Lynnewood Hall

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Lynnewood Hall
Lynnewood Hall 2007.jpg
Exterior view in September 2007
General information
StatusFor Sale (Zillow)
Architectural styleNeoclassical Revival
Address920 Spring Ave.
Town or cityElkins Park, Pennsylvania
Coordinates40°4′30.67″N 75°8′27.01″W / 40.0751861°N 75.1408361°W / 40.0751861; -75.1408361Coordinates: 40°4′30.67″N 75°8′27.01″W / 40.0751861°N 75.1408361°W / 40.0751861; -75.1408361
Current tenantsVacant
Construction started1897
ClientPeter A. B. Widener
Technical details
Floor area70,000 feet (21,000 m)
Design and construction
ArchitectHorace Trumbauer

Lynnewood Hall is a 110-room Neoclassical Revival vacant mansion in Elkins Park, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. It was designed by architect Horace Trumbauer for industrialist Peter A. B. Widener and built between 1897 and 1900. Considered the largest surviving Gilded Age mansion in the Philadelphia area, it housed one of the most important Gilded Age private art collections of European masterpieces and decorative arts, which had been assembled by Widener and his younger son, Joseph.

Peter A. B. Widener died at Lynnewood Hall at the age of 80 on November 6, 1915, after prolonged poor health,[1] he was predeceased by his elder son George Dunton Widener and grandson Harry Elkins Widener, both of whom died when RMS Titanic sank in 1912. The structure changed hands a few times over the subsequent decades, with large portions of the estate grounds sold off in the 1940s, and has been predominantly vacant since 1952, when it was purchased by a religious group that started selling off the interior detailing.


Built from Indiana limestone, the T-shaped Lynnewood Hall (dubbed "The last of the American Versailles" by Widener's grandson) measures 325 feet (99 m) long by 215 feet (66 m) deep.[2] In addition to 55 bedrooms, the 110-room mansion had a large art gallery, a ballroom large enough for 1,000 guests, swimming pool, wine cellars, a farm, carpentry and upholstery studios, and an electrical power plant.

A 2014 Philadelphia Inquirer article described the mansion as "dripping with silk, velvet, and gilded moldings, the rooms furnished with chairs from Louis XV's palace, Persian rugs, and Chinese pottery, the halls crammed with art by Raphael, Rembrandt, El Greco, Van Dyck, Donatello."[3] TIME magazine published an account of a lavish party held at Lynnewood Hall in 1932.[4]

Art collection[edit]

The Raphael Room at Lynnewood Hall, William Bruce Ellis Ranken, 1917

From 1915 to 1940, the spectacular art collection at Lynnewood Hall was open to the public by appointment between June and October. In 1940, Joseph E. Widener donated more than 2,000 sculptures, paintings, decorative art works, and porcelains to the National Gallery of Art; the paintings included Raphael's Small Cowper Madonna, Bellini's The Feast of the Gods, eight van Dycks, two Vermeers, fourteen Rembrandts, and a series of portraits by Gainsborough and Reynolds.[5] The sculptures included Donatello's "David" and Desiderio da Settignano's "St John the Baptist".[5]

Lynnewood Hall after Widener ownership[edit]

Lynnewood Hall in January 2013

The grounds were used for training military dogs during World War II, and parcels of the land outside the property fence (see below) were sold to others after 1943.[6]

Lynnewood Hall suffered a general decline under the ownership of the Faith Theological Seminary, a religious group headed by Carl McIntire, which purchased it in 1952 for $192,000.[citation needed] During that ownership much interior detailing, such as mantels, walnut paneling, and landscape ornamentation was sold off in order to raise funds; this is evidenced by the 2006 auction of a French bronze figural fountain—one of only two major surviving Henri-Leon Greber commissions in America—originally installed at Lynnewood Hall.[7]

Lynnewood Hall was added to the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia's 2003 list for most endangered historic properties and is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places, it is cited in Cheltenham Township's Comprehensive Plan as one of the township's cultural and historical resources,[8] and in the township's Open Space Plan as a priority for preservation, warranting a conservation easement.[9] The seminary and property was eventually foreclosed upon by the second-mortgagee, reportedly a one-time follower of McIntire[citation needed].

