Tour the abandoned bin Laden mansion in Oakland, Florida

Explore the derelict mansion once owned by the bin Laden family

A long-forgotten Mediterranean-style mansion in Orlando has been owned by a number of interesting people, including the co-inventor of Jell-O, the founder of Tupperware, and a fraudster with a criminal record. The most well-known previous owner of the home, meanwhile, is a half-brother of the notorious 9-11 mastermind Osama bin Laden and the heir of an extremely wealthy Saudi construction dynasty. Take a tour of this intriguing mansion by clicking or scrolling down to learn more about its eccentric prior tenants.

Exploring this lakeside villa

Approximately 20 miles from Disney World, the Mediterranean-style home is tucked away on the border of bass-heavy Johns Lake. Leland Kent of Abandoned Southeast captured images of the property in all its faded beauty in 2016 and 2023. As you get closer to the main 17-acre property, you’ll notice that the mansion is divided between two expansive buildings that together occupy an astonishing 5,854 square feet. Stables, a carriage house, and a guesthouse are also part of the estate.

Pratt House

According to Abandoned Southeast, the house was constructed as a vacation home for William Pratt, a New York chemist who is rumored to have contributed to the creation of Jell-O. As such, it’s commonly referred to as the Pratt House. The two main buildings are connected by a pergola that provides access to the land. The Mediterranean Revival architectural style, which pays homage to the classic mansions of Spain and Italy, was quite popular when the concrete stucco palace was constructed in 1928. As you can see, although seeming dilapidated on the outside, it isn’t collapsing, which is evidence of its sturdy construction.

A palace for a plastics mogul

The next well-known person rumored to have owned the expansive estate was none other than Earl Tupper, the man who created Tupperware. It’s unknown if Tupper knew fellow inventor Pratt, but it seems he bought the land in the 1950s, following his expanding company’s move from Massachusetts to the Sunshine State. Tupper sold the company in the late 1950s, moved out of the Florida house, and purchased a private island off the coast of Costa Rica following a falling out with vice president Brownie Wise of Tupperware. Since then, Tupper’s startup business has apparently encountered financial difficulties and is currently in danger of failing.

The bin Laden connection

The home was purchased in 1980, thirty years after Earl Tupper’s reign, for $1.6 million (£1.3m), or $5.9 million (£4.7m) in current currency. One of Osama bin Laden’s half-brothers, Khalil bin Laden, was the buyer. The bin Laden family was a transnational family that traveled and resided in several Western nations, including Sweden, where this photo was shot in 1971, long before their name became associated with the horrific terrorist attacks on New York. It’s unclear whether Khalil is in the photo, although Osama is positioned second from the right. 54 children were left behind after their father, the construction billionaire Mohammed bin Awad bin Laden, suddenly died in a plane crash in 1967.

Left in a hurry

According to reports, Khalil purchased the land through his business, Desert Bear, as a wedding present for Isabel Cristina Castanheira Bayma, his Brazilian bride. To protect them from reprisals, twenty-one members of the bin Laden family were flown from the United States to Saudi Arabia in the days that followed September 11, 2001. After being discovered smuggling weapons from Yemen, Osama bin Laden had his Saudi citizenship revoked and has been cut off from the rest of his family since the 1990s. As per the 2001 CBS report, King Fahd of Saudi Arabia requested his embassy in Washington to safeguard the “bin Laden children all over America” who were studying, living, and working in the United States without any communication with their brother.

A window to the past

The family utilized the property as a vacation house, and remnants of its former splendor can still be seen. Observe the distinctive lamppost with three heads, which appears to be from the 1920s. Architectural treasures like the large arched windows and rustic roof titles are in fair condition, and the main entry also has a terrace. Leland Kent took some photos back in 2016, including this one. The room was grandiose, yet by the looks of it at the time, it served as the primary living room of the house. The vast room was given an almost regal atmosphere by wrought-iron chandelier and antique furniture.

Original features

These days the house is vacant and deserted, its belongings taken away. A corner fountain, a tiled floor in the Mediterranean style, and plasterwork crests above two doorways are just a few of the charming original characteristics of the entry hall.

Rustic dining room

After leaving the entry hall, we enter this large area, which, considering its proximity to the kitchen, might have been the original dining room. The room appears to be in decent repair overall, with the exception of one window that has boarding covering it. The ceiling has beautiful wood beams and a wrought-iron chandelier, and there’s a charming arched alcove with shelves in the corner.

Old-fashioned kitchen

What’s left of the mansion’s vintage kitchen sits next to what would have been the dining area. The room’s architecture from the 1990s is one of the clearest indicators that the house hasn’t been fully occupied for many years. Nevertheless, it appears that the oven was added more recently by the previous owners.

Master bedroom

This area, which appears to be strewn with packing supplies and debris after a house move, was probably Khalil and Isabel’s main bedroom. The home has five bedrooms in total, all of which are spacious. The largest of the five rooms, the master has access to an ensuite bathroom that feels as though it was preserved in a bygone period.

Fallen into foreclosure

Hussain was given a seven-year prison term in 2007 for orchestrating a real estate scam worth $9 million (£7.2 million). It goes without saying that the property entered foreclosure. Leland Kent claims that a local investment group then purchased it for an incredible $1.7 million (£1.4 million). The swimming pool of the mansion is visible from this verandah perspective. John LeClair, a paralegal and poker player who was the next noteworthy owner of the house, claims that the pool was built on the grounds in the 1920s and was filled in before he discovered it many years later.

Fraudulent enterprise

This is how the pool appeared in 2016 while the house was occupied. LeClair had arranged a lease-purchase deal with the neighborhood investment group that had acquired the home through foreclosure. He resided in a carriage house on the grounds and rented out the main home for events like weddings. But LeClair found it difficult to meet his obligations, and he eventually disappeared with almost $37,000 (£30,000) in deposits from gullible customers. The State of Florida later sued him and demanded that he return the money he had stolen, but Leland Kent claims that LeClair’s victims never received a single penny in compensation.

Restoration plans

Discovering the wild surroundings reveals other oddities, such as an old cannon haphazardly positioned in the center of the grass. Gary and Dana English paid $2 million (£1.6 million) for the house in 2014. Leland Kent stated that the ambitious pair intended to sell 11 acres to a company named LIV Development in order to raise money for the restoration of the estate. They even created a petition to support their cause.

The end of a storied estate?

There have even been rumors that the residences would be replaced with a Marriott hotel. After years of sitting unoccupied, the bin Laden mansion, with its evocative architecture from the 1920s Mediterranean Revival and its eclectic mix of prior occupants, may eventually be demolished, whatever form the redevelopment takes. Such a tragic conclusion to such a legendary estate…

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