Potemkin Villages: The History Of Fake Buildings For Tricking Outsiders

By Grace Taylor
No. 41–46 Leinster Gardens. (David Anstiss/Wikimedia Commons)

What do you see in the photo above? Just a beautiful upscale residential street, basking in the rays of an unusually sunny London afternoon, right? There's nothing particularly interesting on the surface of it, but what if someone told you that's all it is? That if you turned a doorknob, it wouldn't open, and if you peeked through the window, you'd find nothing but a dark wall?

At least, that's the case for two of the houses in Leinster Gardens, whose white mid-Victorian facade exists merely to cover up the unsightly railroad tracks behind them. These so-called fake buildings are more common than you might think, often found in the upscale neighborhoods of big cities to hide ugly industrial or transit blights. If you put enough of these fake buildings together, you've got what's known as a Potemkin village.