Lynnewood Estate

Lynnewood_Hall,_Elkins_Park_PA_01

Have I mentioned my obsession with abandoned buildings?

I’ve been interested in Lynnewood for almost a year now. I started doing research on Gilded Age mansions in Pennsylvania for a story I was working on, and Lynnewood is by far one of the most outstanding estates I’ve looked into. For one, the property is humongous. The estate and its owners were known for their extravagant parties, and one of these parties was even written about in Time magazine in 1932. “The ballroom, with its Louis XV and XVI furniture, its Chinese vases, its four crystal chandeliers, was filled with tables,” the article reads. “Joseph Early Widener, master of the Hall, was having a large party.¬†If an uninvited guest had mingled with that company, first amusing them with witticisms but finally enacting a Poe-like “Masque of the Red Death,” there would have been havoc throughout the land.”

Though my interest in Lynnewood is not completely morbid, it has been touched by tragedy. Peter Widener’s eldest son and grandson died on the Titanic. After Peter Widener died in 1915, the estate was used for training military dogs during World War II. Since then¬†it has been passed from one church to another, yet none of these churches have managed to do anything with the impressive estate and it remains vacant. As of this past July, the property is on the market for $20,000,000. Though it’s suffered over the years from neglect, the estate is still beautiful, if fairly eerie, and was dubbed by Widener’s grandson to be “the last of the American Versailles.” I’m curious about how a place that was such a symbol of its era could fall into disrepair, and what it would look like if you could see into its windows (there’s an iron fence around the property, but it doesn’t stop some people from going to investigate). It sounds like there may still be furniture inside. The area in general should be okay to fly in, but I don’t know how it works with these old abandoned properties that don’t really belong to anyone anymore.

There is also the St. Nicholas Coal Breaker in Pennsylvania as well that has an interesting history of visitors rearranging its insides, and then Long Island’s Kings Park Psychiatric Center which was, during the time it was operating, known for being on the cutting edge of psychiatric treatment. I am, of course, talking about lobotomies and the like.