Not every abandoned mansion brings with it a story of a haunting or an eerie whisper of grand 18th-century balls that once took place within its walls. Some of them are even without a reign of royalty to conjure up juicy details of a family heir gone awry. Sometimes, an abandoned mansion is nothing more than a result of tragic fate, and that's exactly what this Pennsylvania house has stood for, for more than a century now.

The nearly-forgotten home of Lynnewood Hall was once considered to be one of the finest mansions in the country from the Gilded Age. It also held the title as being the finest home in the state of Pennsylvania but with so many Neo-Classical Revival features, that was not a tough challenge to overcome. What more interesting - and tragic - is the family who once owned this mansion, and how their lives were intertwined with that of the biggest maritime disaster in history: The Titanic.


The Birth Of The Country's Most Beautiful Mansion

While not as old as many others in the country, construction on Lynnewood Hall first began in 1897 and was completed three years later, in 1900. The mansion itself was commanding in presence but the land on which it sat took up an impressive 480 acres, making it remote and stunning at the same time. Owned by Peter Arrell Browne Widener, most knew him as a high-profile art collector before he became an investor in the Titanic. Although it fell into disrepair, the mansion still sits on the same piece of property in Montgomery County to this day.

The construction of this massive project of a home might seem like something one would do with excitement and flourish. However, Lynnewood Hall came about out of need rather than want; Widener, and his family, seemed to be fated with tragedy from the start. Rather than building this new home simply as a vacation spot - as many people would have during that time - it was set to be constructed after the death of his wife, Hannah. Her life was tragically in a bizarre and eerie maritime accident as she was sailing off the coast of Maine in the family's yacht. One year after losing his wife, Widener made the decision to move out of the home they shared in Philadelphia and create Lynnewood Hall, which was to be a family estate. Sadly, tragedy - and yet another maritime accident - would strike the family once again.

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The Inspiration For Lynnewood Hall's Architecture

The architect responsible for the build at Lynnewood was Horace Trumbauer. He took inspiration for the design from Ballingarry in New Jersey, and Prior Park in Bath, England. With such strong, prominent features, the mansion was once the envy of the entire world.

Lynnewood Hall Facts

  • Number of Rooms: 110 rooms; 55 bedrooms & 20 bathrooms
  • Square Footage: ~70,000
  • Cost to Build: $8 million
  • Staffing: 37 staff inside, 60 staff outside to tend to the grounds

It's quite evident that this was no easy undertaking and the goal of Trumbauer was to create an elegant, yet comfortable, place for Widener and his children to call home. That comfort included rooms such as a grand entrance, at which the large, solid front doors would open to reveal a grand staircase. Archways and alcoves on either side and to the back of the stairs would lead to different areas of the house and showcase elaborate decor. While the room remains empty today, it's easy enough to imagine what sat just beyond those bronze and gold double doors. Once inside the entryway, guests would be led through the stairs or up the winding double staircases, clad with emerald green fabric. From the staircase, the true detail of the Romanesque archways could be seen in its full glory, along with intricately designed, Renaissance-style railings that continued around the balcony on the second floor.

The dining room and sitting room, or parlor, was described by The Philadelphia Inquirer to be 'dripping with silk, velvet, and gilded moldings.' Even the furniture was lavish in nature, with some chairs from none other than the palace of King Lous XV. Chinese pottery adorned the shelves while Persian rugs decorated the floors, and spectacular works of art from famed artists such as Rembrandt, Donatello, and Raphael were showcased prominently.

The Tragic End Of Lynnewood, And Its Family

When Widener died in 1915 at the age of 80, his oldest son, George, was slated to inherit the property following a cruise on none other than the Titanic - the ship that his father had invested in. Three years prior, George, his wife Eleanor, and their son, Harry, were aboard the ship for her maiden voyage from Europe after their holiday. When the ship went down, Eleanor was the only survivor - thus, the property was inherited by Joseph, the only surviving son of the Widener family.

Joseph had an eye for art and was truly passionate about all that went into giving Lynnewood Hall its artistic reputation; he donated many pieces and had others on display, keeping the history of Lynnewood alive the entire time. Sadly, after his passing in 1943, neither of his children wanted to inherit the estate. As the decades went by, the mansion went from owner to owner, with items being sold and auctioned off, while the home fell into disrepair during the interims between owners.

Today, it's nothing of what it was. However, if you look closely enough, you can still see the magic and regality that once make Lynnewood Hall one of the most well-respected mansions in the world.

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