MORE

Inside Pearland's Mystery Mansion

Inside Pearland's Mystery Mansion
Katharine Shilcutt

In an up-and-coming neighborhood in Pearland off Highway 288 and Southfork, two nearly identical mansions sit abandoned in adjoining 15 acre lots. The weeds have grown high around the entry gates to one; the other never even had gates built and sits behind a padlocked chain link fence. There's no landscaping around either one. In fact, they look as if someone dropped two gaudy River Oaks mansions into a cow pasture. And perhaps strangest of all is their sheer size: the smaller mansion on the left is nearly 32,000 square feet while the one on the right is a massive 64,000 square feet, and nearly as long as a football field.

Inside Pearland's Mystery Mansion
Katharine Shilcutt

According to public records, both houses were once owned by a pediatrician, Dr. Ulysses W. Watkins (who won a Houston Press Best of Houston award for his radio show on 1430 AM in 2008). He built the larger of the two houses first, but it was never completed. A vast, broad scar on the west side of the house is missing brick from where the two-story wall was never finished; the unused brick lays in the pasture behind the house. Three of the nine garage doors are plywood. The front door is awkwardly hung, ill-fitting and has no handles; it's most likely a stop-gap until a real door can be installed. And while there is a side driveway, no front drive or sidewalk of any kind was ever built.

While the smaller of the two houses was listed on HAR.com for sale as recently as last August, it no longer appears in the MLS listings. And although the public has been afforded a view of the bizarrely-decorated and decidedly industrial-looking smaller house thanks to that real estate listing and a spotlight on local real estate blog Swamplot, no one has ever seen the inside of the unfinished behemoth until now.

Inside Pearland's Mystery Mansion
Katharine Shilcutt

Along the broad west side of the house, we see where the brickwork abruptly stopped. 

Inside Pearland's Mystery Mansion
Katharine Shilcutt

Further back up towards the house, the garage is protected from the elements with sheets of plywood where doors should be.

The house is entered from a small, nondescript side door as the front door is non-functional. Inside is one of the strangest layouts ever encountered.

Inside Pearland's Mystery Mansion
Katharine Shilcutt

The front portion of the house is nearly finished, with marble floors in the grand foyer and warm yellow and red tones on the walls. It's difficult to tell, however, exactly what this front room was to be used for. 

An unfinished Juliet balcony overlooks the foyer from the second floor. The main hallway running down the center of the house is identical on both floors, with boxy rooms flanking the interminably long hall. It's nearly impossible to see what lies at the other end of the corridor. 

Inside Pearland's Mystery Mansion
Katharine Shilcutt

On the west side of the house, there are no windows in any of the rooms on the first floor due to the nine-car garage being situated right behind them. Between the lack of light and the low ceilings, it gives the entire house an odd institutional feel. This room off the foyer features a non-working fireplace and a small stage. Perhaps for family plays?

Inside Pearland's Mystery Mansion
Katharine Shilcutt

On the east side of the house, just off the foyer, construction had begun on a commercial (and we do mean commercial) kitchen. All the charm of a high school cafeteria... 

Inside Pearland's Mystery Mansion
Katharine Shilcutt

Further down the main hall we reach the first of three staircases. All three staircases are oddly hidden — two of them within what look like regular rooms and the third one at the very end of the long hall, adjacent to an industrial-looking elevator. 

Inside Pearland's Mystery Mansion
Katharine Shilcutt

At the rear of the house is an indoor swimming pool and hot tub. The ceilings in here are two stories high, which would give the indoor pool an airy feel if there were any windows or doors that opened to the outside.

Inside Pearland's Mystery Mansion
Katharine Shilcutt

On the second floor, unfinished bedroom after unfinished bedroom flanks the main hall. It's not even worth counting how many there are after a while. The thought that no one could ever need this much house has become completely pervasive at this point. Especially when — according to public records — Dr. Watkins only had a very small family consisting of a wife and one son. 

Inside Pearland's Mystery Mansion
Katharine Shilcutt

Back downstairs, past the media room (which has the makings of a snack bar and all the can lights and wiring in place — the entire place is completely wired with CAT-5 lines, in fact) and rooms of an undetermined nature, back into the sunlight of the foyer, you feel as if you're coming back above ground from being in a subterranean cavern. The oddly low ceilings throughout coupled with the dearth of windows lends a discomforting feeling, especially in such a large house. 

Inside Pearland's Mystery Mansion
Katharine Shilcutt

What became of the house after Dr. Watkins abandoned it and went on to build the halfling mansion next door isn't a matter of public record, suffice to say it's a bizarre story of its own that deserves to be told one day.

What will happen to the houses is anyone's guess. The bank that owns both houses has had a feasibility study performed to determine whether or not they would be appropriate for group homes or assisted living facilities. Having been inside, it seems like the most fitting application for at least the larger of the two, if not both. It's difficult to imagine why someone in their right mind would build what is — essentially — the world's largest shotgun shack (or, more to the point, what architect conceived of this monstrosity as a residence). But it's not at all difficult to picture these two buildings on this serene piece of land housing elderly or assisted care patients one day.

For additional images from the house, head over to our slideshow.


Sponsor Content

Newsletters

All-access pass to top stories, events and offers around town.

Sign Up >

No Thanks!

Remind Me Later >