Inside Abandoned Mansion Once Owned By Titanic Business Tycoon
Lynnewood Hall is a Neoclassical Revival mansion on 920 Spring Ave in Elkins Park, Pennsylvania. It was built for industrialist Peter A. B. Widener and his family. The Titanic has two connections to the family. Widener was a partner of J.P. Morgan and they owned shareholdings of the White Star Line, the shipping company that built the Titanic. 1912, his oldest son George Dunton Widener and grandson Harry Elkins Widener drowned when the aboard the Titanic. Three years later Peter died in the home at the age of 80 due to prolonged poor health. The mansion has sat vacant, with many personal items for nearly 30 years.
The 70,000 square foot mansion's architect was Horace Trumbauer, and it was built for industrialist Peter A. B. Widener between 1897 and 1900. The current acreage is roughly 33.85 to give you an idea of how much land surrounds the revival wonder. It has 110 rooms to include 55 bedrooms and 20 bathrooms and boasts 70,000 square feet. In the art gallery and on the walls hung works of art by Raphael, Rembrandt, El Greco, Van Dyck, Donatello. The 110-room mansion had a large art gallery, a ballroom, swimming pool, wine cellars, a farm, carpentry and upholstery studios, and an electrical power plant. Oh yes, these folks had some BIG money!
A Pennsylvania columnist once described the Widener mansion as "dripping with silk, velvet, and gilded moldings. In 1932 TIME magazine even published an account of a lavish property while at a party held at Lynnewood Hall. The rooms furnished with chairs from Louis XV's Versailles Palace, outfitted with Persian rugs, and priceless Chinese pottery. By the 40s the mansion changed hands several times. Parcels of land outside were sold and minimized the property to 33.85 acres. At one time that land was used to train military dogs during World War II.
In 1952 the property was bought by Faith Theological Seminary a Christian School of Higher Education for $192,000 (the equivalent to $1,960,000 today). The Seminary owned Lynnewood for over 40 years, before stripping a lot of the ornate interior detailing. They sold mantels, walnut paneling, and various landscape ornamentation, before ultimately foreclosing on a second-mortgage and lost it. According to the Montgomery County Board of Assessment data, in 1996 the mansion was purchased by the First Korean Church of New York. Oddly enough they never actually moved into the property and it has been vacant since the late 90s. The church has put the property up for sale many times throughout the decades with the last known listing being in 2019, went from $20 to $11 million.
In 2003, Lynnewood Hall was added to the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia and the most endangered historic properties. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is cited in Cheltenham Township's Comprehensive Plan as one of the township's cultural and historical resources. Amazingly there may still be hope for this architectural masterpiece to be saved. Amazingly, this month on July 5, 2022, the Lynnewood Hall Preservation Foundation Inc. was established with the sole goal to acquire the former Widener Family Estate, and restore it to its former glory.
The price tag to fully restore the 122-year old mansion? According to a 2014 estimate by a historical restoration architect, somewhere around $50 million. More than likely that number is probably double considering today's prices. In an effort to save the guiled mansion Lynnewood Hall Preservation Foundation filmed a documentary to educate the public as to why the mansion is so important. The doc premiered July 10, 2022 and below you can see it for yourself! Get a full tour of Lynnewood Hall and learn the history of the Widener family now! Enjoy!