At 33.85 acres (13.70 ha) according to Montgomery County Board of Assessment data, Lynnewood Hall currently is owned by the First Korean Church of New York. However, Lynnewood is not in use by that church and remains vacant; as of 2007, no significant stabilization or repair efforts have been evident. On June 25, 2007, the Cheltenham Township Planning Commission reviewed and denied a submitted request (Appeal No. 3225) by the First Korean Church of New York, Inc., owner of premises known as 920 Spring Avenue, Elkins Park, Pennsylvania from the Decision of the Zoning Officer for a variance from the rules and regulations of the Class R-2 Residence District as outlined in CCS 295-14. for the use of the premises as a Church and a Domicile for a Caretaker/Assistant Pastor instead of one of the permitted enumerated uses.[10]

This was the second such request, the first submitted in 1998, for a variance; that resulted in a lawsuit [see First Korean Church of New York v. Twp. of Cheltenham Zoning Bd; submitted to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court May 2001], which upheld Cheltenham's denial of the request.[citation needed]

There have been negotiations ongoing of new ownership and possible renovations to the estate. Parties had hoped to have a plan finalized by the end of 2011; the proposed renovation could take the estate back to a private residence, and offer guest rooms to social elite and that of a high society bed and breakfast. Ongoing searches for previous pieces of the estate that belonged to Lynnewood Hall have been undertaken, and the total cost of renovations will be determined by the Buyer.[citation needed] In a state court decision handed down in February 2012 by Judge Norma L. Shapiro, the court ruled the First Korean Church of New York, Inc. did not qualify for tax exemption. In a rare interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer after this court ruling with Dr. Richard S. Yoon, video cameras were permitted inside Lynnewood Hall and the original seminary chapel. Dr. Yoon stated, “We have no choice (but) to relocate. We don’t want to fight any more.”[11][12]

The mansion's grounds, bordered by Ashbourne Road, Spring Avenue and Cedar Lane, are surrounded by their original wrought-iron fencing and gates with stone base and pillars, in marked contrast to that of nearby Trumbauer contemporary Whitemarsh Hall whose similar fencing (which encompassed a much greater acreage) was sacrificed for wartime scrap and rapid postwar development. A gatehouse and another staff outbuilding, of the same materials as Lynnewood, also still exist within the fence; the property within the fence has remained contiguous, never having been subdivided.[citation needed]

This property is currently on the market for $11,000,000 [13] as of May 2019. A historical restoration architect estimated in 2014 that it would take about $50 million to restore the mansion to its former glory; however, Realtor Frank Johnson suggests the property could be renovated for $3 million to $8 million. [14]

Titanic connection[edit]

Peter A. B. Widener was an investor of RMS Titanic, having invested in International Mercantile Marine, owner of the White Star Line, with J.P. Morgan.[15]

George Dunton Widener and Harry Elkins Widener, the eldest son and grandson of Peter A. B. Widener respectively, both died in the 1912 sinking of Titanic. George and his wife, Eleanor Elkins Widener, had traveled to Europe with their son Harry in 1912, booking a return passage on the ship's maiden voyage. George hosted a grand dinner party aboard the world's most luxurious ocean liner;[3] the ship's captain, E.J. Smith, had to leave the party early to check on reports of icebergs ahead.[3] George, his valet, and Harry died in the sinking, while Eleanor and her maid survived by boarding a lifeboat with other First Class women.[15]

The library in Lynnewood was turned into a ballroom after the sinking of Titanic.[16] Peter A. B. Widener died in his bed at Lynnewood Hall just three years later; the New York Times reported that he succumbed to "old age and deep sorrow caused by the loss of his son and his grandson in the Titanic disaster."[3]


  1. ^ "P.A.B. Widener, Capitalist, Dies". The New York Times. November 7, 1915. Retrieved January 5, 2019.
  2. ^ "Peter A.B. Widener Dead". Boston Evening Transcript. November 6, 1915. Retrieved January 5, 2019 – via Google News Archive.
  3. ^ a b c d Parks, Jessica (11 August 2014). "The clock is ticking for Lynnewood Hall". The Philadelphia Inquirer.
  4. ^ "Business: Party at Lynnewood". Time. 24 October 1932 – via
  5. ^ a b Quodbach, Esmée (2002). ""The Last of the American Versailles": The Widener Collection at Lynnewood Hall". Simiolus: Netherlands Quarterly for the History of Art. 1/2 (1/2): 42–96. doi:10.2307/3780924. JSTOR 3780924.
  6. ^ "Magnificent Fountain to be Featured During Second Annual Garden Sale at Bonhams & Butterfields in San Francisco". Bonhams. Archived from the original on 2012-03-08. Retrieved January 5, 2019.
  7. ^ "Bonhams : The magnificent and important Widener French patinated bronze figural fountain depicting Tritons and Nereids".
  8. ^ "Official Website" (PDF).
  9. ^ "Official Website" (PDF).
  10. ^ "Agenda & Minutes" (PDF).
  11. ^ Court document, First Korean Church of New York, Inc. v. Cheltenham Township Zoning Hearing Board and Cheltenham Township, Doc. No. 65-6389, February 29, 2012.
  12. ^ "March 30, 2012".
  13. ^ "A1 ASHBOURNE RD, Elkins Park PA 19027".
  14. ^ "Lynnewood Hall Renovation Costs". Luke Stangel. 2017-05-30. Retrieved 29 June 2017.
  15. ^ a b Whitmire, David. "The Wideners: An American Family". Encyclopedia Titanica.
  16. ^ "Homes of the Titanic: Lynnewood Hall".

External links[edit]