No, Santa didn't leave this lump of coal in my stocking. It once belonged to the American landscape painter Albert Bierstadt (1830-1902), and it came from the site of his ruined mansion Malkasten.
Malkasten, which means "paint box," was Bierstadt's grandiose home and studio in Tarrytown (originally Irvington), New York.
A friend brought me there to check it out. You can still see the front steps, a gatepost, and a couple of wall foundations, but that's all.
But as the years progressed, Bierstadt's work became less popular, his wife was in ill health, and he spent less time in the house. The New York Times noted that the taxes and upkeep expenses were astronomical.
Fortunately, the studios of some of Bierstadt's contemporaries, such as Frederic Church, Jasper Cropsey, and Thomas Cole, are still intact, and open to visitors.
Read more about the original mansion or how the site looks today, courtesy of Rob Yasinsac, author of Hudson Valley Ruins: Forgotten Landmarks of an American Landscape.