July 26, 2010 by USA Post
Lynnewood Hall, Elkins Park, Pennsylvania – Hall Lynnewood, a marvel of a century-old building on the outskirts of Philadelphia, silent, almost invisible, languishes 200 feet beyond a two-lane paved road as a crumbling little Versailles.
The source of grace that welcomed hundreds of visitors wealthy, President Franklin Roosevelt among them, was dismantled and sold for years. Meticulously sculpted gardens turn to the French full of weeds and vines. The classical facade of Indiana limestone may have lost their luster, but its size remains – at least from the other side of rusty wrought iron gates that keep the curious at bay.
Like other Golden Age palaces of the nation’s pre-Depression industrial titans, Lynnewood Hall is a relic of a bygone era facing an uncertain future. Are you going to suffer the same fate as neighboring Whitemarsh Hall, the mansion’s demolition banking magnate Edward Stotesbury? Or will be returned to former glory, mansion and industrialist Alfred I. DuPont Nemours is Delaware?
“It’s a tragedy that people drive past Lynnewood Hall and do not know what is, or do not realize it’s there,” said Stephen J. Barron, who runs a website and Facebook group with the aim of the interest in the plight mansion. “It breaks my heart and it bothers me. The house is a work of art.”
Long before his current plight humble, Lynnewood Hall was home to the Widener family uber-rich and called “the last of the Versailles American.”
The Lord of Lynnewood Hall, Peter A.B. Widener, which began as a butcher. After making a small fortune lamb supply the Union troops during the Civil War, became a tycoon full purchase tram and railway lines and investment in steel, and snuff oil.
Among the booty was his farm of 480 acres, the centerpiece of the 110-room Georgian-style palace of 70,000 square meters designed by architect Horace Trumbauer.
Lynnewood Hall was completed in late 1900 and the cost and 8 million in construction – and a staggering $ 212 million today.
It had a ballroom that held 1,000 people, an indoor pool and squash court, a bakery and full-time upholstery and carpentry. The estate boasted its own power station, trail horses and stables and a farm of 220 acres managed by a staff of 100.
French landscape architect Jacques Greber designed the French gardens, which were graced by the source of his brother Henri-Louis de Greber bronze and marble statues.
“It’sa great building and has great potential for commercial use, especially for institutional use,” said Mary Werner Denadai, director of John Milner Architects Chadds Ford in. “It was certainly built to last.”
Contrary to what he described as accounts largely destroyed, Lynnewood Hall is in stable condition and surprisingly intact in general, said Denadai, who got a rare look inside in 2004 at the request of a client interested in a possible purchase.
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