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One man’s castle is another’s mansion

POSTED: April 3, 2008 5:00 a.m.

If you go to a Christian funeral, particularly in the South, you’re likely to hear somebody read that verse in the gospel of John where Jesus is telling his disciples that he’s going to be leaving and gives them a glimpse of heaven.

In the King James version, it’s the verse that says, "In my father’s house are many mansions."

I tried to understand that concept when I was a kid. How could you have mansions inside the Lord’s house?

Some of the modern translations now use other words like rooms and dwelling places.

We tend to like that word mansion.

There’s an old gospel song about the great beyond that says "I’ve a mansion, just over the hilltop."

A song from about the same era suggested something more modest; it asks, "Lord, build me a little cabin, in the corner of gloryland."

I’m not sure when a house is no longer a house and qualifies as a mansion.

The governor of our state lives in a little spread of government housing we call a mansion. I’ve been there a few times and for a public housing unit, it’s pretty nice.

Out in Buckhead, where the governor’s mansion is located, there are a plethora of mansions. I’ve known a few folks who came from a hardscrabble upbringing and were successful enough to buy themselves a mansion.

Hubert and Norma Humphrey built their first mansion in Buckhead.

Hubert started out as an engineer. Not the kind that graduates summa cum laude from Georgia Tech. Instead, Hubert was the kind that waved a lantern and directed trains around Macon.

Hubert found financial rewards in the insurance and investment business and hung up his railroad watch. He’s bought and sold a few businesses in his time.

He even sold that first mansion to Bob Nardelli, who used to head Home Depot and is now the CEO of Chrysler.

I don’t know who owns it now.

Hubert and Norma wanted a place out from town. They built a really nice one.

The Humphreys have an 82-room, 47,000-square-foot home in Forsyth County. It has, among other things, a 12-car garage, 17 bathrooms and 62 televisions.

When it was being built, which took three years, I was invited by the Humphreys to tour the work in progress.

Even before it was done it was mighty impressive.

It has two swimming pools, an outdoor one to enjoy and one of those indoor exercise pools. There are two elevators and two really big staircases to get you from floor to floor.

They didn’t get moved in until about a year and a half ago. Now, they’ve decided to sell it. They want to downsize.

The asking price is $45 million.

In case you were wondering, that rules me out.

However, the one and only time I visited the house, which incidentally is named Le Reve, the Humphreys promised I could come back and spend the night.

Well, Hubert and Norma, if you’re reading this, I’m ready anytime before you move. I’ll even iron my socks and underwear before I pack them in my suitcase.

When my ticket on this side is punched, I’ll be lucky to get a spot on a park bench in gloryland.

But one night at Le Reve would surely go a long way toward clearing up any confusion I might have about mansions with many rooms.

Harris Blackwood is community editor of The Times. His columns appear Wednesdays and Sundays.



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