Mansion That’s Been Empty For Decades Has One Odd Connection To History

There’s no denying that modern day mansions belonging to celebrities and world-famous athletes are jaw-dropping, but what these 30-wing houses lack is a rich history. It’s the turn-of-the-century estates that hold all sorts of secrets and fascinating stories within their walls.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is home to what’s considered by historians to be one of the greatest Gilded Age mansions still standing today. But once you dig into the history of the sprawling estate, you begin to see why it’s sat abandoned for so many years.

There it is. The massive estate called Lynnewood Hall. It’s almost unfathomable to think the entire 480-acre chunk of land belonged to just one family. It took a lot of loot to purchase something like that, but they had it.

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The goliath home was built between 1897 and 1900, and the man who hired a team to build it was a powerful tycoon and art collector named Peter Arrell Browne Widener. However, the home was built on tragedy.


Widener’s wife died in a Maine yachting accident in 1896, and the intense mourning that followed caused the tycoon to create the epic Lynnewood Hall. And honestly, “epic” was an understatement.

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Can you even imagine this being a photo of the back of your home? The man behind the design was architect Horace Trumbauer, and he put tons of love into all 70,000 square feet of limestone.


Apparently Trumbauer based the look of Lynnewood Hall off two famous mansions: Prior Park in Bath, England, and Ballingarry in New Jersey. The entire home contained 100 rooms, but even that impressive number didn’t compare to the garden.


The mansion itself had 37 employees working tirelessly day and night to help keep the lavish furniture and artwork adorning every room spotless. But, it took 60 people to tend to the garden. Inside, the estate was even more lavish.

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This was the first room guests saw when they entered the front doors: one set of doors bronze, the other covered in gold. Widener created an almost overwhelming environment of wealth right off the bat.

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According to The Philadelphia Inquirer, the estate was “dripping with silk, velvet, and gilded mouldings, the rooms furnished with chairs from Louis XV’s palace, Persian rugs, and Chinese pottery, the halls crammed with art by Raphael, Rembrandt, and Donatello.”

United States Library of Congress

After 15 years of living in Lynnewood Hall, Widener passed away. His son George was in line to inherit the whole estate from the very beginning, but a 1912 disaster jeopardized that plan.

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See, George was actually an investor in the Titanic, and he was on board the ship when it made its maiden voyage. He, along with his wife Eleanor and son Harry, couldn’t wait to travel on “The Unsinkable Ship.”

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Of course, we all know how the fate of the Titanic unfolded. The captain of the ship ignored the iceberg warnings and forged ahead, which led to the death of more than half of the 2,224 people on the trip.

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Of the three members in the family, the only one who made it to safety aboard a lifeboat was Eleanor. George and Harry perished, so Lynnewood Hall was inherited by Widener’s only other surviving son, Joseph.


Joseph, much like his father, loved art, and he actually opened the home’s art collection to the public from 1915 to 1940. In 1943, however, he passed away, leaving the estate to fall into the hands of an unlikely group.

United States Library of Congress

Since none of Joseph’s children wanted to take over, a developer purchased the mansion for the ridiculously low sum of $130,000, and then eventually sold it to a religious group called the Faith Theological Seminary. That’s when the estate started crumbling.


To raise funds, the group sold tons of the interior furnishings, as well as over 350 acres of land. However, the gallery that now displays the art actually replicated the Lynnewood Hall room it came from, which was an honor.

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Eventually, the religious group moved out, and the place completely fell apart. However, a YouTuber who goes by svvk broke into the property and captured the current interior through his camera. This is the art gallery devoid of displays.

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This enormous ballroom used to host lavish parties with live music and top-tier meals. Although mold now adorns the walls, the gilded ceiling is still mesmerizing. The energy in this room when functioning was electric.

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What once was a swimming pool full of water supplied by the home’s own private reservoir is now a depressing pit of rubble. It’s hard to imagine anyone wanting this land now, but it was listed for sale in 2014.

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However, after three years of no takers, it was relisted for $11 million — an amount astonishingly less than what it was worth during its heyday. Amazingly, an anonymous buyer made the purchase.


Nothing is known about the new owner other than they’d need about $50 million to restore the whole thing. Hey, everything has its price, but sometimes purchases this extravagant also come with a catch.


