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Buy Philly's Storied, 'Cannibalized' Lynnewood Hall For $20M

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Photos by Laura Kicey

The largest surviving Gilded Age mansion in the Philly area hit the market yesterday asking $20M without a single interior photo to the listing. Which is understandable, because by all accounts, the inside looks like grade-A ruin porn. Designed by prominent mansion-building architect Horace Trumbauer for industrialist Peter Widener and completed in 1900, Lynnewood Hall set its original owner back $8M in construction costs, or about $212M in today's dollars. The 70,000-square-foot estate once housed Widener's collection of over 2,000 works of art, and after his death in 1915, opened its doors to public tours for the next 25 years. In 1932, Widener's son threw a lavish party there with over 300 guests in attendance, which a Time reporter returned from with a breathless account of the "dark red French tapestries" and "majestic bust of the great Prince de Conde" in the dining room, and the ballroom "with its Louis XV and XVI furniture, its Chinese vases, its four crystal chandeliers." Widener's grandson once dubbed it "the last of the American Versailles," and though he clearly didn't do his homework, the archival shots below pretty much confirm the comparison.

Lynnewood Hall was acquired by the Faith Theological Seminary in 1952 for $192K, under whose care it was "cannibalized," as the Washington Post once put it, with its walnut paneling, ornate mantels, and most of its landscape ornamentation sold off. In 2006 a bronze figural fountain by French sculptor Henri-Leon Greber that was originally part of the grounds surfaced at an auction and was sold for $392K. In 1996, the estate was acquired by Richard S. Yoon at a sheriff's sale, who planned on turning it into a branch of the First Korean Church of New York. In 2012, after multiple court rulings denied his requests for rezoning and a tax exemption, Yoon allowed cameras inside the ballroom, and in full view of what remained of the estate's former splendor, stated "we have no choice (but) to relocate. We don't want to fight any more."

After over a decade of paying $138K a year in taxes on the place, during which time it remained vacant, and spending at least $12M just to maintain the "status quo" with basic repairs, Yoon is finally ready to rid himself of Lynnewood. Back in 2011, a proposed renovation floated the idea of turning it into a kind of ultra-ritzy bed and breakfast, but it's unclear what would make the estate worth the investment. If, like the so-called Gatsby Mansion, Lynnewood is destined to become another legendary Gilded Age teardown, then at least there will always be the Minecraft rendition to refer back to.

· Horace Trumbauer's Lynnewood Hall Hits the Market at $20M [Curbed Philly]
· Rare Video of the Interior of Lynnewood Hall Emerges [Curbed Philly]
· A1 Ashbourne Road [Zillow]