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Lynewood Hall- Elkins Park, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania

This spectacular neo-classical revival masterpiece is considered one of the greatest surviving Gilded Age mansions in America. The stately home was once one of the finest pieces of real estate in Pennsylvania, but due to a complex and sad history, the magnificent house fell into disrepair – but it still harbours its fair share of secrets.

The birth of Lynnewood Hall
Known as Lynnewood Hall, this turn-of-the-century estate in Philadelphia was built between 1897 and 1900 for US tycoon, prolific art collector and an investor in the ill-fated Titanic, Peter Arrell Browne Widener. When it was first built, the property stood on a staggeringly large 480-acre estate in Elkins Park in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania.

Covering 70,000 square feet, Lynnewood Hall was constructed from limestone and designed in a T-shape, which can be seen in this original floor plan
Widener put his heart and soul into the house and it was decorated with the finest furnishings. Back in its heyday, it required 37 permanent staff members to run it and a further 60 employees to look after the extensive garden. No doubt he hoped the house would stay within the family for centuries, but that was not to be…

Widener was fanatical about art and antiquities and The Philadelphia Inquirer once described the property’s interior as “dripping with silk, velvet, and gilded mouldings, 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”.

Trumbauer hired two interior designers to kit out Lynnewood Hall: Jules Allard et Fils and William Baumgarten. The house could be entered by two sets of doors, the first set in bronze and the other clad in gold. These stunning doors led lucky visitors to the spectacular grand hall.

This first floor Reception Room was completed in 1915, when Joseph E. Widener redesigned the home’s interior. Decorated in the Louis XV style, it boasts 24-karat gilding and would have been the ultimate place to welcome important guests.

The old butler’s pantry is located on the main floor right next to the dining room. We’re sure countless lavish meals and classic cocktails were crafted in this now dusty space. Amazingly, during a recent organised trip to the house, a group of individuals discovered a huge silver vault in the pantry, where Widener’s collection of fine silverware was no doubt securely stored.

In 2003, Lynnewood Hall was added to the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia, a list of endangered historic properties in the region, although this label sadly doesn’t protect it from deterioration. Today, the property is among the largest historic houses in America and has been described as “the last American Versailles” due to its architectural beauty.

In 2017, the stunning estate hit the real estate market again, this time for $11 million (£9.7m). The house remained up for sale for more than two years but was later removed from the market, although it’s unclear whether a deal was struck. Having said that, according to Hidden City, the current owner of the mansion is Dr. Richard Yoon of the Korean Presbyterian Church of New York, but again it’s not clear what Yoon’s intentions are with the property.

Yet there is new hope for the historic stately home. Recently, a group of individuals from various locations across America joined forces to preserve Lynnewood Hall. Described by Hidden City as “easily one of the biggest fundraising and conservation efforts ever undertaken by a newly-formed non-profit organization”, the group has been rallying to acquire the building and return it to its former glory.

The Lynnewood Hall Preservation Foundation is said to be working closely with Dr. Yoon, who has allowed the group access to the property and its estate every weekend. During these visits, the foundation’s volunteers gather to clean up, take stock and undertake any maintenance that’s required. The group hasn’t yet set a fundraising goal, but their biggest priority right now is to spread the word that the property is intact, not a ruin, and very much able to be restored.

During these visits, the group has stumbled upon many amazing hidden surprises. For one, they found an area near the family bedrooms that houses 14 safes. This part of the house also features a secret room that’s not included on the original floor plans. Given Lynnewood Hall’s size, we’re sure plenty more amazing discoveries will be made as the preservation efforts continue…

The group is on the hunt for “preservation-minded investors” to fund their restoration efforts and is working on a National Register of Historic Places nomination, to help protect the property. One thing’s for sure, the group will need to obtain a fair amount of support. A historical restoration architect has estimated that it would cost approximately $50 million (£44.4m) to return the house to its former glory. But you can’t put a price on history, can you?

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