Sometime during the latter half of 2013, Dr. Richard S. Yoon and his small group of members of the First Korean Church of New York quietly left Lynnewood Hall. The Philadelphia Inquirer never reported this significant event in the history of this storied mansion. That may have been by design. For the first time in its more than 100 year history, Lynnewood Hall is now abandoned. This is, in fact, a very positive development.
As long as Lynnewood Hall was owned and occupied, the preservation efforts of Cheltenham Township were thwarted. However, what will the township and the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia, which has a page devoted to Lynnewood Hall, going to do to secure the mansion and the grounds from potential vandals and possibly suffer the same fate as Whitemarsh Hall?
Evidence that the First Korean Church of New York had left the mansion came in the form of photos posted on the Save Lynnewood Hall Facebook page by Zuke Photography. These photos were taken in November 2013 by the photographer inside the mansion; the photographer found no one in residence. The photographs also revealed Dr. Yoon’s church members had done nothing with respect to maintenance. The worst of this neglect was the damaged doors and windows that were never replaced, with many remaining open to the elements and others simply boarded up with plywood.
In March of 2014, an amateur photographer simply walked onto the property through one of the unlocked gates and took some photos of the exterior and then some interior photos. In his closing post, he wrote, “Some people consider this breaking and entering. I call it illegal house sitting.” This man was not a vandal; he wants to see Lynnewood Hall secured, restored and preserved for future generations, just as all of us do who have followed this mansion’s saga.
Benjamin Leech, who is Advocacy Director for the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia in a phone conversation with this blogger said that he was not aware that ownership of the mansion had been transferred. It is clear however, that Dr. Yoon and his church left the property months ago.
There are many preservationists around the country, not just in Philadelphia, who have followed the Lynnewood Hall saga for many years. There are many fine examples of successful preservation efforts and subsequent restorations that give one hope that his can be accomplished with Lynnewood Hall as well. It has been estimated by John Milner Architects Inc. of Chadds Ford, PA that an exterior restoration of the mansion and grounds alone would cost approximately $10 million. JMA performed the spectacularly successful restoration of the DuPont Nemours mansion and grounds in Wilmington, Delaware.
One can only hope this firm will one day also perform the same splendid work on Horace Trumbauer’s Lynnewood Hall.