In New Jersey, a lovely 111-year-old mansion hit the real estate market, and it can be all yours for $10! Yes, you read that correctly: $10. But, as you’ll find out, there’s one huge catch…

The property is located in the town of Montclair, which is a scenic suburban area full of friendly residents. It’s the ideal location for someone looking to settle down and raise a family. Not surprisingly, the mansion is even located on a road called Pleasant Avenue.

In 1906, renowned local architect Dudley S. Van Antwerp built the residence. He started his design practice in 1900, and he constructed famous buildings such as the Montclair Wachtung Avenue Congregational Church and the Yacht Club in Bayside, Long Island. So, what’s the deal?

This particular Colonial-style mansion contains six bedrooms and three-and-a-half baths. It also has a private exterior tennis court and a carriage house. The house itself is nearly 4,000 square feet, and it sits comfortably on two-and-a-half acres of land.

Given the sheer size and numerous amenities, it has a market value price of $1.35 million. Although that sounds expensive, many of the surrounding Montclair homes sell for around that price. It’s that kind of area.

The home also has some important historical significance to it. It was once owned by the first African American athlete to captain the famed Notre Dame football team, Aubrey Lewis. Lewis eventually went on to become one of the first black members of the FBI.

Unfortunately, Lewis passed away in 2001. After his death, the BNE Real Estate Group purchased the estate and planned on building eight homes on the property. This proposal, however, quickly fell through.

The reason behind the sudden halt in BNE’s plans? When they purchased the home and property after Lewis’s death, they made an agreement with the Montclair Historic Preservation Commission to preserve the estate due to its historical significance.

Because of this hiccup in the plans to build, the home is being sold for a meager $10! It sounds way too good to be true. A property this nice selling for the price of a movie ticket? But that’s where the huge catch comes into play…

And what exactly is the catch that has so many buyers turning their backs on this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity? As it so happens, the home cannot be occupied where it currently stands. Whoever purchases the residence would actually have to move the entire thing to a different location.

Montclair town officials say they approved the subdivision application on the strict terms that once the property was sold, it must be relocated to a different area. Doing it this way means everyone wins: the historical significance is preserved, the BNE Real Estate Group gains valuable land on which to build their homes, and the buyer owns a big ol’ house!

But there are also other conditions that must be met by whoever makes the purchase. The home must be moved within a quarter mile of its current location, and the buyer must pay for all the associated costs that come along with that.

The seller is even offering $10,000 to whomever buys it to help with the relocating costs. At first, that might seem like a great deal, but when all is said and done, the total relocation effort will cost upwards of $200,000!

Moving costs aren’t the only thing the buyer needs to be wary of, either. Because the home is so old, there could very well be asbestos problems. This, and any other renovations that need to be done, must be paid out of pocket by the purchaser.

Laurena White, a real estate agent for Prominent Properties Sotheby’s International Realty, told CBS New York in August 2017, “In addition to moving it, the cost of any kind of repairs and renovation required that it be done to historic guidelines. That tends to be real expensive.”

Carmen Warren, a woman who lives next door to this property, shared her thoughts on the situation. She said, “Where are they going to put it? Why would I want to buy such a big monstrosity of a house and don’t know where to put it?” She makes a valid point!

Although rare, a home relocation as intense as this is not entirely unheard of. In 2007, Julie and Randy Olson, a couple from Brook Park, Minnesota, moved their entire home after the value of it suddenly decreased drastically and they couldn’t secure a loan to build a new one.

Fortunately for the Olsons, though, a colleague of theirs was selling their home for one dollar to accommodate a future wildlife refuge. The Olsons jumped at the opportunity, and they had their Brook Park home moved to the land for only $22,000—a fraction of the market value!

Even though the idea of relocating an entire home sounds exhausting—and frankly, a little crazy—it can be a financially savvy move if you know how to go about it in the right way. For some, it would actually be a sensible option.

If you have the money, an investment like the one in Montclair is well worth it. You’d own a home valued at $1.35 million—plus a piece of history—for a startlingly low price. Sure, the relocation will probably cost upwards of a few hundred thousand dollars, but once it’s finally completed, you can sit back and enjoy your fantastic new home!

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