A $256 million mansion tied to the Titanic tragedy is in ruins, new photos by urban explorer “Abandoned Southeast in Philadelphia” show.
Lavish mansion homeowner Peter Widener, a 20% investor in the Titanic, declined his spot on the ill-fated ship in 1912 because of his age, approximately 78 at the time.
But the J. P. Morgan associate’s son, daughter-in-law and grandson — George, Eleanor and Harry Widener — were overseas in France to hire a French chef for their new hotel, the Ritz Carlton, according to a Widener University professor’s research.
So the family patriarch decided to bring his family home to their $8 million Elkins Park home — about $256 million today with inflation — in style. But only his daughter-in-law would survive the trip; George and Harry perished at sea.
Lynnewood Hall, which grandson Harry Widener called “The Last American Versailles” before he died, was built on a 34-acre plot near Philadelphia in 1900 by architect Horace Trumbauer.
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The 70,000-square-foot mega-mansion has 55 bedrooms, 20 bathrooms, a great hall with a grand staircase, an indoor pool, an art gallery and a 1,000-person ballroom, according to a Historic American Buildings Survey.
“Once among the most spectacular homes in the United States, to refer to Lynnewood Hall as simply a mansion is an understatement,” Abandoned Southeast told Media Drum wire company.
The Titanic sank in 1912, and Widener died three years later in 1915. The home with gilded gold doors was willed to his youngest son Joseph, who died there in 1943.
In 1952, anti-Communist radio broadcaster Reverend Carl McIntire turned the home into a religious school called “Faith Theological Seminary” until his money troubles caused the home to be foreclosed on in 1992.
“He [McIntire] sold off many of the fine furnishings and historic features in the property, and sealed off damaged areas of the building rather than repairing them,” said Abandoned Southeast.
The First Korean Church of New York, which still owns the property, took ownership in 1996 for a sale recorded at $0, according to Montgomery County property records.
The original Louis XV-style house had murals from a 16th-century European chateau and artwork from Vermeer, Rembrandt, Raphael, El Greco, Degas, Manet, John Constable and William Turner, according to Media Drum.
“It was both a family home and the gallery for Widener and his son’s extensive fine art collection which included no less than 14 Rembrandts, such as ‘The Mill’ which he purchased for £288,874 ($400,000) — outbidding Britain’s National Gallery.”
It was listed for sale asking $20 million in 2019 and most recently was listed for $11 million — still pricey, given that the two-plot property is appraised at $2.56 million, according to property records, and restoration costs are estimated at $40 million, according to Media Drum.
“It has remained practically abandoned and in a state of disrepair for the last several years,” Abandoned Southeast told Media Drum.
A lasting memorial to the Wideners is the Harry Elkins Widener Memorial Library at Harvard.
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