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Pennsylvania mansion tycoon built for his family before son and grandson died in Titanic sinking

It was meant to be the ancestral home of a new American dynasty, but the sinking of the Titanic left this mansion destined for dereliction.

Photos captured by an urban explorer reveal the sad state of Lynnewood Hall in the US state of Pennsylvania.

The mansion, which was described as an ‘American Versailles’, was completed in 1900 at a cost of $8m – an estimated $260m (£190m) in today’s money.

Inspired by English stately home Prior Park in Bath, Somerset, it featured 110 rooms, as well as a swimming pool, wine cellars, a farm, a power plant, and a ballroom big enough for 1,000 guests.

It was supposed to be a family estate, passing from Peter Widener, a streetcar tycoon, to his son, George, and then his grandson, Harry. 

But both heirs were lost when the Titanic sank on its maiden voyage in the early hours of April 15, 1912, after hitting an ice berg in the freezing Atlantic ocean. 

When Peter Widener died three years later, aged 80, the New York Times said he succumbed to ‘old age and deep sorrow caused by the loss of his son and his grandson in the Titanic disaster’.

Today, Lynnewood Hall stands almost totally empty. Pictures taken by a 24-year-old photographer, who shares her work under the pseudonym Life Is Decay, reveal its interior.

It was meant to be the ancestral home of a new American dynasty, but the sinking of the Titanic left this mansion destined for dereliction. Photos captured by an urban explorer reveal the sad state of Lynnewood Hall in the US state of Pennsylvania

It was meant to be the ancestral home of a new American dynasty, but the sinking of the Titanic left this mansion destined for dereliction. Photos captured by an urban explorer reveal the sad state of Lynnewood Hall in the US state of Pennsylvania

‘The building is in various stages of decay depending on where you go,’ she said.

‘The great hall is pretty much still perfectly intact.

‘But other places, like the Van Dyck gallery, are almost unrecognizable – other then the middle of the ceiling, which is still immaculate.

‘Some places don’t even look abandoned, yet others are extremely decayed.

‘I don’t think any one room is beyond repair, though I know it will be a hefty bill to restore it all at once – it’s estimated to be somewhere between $8m and $50m.’

George Widener had travelled to Paris, France, in 1912, with his wife, Eleanor, and his son, Harry, to find a new chef for the Ritz Carlton in Philadelphia – a hotel owned by the family.

The mansion, which was described as an 'American Versailles', was completed in 1900 at a cost of $8m – an estimated $260m (£190m) in today's money. Above: The grand home in its heyday

The mansion, which was described as an ‘American Versailles’, was completed in 1900 at a cost of $8m – an estimated $260m (£190m) in today’s money. Above: The grand home in its heyday

Inspired by Prior Park (above) in Bath, Somerset, it featured 110 rooms, including a swimming pool, wine cellars, a farm, a power plant, and a ballroom big enough for 1,000 guests

Inspired by Prior Park (above) in Bath, Somerset, it featured 110 rooms, including a swimming pool, wine cellars, a farm, a power plant, and a ballroom big enough for 1,000 guests

George Widener had travelled to Paris, France, in 1912, with his wife, Eleanor, and his son, Harry, to find a new chef for the Ritz Carlton in Philadelphia – a hotel owned by the family. They would make their journey home - via the UK - aboard the Titanic (pictured in Southampton shortly before it set sail) - a ship Peter Widener had invested in

George Widener had travelled to Paris, France, in 1912, with his wife, Eleanor, and his son, Harry, to find a new chef for the Ritz Carlton in Philadelphia – a hotel owned by the family. They would make their journey home – via the UK – aboard the Titanic (pictured in Southampton shortly before it set sail) – a ship Peter Widener had invested in

After Peter's death, his only surviving son, Joseph, inherited Lynnewood Hall and its grand art collection – preserving the estate's elegance for a time. But today, Lynnewood Hall stands almost totally empty. Pictures taken by a 24-year-old photographer, who shares her work under the pseudonym Life Is Decay, reveal its interior

After Peter’s death, his only surviving son, Joseph, inherited Lynnewood Hall and its grand art collection – preserving the estate’s elegance for a time. But today, Lynnewood Hall stands almost totally empty. Pictures taken by a 24-year-old photographer, who shares her work under the pseudonym Life Is Decay, reveal its interior

They would make their journey home – via the UK – aboard the Titanic – a ship Peter Widener had invested in. 

According to a news report written in the Daily Mail shortly after the disaster, George also owned a ‘large number of works of art which were displayed on the Titanic, along with a piece of Sevres China bought in London for a ‘large sum’. 

On the night of April 14, George hosted a party aboard the doomed vessel, with captain Edward Smith as his guest of honour.

 

Smith reputedly left early, excusing himself to check reports of icebergs ahead, just hours before the ship was struck.

Eleanor boarded a lifeboat and was later rescued by the RMS Carpathia. But George, 50, and Harry, 27, remained behind. They were never seen again.

