3. First Korean Church Era

Apart from the legal battles that were fought over Lynnwood Hall’s ownership and its interior appointments that were disappearing to pay mounting expenses, a preservation group came forward during the early 1990s to fight for the Old Grey Lady. Among the leaders of this preservation group was Gregory Cotler, a lawyer who lived near Lynnewood Hall.  The group was affiliated with the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

1993 was a critical year in the history of Lynnewood Hall. McIntire was technically still in possession of the property but he was struggling to obtain the money to keep it. The principal parties involved were Faith Theological Seminary, Dr. Richard Yoon and a group of investors who had come up with mortgage payments and other loans, the Resolution Trust Corporation which held the note, and the preservation group doing what it could to prevent further dismantling and trying to get ordinances passed to this effect.

At a court hearing on March 26, 1993, McIntire told The Philadelphia Inquirer, “Nobody ever talks to me.  I’ve preserved this place for 41 years and I’ll preserve it for another 41, but I need money to pay off the mortgage.”  The Cheltenham Township commissioners worked to hammer out an ordinance that would truly preserve Lynnewood Hall and would satisfy the preservation advocates.  The ordinance had to be written so it would apply uniformly to the entire township while still satisfying the pressing issues specific to Lynnewood Hall.  The ordinance had to be equitable.  Meetings were held between The Friends of Lynnewood Hall and township commissioners, but other business interests also had to be considered.  It was a delicate balance.

In September of 1993, the property was again in foreclosure and a sheriff’s sale was scheduled. Preservationists were confident Lynnewood Hall was within their grasp. However, Dr. Richard Yoon, a New York urologist, and a group of investors, raised the necessary money and made the first payment of $100,000. The first mortgage holder, P. G. Patel, who was behind concerted efforts to finally take over the property and begin restoration, had to accept the terms of payment per the RTC. Dr. Yoon held the second mortgage.  That month the first mortgage was also satisfied.

“I do not have any intention to dismantle and sell the interior decorations and belongings,” Dr. Yoon told the Inquirer. ” No one wants that.  The preservationists have expressed their concerns for several months now.  So, I expect some help from them in terms of fund-raising to help us save and preserve the building.”

In December 1993, Bob Harper and Russ Leisner of The Friends of Lynnewood Hall were able to perform a quick tour of the mansion’s interior.  Harper was also a caretaker of Curtis Hall, a historic home owned by the Cheltenham Township.  They immediately noticed the four large bronze chandeliers in the foyer, or Grande Hall, were missing.

Incredibly, there were still third and fourth mortgages outstanding, held by an associate of Dr. Yoon, by the name of Hae-Suk Kim who lived in South Korea.  Almost two years passed and once again Lynnewood Hall was up for a sheriff’s sale in May 17, 1995. Dr. Yoon had acquired the third and fourth mortgage but failed to make a key payment.  Nevertheless, Dr. Yoon succeeded in eventually meeting the terms of the payment, and the preservation group once again lost the opportunity to acquire the property.

The Battle for Lynnewood Hall between Dr. McIntire and Dr. Yoon on one side, and practically everyone else on the other continued.  In May 1995, McIntire filed for bankruptcy protection but this only delayed the inevitable.  As long as McIntire and Yoon fought to hold on to the expensive property, no interested party could buy it and begin the long overdue radical preservation efforts needed to restore Lynnewood Hall to its former glory.  Ultimately, McIntire lost control of Lynnewood Hall in a final bankruptcy hearing in December 1996 and Dr. Yoon became the sole owner.

In declining health, Dr. McIntire passed away in 2002.  Dr. Yoon was himself a graduate of Faith Theological Seminary, but with the passing of Dr. McIntire, Yoon founded the First Korean Church of New York as the school now operating at Lynnewood Hall.  The legal battles were not behind Dr. Yoon, however.  The seminary did not have the enrollment that Faith Theological Seminary had; it was in fact far less.  Actual enrollment, however, was difficult to establish.

A legal battle that involved zoning requirements arose between the First Korean Church of New York and the Cheltenham Township. It was involved and the claims and counterclaims operated on several issues.  The definitive recounting of all the legal issues is succinctly outlined in the court document “First Korean Church of New York v. Cheltenham Township Zoning Hearing Board and Cheltenham Township,” No. 05-6389.  This case was presided over by Judge Norma J. Shapiro, and the final ruling was handed down in the document dated February 29, 2012.  It can be viewed at this link: USCOURTS-paed-2_05-cv-06389-0

After the court decision, Dr. Yoon allowed a reporter and cameraman from The Philadelphia Inquirer into Lynnewood Hall and when asked, he explained the seminal would eventually have to leave.

Dr. Yoon after December 2012 court decision

Sources: The Philadelphia Inquirer, January 17, 1993; February 4, 1993; March 27, 1993; June 24, 1993; September 23, 1993; December 26, 1993. Also: United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, Doc. No. 05-6389, First Korean Church of New York v. Cheltenham Township Zoning Hearing Board and Cheltenham Township, February 29, 2012.

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