Saturday, December 5, 2020

America’s Downton

An opportunity to buy an American equivalent of Downton Abbey

 

Downton Abbey returns to our screens this autumn and one has to ask whether its writer Julian Fellowes was at all influenced by the story of the story of Peter Widener of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania whose son and grandson both died in the sinking of the RMS Titanic.

 

Lynnewood Hall
Lynnewood Hall

Peter Arrell Brown Widener (1834 – 1915)
Peter Arrell Brown Widener (1834 – 1915)

Lynnewood Hall in its heyday
Lynnewood Hall in its heyday

 

The estate is an American equivalent of Buckingham Palace in terms of its size
The estate is an American equivalent of Buckingham Palace in terms of its size

As happened to Widener, a merchant and successful businessman, the first series of Downton Abbey began with the news that Lord Grantham’s heir presumptive and his son both died aboard the ill fated vessel. Three years later, Widener is said to have died of “deep sorrow” caused by the loss.

 

Widener comes to attention again now because one of the neoclassical revival mansions he built – Lynnewood Hall – has come to the market for £11.9 million ($20 million) despite requiring at a renovation budget of at least a further £29.8 million ($50 million). Featuring 110 rooms and an astounding 70,000 square foot of living space (including 55 bedrooms) on 33.85 gated acres, Lynnewood Hall is being sold by a New York urologist and pastor of a Korean church named Richard S. Yoon.

 

Constructed circa 1900 at a cost of $8 million (or £126.3 million or $212 million in today’s money) to house three generations of Wideners and one of America’s largest private art collections, the décor of the mansion was described as being “leaving no doubt as to the family’s wealth”. One writer commented that it 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, El Greco, Van Dyck and Donatello”.

 

The grandeur of the interior is illustrated in this image
The grandeur of the interior is illustrated in this image

Surprisingly some of the rooms seem to be in reasonably good condition
Surprisingly some of the rooms seem to be in reasonably good condition

Lynnewood Hall was effectively built as a private museum by the Widener family
Lynnewood Hall was effectively built as a private museum by the Widener family

After Peter Widener’s death, his only surviving son, Joseph, took over the family empire and “perfected his father’s vast art collection”. In 1932, Fortune magazine described it as “the finest private collection of past art to be found in the U.S.”

 

Other parts of the building show signs of significant decline
Other parts of the building show signs of significant decline

The once spectacular grounds of Lynnewood Hall need considerable work also
The once spectacular grounds of Lynnewood Hall need considerable work also

Joseph Widener’s son, however, did not like Lynnewood one bit. In his 1940 memoir, he wrote: “It’s a museum, not a home. It’s as cold and as formal as if real people didn’t live here”. He converted the stables to create a more comfortable residence for himself and after his mother’s death added: “She had died alone in that great lonely house”. In time, Joseph Widener donated the family’s art collection – then valued at an astounding  $20 million (£172 million or $290 million in today’s money) – to the National Museum in Washington.

 

With the art collection gone, the great era for Lynnewood was over and the Widener family auctioned off the estate in 1944. The buyers wanted but failed to build a Protestant university and decades of bankruptcy proceedings and repossessions followed. In 1952, for example, the mansion was then sold for just $192,000 (the equivalent of £1.02 million or $1.7 million in today’s money). During this time, the neglected mansion fell into significant decline but maybe now it has been brought to the market by Frank Johnson of BHHS Fox & Roach Realtors, it could just be time for a new ‘Gilded Age’ at Lynnewood Hall.

 

Internal photographs were taken by @AustinXCO4 on Instagram.