After Peter’s death, his only surviving son, Joseph, inherited Lynnewood Hall and its grand art collection – preserving the estate’s elegance for a time.

An account of a party at Lynnewood, published by Time magazine in 1932, described how '100 of the country's richest men' met in a ballroom with 'Louis XV and XVI furniture'. But neither of Joseph's two children wanted to inherit the mansion when he died in 1943. Above: The wrecked former Van Dyke Gallery

An account of a party at Lynnewood, published by Time magazine in 1932, described how ‘100 of the country’s richest men’ met in a ballroom with ‘Louis XV and XVI furniture’. But neither of Joseph’s two children wanted to inherit the mansion when he died in 1943. Above: The wrecked former Van Dyke Gallery

Peter Widener II, the older of the Joseph Widener's sons, called the home a 'mausoleum' in his memoir. He recalled saying: 'It's a museum, not a home. It's as cold and as formal as if real people didn't live here'. Above: One of the home's reception rooms

Peter Widener II, the older of the Joseph Widener’s sons, called the home a ‘mausoleum’ in his memoir. He recalled saying: ‘It’s a museum, not a home. It’s as cold and as formal as if real people didn’t live here’. Above: One of the home’s reception rooms

In 1944, Peter II and his cousins – the surviving children of George Widener – sold the house and auctioned off its remaining contents. Lynnewood has been mostly empty since 1952, when it was purchased by a theological seminary that started selling off its interior detailing. Above: The former ballroom was converted into a chapel

In 1944, Peter II and his cousins – the surviving children of George Widener – sold the house and auctioned off its remaining contents. Lynnewood has been mostly empty since 1952, when it was purchased by a theological seminary that started selling off its interior detailing. Above: The former ballroom was converted into a chapel

The ballroom was once decorated with lavish furniture, expensive paintings and glittering chandeliers hanging from the ceiling

The ballroom was once decorated with lavish furniture, expensive paintings and glittering chandeliers hanging from the ceiling

The home's magnificent art collection – which featured, among others, eight Van Dycks, two Vermeers and fourteen Rembrandts – had was donated to the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC. Above: The grand hall as it looks now

The home’s magnificent art collection – which featured, among others, eight Van Dycks, two Vermeers and fourteen Rembrandts – had was donated to the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC. Above: The grand hall as it looks now

A black and white photo shows the Grand Hall as it looked when the property was owned by the Widener family. Grand furniture, chandeliers and plush rugs deck out the space

A black and white photo shows the Grand Hall as it looked when the property was owned by the Widener family. Grand furniture, chandeliers and plush rugs deck out the space

An account of a party at Lynnewood, published by Time magazine in 1932, described how ‘100 of the country’s richest men’ met in a ballroom with ‘Louis XV and XVI furniture’.

But neither of Joseph’s two children wanted to inherit the mansion when he died in 1943.

Peter Widener II, the older of the two, called it a ‘mausoleum’ in his memoir.

He recalled saying: ‘It’s a museum, not a home. It’s as cold and as formal as if real people didn’t live here.’

In 1944, Peter II and his cousins – the surviving children of George Widener – sold the house and auctioned off its remaining contents.

Even now, the home retains a faded grandeur. 'We don't have abandoned structures like this in America really,' said Kara, the urban explorer who runs the Life is Decay Instagram page. Above: The fireplace in the reception room

Even now, the home retains a faded grandeur. ‘We don’t have abandoned structures like this in America really,’ said Kara, the urban explorer who runs the Life is Decay Instagram page. Above: The fireplace in the reception room

Photographer Kara added: 'There's nothing compared to it that I've found. There's a lot of cool mansions overseas, and there's some here too – but none in America have such a history and are seemingly forgotten about'

Photographer Kara added: ‘There’s nothing compared to it that I’ve found. There’s a lot of cool mansions overseas, and there’s some here too – but none in America have such a history and are seemingly forgotten about’

The once grand dining room is now filled with cheap tables and chairs. At one time, the room would have been the setting for grand dinner parties and family gatherings

The once grand dining room is now filled with cheap tables and chairs. At one time, the room would have been the setting for grand dinner parties and family gatherings

The bathroom is fitted with a grand stone bath and plush sink fixture, but missing paint patches on the walls betray the fact that the stately home has long been empty

The bathroom is fitted with a grand stone bath and plush sink fixture, but missing paint patches on the walls betray the fact that the stately home has long been empty

What was once the main gallery is now decked out with basic wooden bookshelves, all of which are empty

What was once the main gallery is now decked out with basic wooden bookshelves, all of which are empty

The Grand Hall, complete with its chequered stone floor, is still in good condition, despite the terrible state of some of the rooms in the property

The Grand Hall, complete with its chequered stone floor, is still in good condition, despite the terrible state of some of the rooms in the property

