10 Famous Landmarks You Won’t Believe Are Privately Owned

The Taj Mahal in Agra, ; ındia

As part of India’s “Adopt a Heritage” plan, the government made a controversial $3.7 million deal in 2018, handing over the world-famous Taj Mahal to the privately-owned Dalmia Group. In exchange, the conglomerate has the rights to advertise, set admissions prices, and make money from any sales it conducts on site.

The Empire State Building in New York

Once upon a time, it was none other than current U.S. president Donald J. Trump who owned the Empire State Building. However, he and his business partner sold the building in 2002 for $57.5 million to real estate mogul Peter Malkin, who now operates the building under the Empire State Realty Trust.

The Space Needle in Seattle, Washington

Believe it or not, Seattle’s most popular tourist attraction isn’t owned by the city. Rather, the saucer-shaped structure known as the Space Needle is privately owned by the Wright family—the descendants of Howard S. Wright and Bagley Wright, who originally financed the project for the 1962 World’s Fair.

The Chrysler Building in New York

As of March 2019, the Chrysler Building in New York City has a new owner—and it’s not the City of New York. Rather, it’s real estate mogul Aby Rosen’s RFR Holding, LLC. The development company paid a pretty penny—$150 million, to be exact—for ownership of this landmark building. Previously, it was owned and operated by the Abu Dhabi Investment Council, which paid $800 million in 2008 for a 90 percent stake in the skyscraper.

Monticello in Charlottesville,Virginia

Monticello is the former home and grounds of President Thomas Jefferson. Unlike many of the landmarks that entertain Washington, D.C. visitors, however, the former estate isn’t managed by a municipality. Instead, it’s maintained by the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, Inc., a private nonprofit that works to preserve the founding father’s memory.

The Barringer Meteor Crater in Flagstaff,Arizona

Located on the outskirts of Flagstaff, Arizona, the Barringer Meteor Crater is a popular tourist attraction for those traveling through the Southwest United States. In 1903, Daniel Barringer—the same man who first suggested that the giant hole in the Earth was created by a meteorite—founded the Barringer Crater Company to take care of the site, and both the company and ownership of the area have been in the Barringer family since.

Mount Vernon in Mount Vernon ,Virginia

Mount Vernon—George Washington’s former estate—is managed and maintained by The Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association. As the nonprofit notes on their website: “We do not accept government grants or tax dollars, relying instead on ticket sales, retail, and dining purchases and donations.”

Bryant Park in New York

Manhattan’s Bryant Park, home to one of the city’s ice skating rinks and the former site of New York Fashion Week, is surprisingly not under the jurisdiction of the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation. Though the park is still technically owned by the city, it is currently operated by the Bryant Park Corporation, a not-for-profit management company established in 1980 by Daniel A. Biederman and Andrew Heiskell and backed by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund.

Oriental Pearl Tower in Shanghai,China

Appropriately enough, the Oriental Pearl Tower, a popular tourist destination in Shanghai, is owned and managed by a multi-channel company called Oriental Pearl Co., Ltd. Inside the tower, visitors can explore everything from revolving restaurants and shopping areas to hotel spaces and observation platforms.

Post Office Sqyare in Boston, Massachusestts

In June of 1983, 19 private firms got together and decided that they wanted to start a new company in order to build a public park where Boston’s Post Office Square parking garage stood. This new company’s name? Friends of Post Office Square, Inc.

In 1987, the companies—now as a single entity—were able to purchase the rights to the Post Office Square garage land from the City of Boston, and in June of 1992, the new green space was opened to the public. Today, the park runs thanks to a symbiotic public/private partnership, and you’ll find the space under its new name: Norman B. Leventhal Park.

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