In an affluent suburb of Philadelphia, a 70,000 square foot survivor from the Gilded Age sits abandoned on almost 34 acres. Listed at $17.5 million, the restoration costs alone would be several times that and would probably take longer than the three years it took to build. The front façade stretches almost 365’ by 215’ deep with 110 rooms and an original build cost of $8 million, in 1900 when the average yearly income was roughly $450.
Lynnewood Hall was purchased in 1952 by Faith Theological Seminary for a paltry sum of $192,000 and during their ownership, under the direction of Carl McIntyre, many of the opulent features were sold off to raise funds. Further plans to sell off the contents were halted in 1993 and efforts have started to locate previous auctioned off items.
Lynnewood Hall was designed by 29 year old architect Horace Trumbauer for Peter Arrell Brown Widener, a businessman whose first big payday was a $50,000 contract to provide meat to Union soldiers. His wealth expanded exponentially after he was appointed Philadelphia city treasurer and using his influence, his Civil War windfall was invested into transit and Widener soon controlled all the streetcars in Philadelphia. His political connections helped him expand into New York, Chicago, Pittsburgh, and Baltimore and expanded his investments, becoming one of the original organizers of the U.S. Steel Corporation, the American Tobacco Company and the International Mercantile Marine Company.
Widener’s estate was virtually self-sustaining. On the south side, there was a 117-acre farm, with a chicken coop, barns, greenhouses, a half-mile race track with a polo field in the middle and stables for raising thoroughbred horses. In addition to the farm, the estate had its own power plant, water pumps, laundry, carpentry shop, and bakery. With so much concerned about a fire destroying his art collection, Widener had a hot air heating system installed at the farm and piped the heat approximately fifteen hundred feet to the house. Thirty-seven full-time servants were employed plus extra help was called in frequently for lavish parties or to perform special maintenance jobs.