Few estates showcase the wealth of the Gilded Age than Lynnewood Hall in Elkins Park in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. Built by A.B. Widener between 1897-1900, it was a masterpiece of design. The 110-room mansion sat on 300 acres that were meticulously cared for and adorned with statues. The mansion was 70,000 square feet and designed by the noted American architect Horace Trumbauer. Aside from being a place to live, it was also to be the home of one of the largest private art collections in the country. It is estimated to have cost $8 million to build. Sadly, both his son George Dunton Widener and grandson Harry, died when Titanic sank in 1912. George had two other children who were not aboard at the time. His wife Eleanor and maid did survive but it was a devastating blow to AB. He would die in 1915.
Between 1915-1940, it was a private art gallery open to the public by appointment. In 1940, over 2,000 pieces of art were donated to the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. When Joseph Widener passed away in 1943, none of his children wanted the responsibility (meaning cost because it took a lot of money to keep the house and grounds maintained). It was abandoned and left to slowly disintegrate until 1948 when a developer bought it for a very low price. After that it was purchased by the Faith Theological Seminary. They sold off most of the land and now sits on 33 acres. Most of the art that was left was sold off prior to the sale. The seminary sold off many the famed interior detailing to raise funds. You must go to the National Gallery in Washington to see the Widener art collection, which is still preserved.
The house has been left to rot having been stripped of its precious art and detailing. Some rooms and areas are still in good condition as the slideshow indicates. It has been added to the list of endangered historic properties in the region. The secret tunnels referred to in the title were possibly used by staff to navigate the large house without being seen by Widener’s guests. The home was up for sale in 2014 for $20 million but that was brought down to $17.5 million in 2017. It appears off the market but not really known if it was sold or not. Perhaps it ought to be renovated and made open to the public (for a fee, of course) like many mansions and estates in Britain and France. You can view the slideshow here.