George Daynor, Palace Depression

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About the Artist/Site

Few facts about George Daynor’s life prior to his 1929 arrival in Vineland, New Jersey, have survived. His birth date is uncertain, although papers released after his death indicate he was born in Northern California. He told reporters he had made a fortune in the 1898 Alaska-Klondike Gold Rush and lost his riches in the Wall Street crash of 1929. He was a vagabond, he said, until “an angelic spirit” guided him to New Jersey, and dictated the design of the 18-spire, multi-colored “palace” he would open to the public three years later.

Daynor had settled on three acres of boggy land that had been a dumping ground. Cluttered with automobile parts, iron bedsteads, and petrified chunks of wood, the site provided him with the raw materials he needed to build his castle. He used car fenders, placed keystone fashion, for door arches; an oversized iron kettle formed the palace dome; and wagon wheels provided bases for cone-shaped towers and revolving doors.

Daynor opened his Palace Depression to the public on Christmas Day, 1932, and billed it as “the Strangest House in the World,” an antidote to the misery of the Great Depression. For over two decades the Palace commanded enormous press attention, fueled by its creator’s unabashed self-promotion. Unfortunately, his drive for recognition also contributed to the demise of his fantastic work of art. In 1956, seeking greater press coverage, he told news agencies that he knew the whereabouts of a kidnapped infant. Although the FBI quickly discovered that Daynor was a publicity-monger, they pursued his false leads. He was prosecuted and convicted of fraud. While in jail, his unattended palace was vandalized. He returned to the Palace, but was increasingly ailing. In 1961, he was removed to the county hospital, and died three years later.

Some Vineland residents tried to preserve the Palace. But after it was severely damaged by a mysterious fire, the City, citing safety concerns, condemned it. In 1969, all but the gatehouse was bulldozed.

But the Palace has remained part of local lore. Starting in the late 1990s, a group led by Kevin Kircher, director for the City of Vineland’s Licenses and Inspections Department, initiated plans to build a facsimile of Daynor’s creation on the property. Daynor produced no drawings of the site, but there are many photographs, and the original foundation remained. As of 2010, volunteers have completed the basement level of what they are calling “The Palace of Depression.”

~Holly Metz

SPACES Archive Holdings

1 folder: images

Map and site information

Not Exact Address
Vineland, New Jersey, United States
Latitude/Longitude: 39.474121 / -75.062187


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