed to resemble a classical mansion. Today, although much reduced in size, the house retains its Tudor chapel, with contemporary stained glass. The classical portico on the north front was added in 1654 to the design of John Webb, a pupil of Inigo Jones, and is notable as the first portico in English domestic architecture.
Samuel McIntire was an American architect and craftsman, best known for his work in the Chestnut Street District, a classic example of Federal style architecture.
Tudor Revival architecture, also known as mock Tudor in the UK, first manifested in domestic architecture in the United Kingdom in the latter half of the 19th century. Based on revival of aspects that were perceived as Tudor architecture, in reality it usually took the style of English vernacular architecture of the Middle Ages that had survived into the Tudor period. The style later became an influence elsewhere, especially the British colonies. For example, in New Zealand, the architect Francis Petre adapted the style for the local climate. In Singapore, then a British colony, architects such as Regent Alfred John Bidwell pioneered what became known as the Black and White House. The earliest examples of the style originate with the works of such eminent architects as Norman Shaw and George Devey, in what at the time was considered Neo-Tudor design.
Renaissance Revival architecture is a group of 19th century architectural revival styles which were neither Greek Revival nor Gothic Revival but which instead drew inspiration from a wide range of classicizing Italian modes. Under the broad designation Renaissance architecture nineteenth-century architects and critics went beyond the architectural style which began in Florence and Central Italy in the early 15th century as an expression of Renaissance humanism; they also included styles that can be identified as Mannerist or Baroque. Self-applied style designations were rife in the mid- and later nineteenth century: "Neo-Renaissance" might be applied by contemporaries to structures that others called "Italianate", or when many French Baroque features are present.
The architecture of Germany has a long, rich and diverse history. Every major European style from Roman to Postmodern is represented, including renowned examples of Carolingian, Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, Classical, Modern and International Style architecture.
The Chestnut Street District is a historic district bounded roughly by Bridge, Lynn, Beckford, and River Streets in Salem, Massachusetts. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973 and enlarged slightly in 1978. The district contains a number of architecturally significant works of Samuel McIntire, a builder and woodworker who had a house and workshop at 31 Summer Street, and who designed and built a number of these houses, and others that display the profits made in the Old China Trade by Salem's merchants. The district is a subset of a larger locally designated McIntire Historic District.
The architecture of the United Kingdom, or British architecture, consists of a combination of architectural styles, dating as far back to Roman architecture, to the present day 21st century contemporary. England has seen the most influential developments, though Ireland, Scotland, and Wales have each fostered unique styles and played leading roles in the international history of architecture. Although there are prehistoric and classical structures in the United Kingdom, British architectural history effectively begins with the first Anglo-Saxon Christian churches, built soon after Augustine of Canterbury arrived in Great Britain in 597. Norman architecture was built on a vast scale throughout Great Britain and Ireland from the 11th century onwards in the form of castles and churches to help impose Norman authority upon their dominions. English Gothic architecture, which flourished between 1180 until around 1520, was initially imported from France, but quickly developed its own unique qualities.
The William K. Vanderbilt House, also known as the Petit Chateau, was a Châteauesque mansion at 660 Fifth Avenue in Midtown Manhattan, New York City, on the northwest corner of Fifth Avenue and 52nd Street. It was across the street from the Triple Palace of William Henry Vanderbilt, which occupied the entire block between 51st and 52nd Streets on the west side of Fifth Avenue.
The colonial architecture of Indonesia refers to the buildings that were created across Indonesia during the Dutch colonial period, during that time, this region was known as the Dutch East Indies. These types of colonial era structures are more prevalent in Java and Sumatra, as those islands were considered more economically significant during the Dutch imperial period. As a result of this, there is a large number of well preserved colonial era buildings that are still densely concentrated within Indonesian cities in Java and Sumatra to this day.