DESPITE shouldering the weight of a tragic Titanic tale, Peter Widener’s sprawling mansion has managed to withstand the test of time.
The wealthy American businessman plowed millions into bringing his vision alive at Lynnewood Hall – where the walls remain haunted by his heartbreak.
His stunning stately home was once regarded as one of the finest pieces of real estate in Pennsylvania, before it was left to rot.
The uber-wealthy art collector and public transportation pioneer began building the home in 1897, before wrapping up the project in 1900.
With ornate interiors, a powerful T-shaped floor plan and an impressive frontage, the estate was fittingly considered a work of art.
Widener’s grand plan was born out of grief—as he was desperate to create a “comfortable” family home after his wife Hannah died in 1896.
It was the first tragedy at sea to rock the affluent brood, as the mum passed away on board their yacht off the coast of Maine.
Acclaimed architect Horace Trumbauer designed every aspect of the $250million pad that was dubbed the “American Versailles” – thanks to its 55 bedrooms, 20 bathrooms, art gallery and gigantic ballroom.
Widener enlisted an army of 37 staff to run his palace while another 60 were employed just to tend to the endless gardens.
His flair for the creative and grandeur saw the property dripping with silk, velvet and gilded moldings in each of the 110 rooms.
Chairs were brought in from Louis XV’s palace, while Persian rugs and Chinese pottery decorated the 70,000-square-foot mega-mansion.
No expense was spared on the spectacular property – which boasts gilded gold doors, extravagant hallways, an indoor pool and a grand staircase.
Widener’s extensive art collection lined the walnut paneled walls, while he enlisted contractors to create his very own squash court.
But as he moved his family in among the throes of mourning his late wife, he began hunting for further business opportunities.
The transport tycoon decided to take his expertise to the water by helping to bankroll the build of the White Star Line’s latest and greatest vessel – the RMS Titanic.
Inevitably, he was offered a spot on the ill-fated ship in 1912 – but declined due to his poor health and reaching the age of 78.
But the JP Morgan associate’s son, daughter-in-law, and grandson – George, Eleanor and Harry – instead took his place.
The trio had been overseas in France on the search for a stellar chef to run the kitchen in their new hotel, The Ritz Carlton.
They took up the offer to return home in style on the doomed passenger liner and were sadly on board when it sank in the North Atlantic Ocean on April 15, 1912.
Widener’s beloved son George and grandson Harry perished at sea, while Eleanor miraculously survived the deadly voyage.
The tragedy left an enormous void inside the mansion of the financier, who was then one of the world’s richest men.
The emptiness somewhat foretold the future of Lynnewood Hall, which later ended up abandoned.
Widener died three years after the Titanic disaster and ownership of the luxury property went to his youngest and only surviving son, Joseph.
After his death in 1943, neither of his children wanted to take on the responsibility of maintaining the historic mansion.
The home, now desolate and disheveled, was left empty until radio star Carl McIntire purchased it almost a decade later.
McIntire turned the massive home into a religious school, but it closed in 1992 due to financial struggles.
They had sold off priceless furnishings and fixtures to raise money – including more than 350 acres of land – but the church still could not find sufficient funds.
The once-magnificent mansion was stripped of its treasures – such as its 16th-century European château murals and artwork from greats like Vermeer, Rembrandt, El Greco, Manet, and more.
Four years later, the building — which was reportedly in need of several fixes that McIntire never tended to — was given to the First Korean Church of New York.
Despite the massive home being built for $8million back in 1900 — which would add up to around $224million today with inflation — the home was reportedly listed for sale for $20million in 2019.
Since then, a plucky army of historians and fans of Lynnewood Hall have banded together to revive the beauty of the mansion.
Lynnewood Hall Preservation Foundation Inc. is on a mission to clean up every inch of the gigantic mansion – and its secret rooms.
President Angie van Scyoc said: “Every time we’re here we find something new.”
The formerly magnificent property is barely recognizable from its heyday after seemingly crumbling under the weight of its tragic legacy.
Each room is eerily empty, stripped of its personality to reveal its cold, hard concrete and faded glory.
Although some of its original features remain intact, the ceilings have partially collapsed while the swimming pool has been left in ruins.
Only the ballroom managed to cling onto its essence of opulence, as it still features its famed gilded ceiling.