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Joe Powell Mansion bought and owners expected to spend over $2 million in renovations

The Sanger Mansion has sat empty and unfinished for more than 30 years.

Now, it has new owners and new life.

Isabel Ramey is the owner of Bella Mansions and, with the help of her parents, hopes to turn it into a wedding venue. Together, they’re actively meeting with architects to finally finish out the building as well as add landscaping to the nine acres of land the mansion sits on.

“I just had so many thoughts going through my head of what we could actually do with all this space,” Isabel Ramey said.

After years of searching for the perfect wedding venue spot, they did what thousands have done for decades: they just drove by on Interstate 35.

“We always wondered, ‘What the heck is that?’” Isabel’s father Kenneth Ramey said of the mansion.

“When I walked through it, I had this sad feeling like this house has so much unused potential, so that’s what I’m excited about — giving this project what it deserves,” Isabel said. “I want to go in and make it something everyone in the community can be extremely proud of.”

The reality is a family of three planned to build it as their 27,000 square foot dream home, but after a divorce and then bankruptcy in the mid-’90s, it was never completed.

The second owners hoped to turn it into what never materialized.

“I see it as almost an iconic structure,” Kenneth said.

The exterior has been tarnished by time, but the steel and concrete foundation has withstood decades of water and wind. The highlight is a three-story floating staircase in the middle of the home.

“A lot of people are happy to see this place finally get brought into something,” Isabel said. “It’s a sad house that had so much potential that was wasted away over the decades.”

The Rameys purchased the home for $795,000 and plan to put more than $2 million into it for renovations. If everything stays on schedule, they could be ready to open it up by early 2021.

The iconic property was built in the 1980s with the intent of a private residence, but construction halted due to financial issues, said Brad Andrus, executive vice president of Axis Realty Group. The listing was active with the company for years before they found the right buyer, he said.

Originally built by Joseph and Julie Powell, the property was supposed to be a large showplace and event space for their passion project, Appaloosa horses. The large mansion was going to be a showpiece for them to entertain potential horse buyers and sellers, Andrus said. But due to illness and other family matters, work stopped in the mid-1980s.

In 1999, John W. Porter bought the property and tried to preserve it, but he liked the portion of the property featuring the stables on the grounds more. His son John R. Porter inherited the property and wanted to make sure the mansion and nine acres went to the right people who could carry out the original vision for the mansion, Andrus said.

“Because he owns adjoining property, it was important to have the right buyer come that would bring an improvement to the property,” Andrus said. “[The Porter] family has a longtime legacy of owning land in Sanger and Denton County, and this property has a sentimental attachment to it.”

“We couldn’t be more pleased that we found a buyer that’s going to complete the property in the grand fashion the original owners had in mind,” John R. Porter said in a statement.

Now, the Ramey family will work to make a wedding and events venue that’s a destination with grand indoor spaces and a full landscape for outdoor weddings, Isabel said.

“When we walked through it and saw how big it was, it was more space than we could have anticipated,” she said. “We got all of these other ideas of not just a wedding venue but an events venue; it’s a perfect location ... There are so many possibilities for us to explore.”

“We are ecstatic to be able to finish it,” Isabel added.

Kenneth and Isabel Ramey...

The three-story floating staircase...

History of the Mansion...

The mansion, along with a horse barn, was built in the early 1980’s by Joe and Jill Powell. Mr. Powell sold horses for a living and decided to construct his estate with appeal to his horse buyers. When his clients arrived to purchase horses, they would be able to stay and rest, much like a hotel or inn. The home was designed for two parts: a single residence for the Powells and a guest serving hotel. Powell intended for the home to include several bedrooms and hotel like features including an elevator and a third level ballroom for entertaining purposes.

The surrounding grounds, approximately 72 acres, were also purchased by the Powells for horse barns and other equestrian purposes. After construction, the Powells had planned for the mansion to include nearly 30,000 sq. feet of living space.

About nine years ago the grounds including the mansion were close to being bought by a Denton catering company, Fremaux’s Metropolitan Catering. The company catered events all over north Texas from birthdays to weddings. On Fremaux’s Metropolitan Catering’s website, the company even detailed plans of the huge mansion to be turned into a wedding chateau. The surrounding grounds would be included in the wedding chateau for outdoor activities and ceremonies. The deal fell through and the mansion was never purchased.

Most people remember where Jack In The Box now stands, the old WW Grill, then Miguelito’s restaurants. Mig’s left Sanger when they couldn’t find a suitable building and opened in Krum. Years later, when they were wanting to come back to Sanger. John W. Porter’s group was going to finish out the mansion, sub-dividing it for two restaurants - Mig’s and an unnamed steakhouse. That never materialized, when Mig’s decided it was more practical to own and build at the current location in Sanger.

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