This room has clearly seen better days. Both the ceilings and walls have severe damage from where paint and wallpaper has fallen away. Against the wall, an old sofa is covered in dust

This room has clearly seen better days. Both the ceilings and walls have severe damage from where paint and wallpaper has fallen away. Against the wall, an old sofa is covered in dust

The former breakfast room is now mostly empty, besides a few cheap wooden chairs and a large mirror looming above the fireplace

The former breakfast room is now mostly empty, besides a few cheap wooden chairs and a large mirror looming above the fireplace

The kitchen cupboards are still filled with bowls and other items, but the units themselves are rickety and grimy

The kitchen cupboards are still filled with bowls and other items, but the units themselves are rickety and grimy

Its magnificent art collection – which featured, among others, eight Van Dycks, two Vermeers and fourteen Rembrandts – had already been donated to the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC.

Lynnewood has been mostly empty since 1952, when it was purchased by a theological seminary that started selling off its interior detailing.

But even now, it retains a faded grandeur.

‘We don’t have abandoned structures like this in America really,’ said Kara, the urban explorer who runs the Life is Decay Instagram page.

‘There’s nothing compared to it that I’ve found. There’s a lot of cool mansions overseas, and there’s some here too – but none in America have such a history and are seemingly forgotten about.

‘Usually they’re turned into museums, wedding venues etc. Usually the owner will try to capitalize off the grounds in some way.’ 

The exterior of the property is now overgrown, but the home's Palladian design - inspired by Prior Park in Somerset - is clearly visible

The exterior of the property is now overgrown, but the home’s Palladian design – inspired by Prior Park in Somerset – is clearly visible

According to a news report written in the Daily Mail shortly after the disaster, George also owned a 'large number of works of art which were displayed on the Titanic, along with a piece of Sevres China bought in London for a 'large sum'

According to a news report written in the Daily Mail shortly after the disaster, George also owned a ‘large number of works of art which were displayed on the Titanic, along with a piece of Sevres China bought in London for a ‘large sum’ 

The horrific 1912  Titanic tragedy

Constructed by Belfast-based shipbuilders Harland and Wolff between 1909 and 1912, the RMS Titanic was the largest ship afloat of her time.

Owned and operated by the White Star Line, the passenger vessel set sail on her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York on April 10, 1912.

The liner made two short stops en route to her planned Atlantic crossing — one at the French port of Cherbourg, the other at Cork Harbour, Ireland, where smaller vessels ferried passengers on and off board the Titanic.

Nearly five days into her voyage, the Titanic struck an iceberg at around 23:40 local time, generating six narrow openings in the vessel’s starboard hull, believed to have occurred as a result of the rivets in the hull snapping. 

At just before midnight on April 14, 1912, the RMS Titanic hit an iceberg while travelling on its maiden voyage from Southampton to New York. Within three hours, the 'unsinkable' ship had slipped beneath the waves of the freezing Atlantic Ocean, killing more than 1,500 people

At just before midnight on April 14, 1912, the RMS Titanic hit an iceberg while travelling on its maiden voyage from Southampton to New York. Within three hours, the ‘unsinkable’ ship had slipped beneath the waves of the freezing Atlantic Ocean, killing more than 1,500 people

The Titanic took on water some fifteen times faster than could be pumped out, with the hull damage proving too extensive for the vessel’s watertight bulkheads to keep the flooding from spreading across the liner’s compartmentalised lower decks. 

After around two-and-a-half hours, the vessel broke into two sections and sank, each settling to the seafloor around a third of a mile apart.

Around 1,500 people were believed lost in the tragedy, including around 815 of the liner’s passengers.  

The ship's main feature was the Grand Staircase. It was built from English solid oak, and enhanced with wrought iron. The decorated glass domes above were designed to let in as much natural light as possible

The ship’s main feature was the Grand Staircase. It was built from English solid oak, and enhanced with wrought iron. The decorated glass domes above were designed to let in as much natural light as possible

At its launch, the luxurious Titanic was the largest ship in the world, and was carrying some of the wealthiest people in the world, as well as hundreds of people from Britain, Ireland, and elsewhere who were seeking a new life in the United States. 

Eight Chinese men were on board and six survived, landing in New York three days later aboard the Carpathia, the first ship to arrive at the scene of the disaster. 

Under the United States’ Chinese Exclusion Act, the men were transferred 24 hours later to a British steamship and sent to Cuba

Nearly five days into her voyage, the Titanic struck an iceberg at around 23:40 local time, generating six narrow openings in the vessel's starboard hull, believed to have occurred as a result of the rivets in the hull snapping. Pictured, the iceberg which is believed to have sunk the Titanic

Nearly five days into her voyage, the Titanic struck an iceberg at around 23:40 local time, generating six narrow openings in the vessel’s starboard hull, believed to have occurred as a result of the rivets in the hull snapping. Pictured, the iceberg which is believed to have sunk the Titanic

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