July 03, 2023
A preservation group has acquired the Lynnewood Hall mansion in Elkins Park and plans to restore the site to its former 19th century glory.
The Lynnewood Hall Preservation Foundation has pledged to return the 100,000-square-foot estate "to the community as a place of education, inspiration and recreation." Lynnewood Hall, which is considered the last surviving Gilded Age mansion in the Philadelphia area, had been on the market for almost a decade.
The estate was the home of Peter A.B. Widener, the industrialist who helped modernize Philadelphia's public transit system and was a founding partner in U.S. Steel and the American Tobacco Company. Designed by prominent Philly architect Horace Trumbauer — who also helped create the Philadelphia Museum of Art — Lynnewood Hall was built between 1897 and 1900 in the Neoclassical Revival style. It boasts 110 rooms, including 55 bedrooms, an art gallery, a swimming pool, an enormous ballroom and upholstery and carpentry studios.
Widener died at the estate in 1915, just three years after losing his son, George Dunton Widener, and grandson, Harry Elkins Widener, in the sinking of the Titanic. Lynnewood Hall has changed hands numerous times since, and was last owned by the First Korean Church of New York, which bought the site in 1996. It has sat unoccupied and, according to preservationists, neglected in the decades since.
The LHPF has proposed a three-phase restoration plan to fix up Lynnewood Hall and two other buildings on the 34-acre estate. After an initial stabilization and study period, the group plans to target the gardens and exteriors, and restore the interiors in the final phase of the project.
After the restoration is complete, the LHPF estimates it will cost $1 million annually to maintain and staff Lynnewood Hall. It says it already raised more than $9 million to purchase the grounds.
"Lynnewood Hall is arguably the largest and most exciting residential preservation and restoration project ever proposed in the United States," Angie Van Scyoc, CEO of the Lynnewood Hall Preservation Foundation, said in a statement issued Sunday. "Designed by Horace Trumbauer, perhaps Philadelphia's greatest architect, for Peter Widener, the city's wealthiest industrialist, Lynnewood has been derelict for decades. Now the restoration begins."
According to Hidden City, the group already has begun asbestos remediation and lighting upgrades. The LHPF intends to open some portion of Lynnewood Hall to the public by next year, although the entire project is expected to take much longer.