 

 

Subscribe to our free once daily email newsletter here:

     

    4 COMMENTS

    1. This for me is a wonderful article; a house like the one Jay Gatsby bought………

      Like William Randolph Hearst, J Peirpoint Morgan, Andrew Melon, John D Rockerfeller, Samuel H Kress and Henry J Frick; Widener was a major client of the ‘ Great Duveen ‘…..Lord Duveen of Milbank that is

      The above article adds a lot for me, as I have had a lifelong interest in Duveen’s amazing career;the scale of it all is breathtaking and brings another dimension to the Titanic disaster

      If anyone wishes to share in my interest; put Lord Duveen into Google, and note that Widener doesn’t even get a mention

      Duveen was a major force………..the major force, a major player and completely ruthless;

      Duveen had an enormous overdraft facility with Parr’s Bank, and people like J.P.Morgan and Widener could never understand how Duveen’s cheques always got met

    2. I read a lot of interesting articles here. Probably you spend
      a lot of time writing, i know how to save you a lot of work, there is an online tool that creates readable, google friendly posts in seconds, just type in google
      – laranitas free content source

    LEAVE A REPLY

    Please enter your comment!
    Please enter your name here

    Most Popular

    Carrie On Cronyism

    Carrie Symonds is morphing into the Lynda Snell of Downing Street; this busybody bird’s cronyism and nepotism stinks to high heaven.

    Erecting a C(l)ock

    WARNING: EXPLICIT – Chi-chi auction house auction smutty Benny Hill-esque novelty automotive clock; it’ll be erecting a lot of interest.

    Runners & Riders – The Tingle Creek Chase 2020

    ‘The Steeple Times’ shares an analysis of the top tipsters and their selections for the ‘Betfair Tingle Creek Chase 2020’ at Sandown in the wake of Altior being pulled out.

    Petitioning Sir Shifty

    Change.org petition seeking to have ‘Sir Shifty’ Philip Green stripped of his knighthood soars to 190,000 supporters in just 48 hours

    The (Loss) of Ludicrous Lord’s

    EXCLUSIVE – Matthew Steeples reports on coronavirus and the lack of Arabic arrivals killing off Knightsbridge’s most expensive ‘convenience’ store, Lord’s Food & Wine of Brompton Road, SW3.

    Pardoning Ghislaine

    Odds of 3/1 emerge on Donald Trump pardoning Ghislaine Maxwell before 21st January 2021 alongside Joe Exotic.

    Trump’s Jaguar Wall

    As the ‘Guardian’ reveals Donald Trump’s border wall construction is threatening the survival of jaguars in the US, our petition to get his endangered animal slaying supporter Larysa Switlyk banned from Instagram tops 13,000 signatures.

    Greedy Green Goes Red

    As ‘The Sun’ quite rightly rebrands Tina Green ‘Lady Greed,’ we join those demanding this creep cough up before Christmas; why should...

    Sir Shifty Returns to Zero

    As Arcadia looks set to go under today, ‘Sir Shifty’ Philip Green will deservedly become this season’s pantomime villain.

    Pintless, Pointless & Pathetic

    The government’s decision to ban people from further drinking after they’ve finished a “substantial meal” is pointless and pathetic.

    A Defender Desk

    As more and more people work from home, how about an unusual desk? Jaguar Land Rover have made one out of a Defender and it’ll set you back a pretty penny.

    Moron of the Moment – Gordon Ramsay

    That Gordon Ramsay thinks it acceptable to start selling burgers at £80 a pop at a time of economic meltdown confirms him as a cretin.

    Heroine of the Hour – Micheline Stephen

    Ninety-year-old daily martini drinker Micheline Stephen of Cupar, Scotland is to be saluted for grabbing a robber and calling him “a wee sh*te.”

    Get Out Ghislaine

    As Donald Trump looks set to pardon Michael Flynn, will he also somehow help Ghislaine Maxwell get out of jail also?

    Spying a Watch

    1950s Cold War espionage device disguised as a watch to be auctioned for a surprisingly low sum; someone could end up spying a bargain and something akin to what Jack Ruby even once owned.

    Nasty Nat’s Naughty Notes

    ‘Nasty Nat’ Natalie Elphicke MP – wife of convicted ex-MP turned sex offender Charlie Elphicke – rightly called out for pestering the judiciary with naughty notes.

    Weather Now

    London
    overcast clouds
    6.2 ° C
    7.2 °
    5 °
    81 %
    4.1kmh
    100 %
    Sat
    7 °
    Sun
    5 °
    Mon
    5 °
    Tue
    4 °
    Wed
    6 °