The 34-acre Lynnewood Hall estate in the Elkins Park community has been in decline since the original heirs sold it in 1944, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported Sunday. The home, completed around 1900, once held one of the nation's largest private art collections. In its heyday, the house was dripping with silk, velvet and gilded moldings, the rooms furnished with chairs from King Louis XV's palace, Persian rugs and Chinese pottery and the halls crammed with art by Raphael, Rembrandt and Donatello.
But members of the Widener family who owned the property just outside Philadelphia died or moved away. The estate was first sold to an association that wanted to build a Protestant university. Then it was sold to a housing developer followed by a seminary and another church. The property went through
"If it continues to be neglected as it is, it will be beyond salvage...."
But those who have seen the interior in recent years said most of the house's fine, historic fixtures are still there, even though some of the rooms are destroyed by water damage and broken windows. Mary DeNadai, an architect who specializes in historic restoration, said it would take about $50 million to restore the home to its former glory, but time is running out. "If it continues to be neglected as it is, it will be beyond salvage" within five to 10 years, she said.
David Rowland, president of the Old York Road Historical Society, said he has seen possible buyers come and go over the years. "It was always loved more by the people who'd never been inside it than by the people who actually lived there," Rowland said.