2. The McIntire Era

In 1952, a buyer for Lynnewood Hall did indeed come forward.  The buyer was Faith Theological Seminary based in Collingwood, New Jersey and headed by the conservative and fundamentalist Rev. Carl McIntire.  How McIntire came to find out about the lanquishing Elkins Park estate of P. A. B Widener is not clear.  What was clear was McIntire was the only one who stepped up to purchase the property, and this alone may have saved Lynnewood Hall from eventual destruction.

coverBefore putting the $100,000 down payment on Lynnewood Hall, Dr. McIntire walked throughout the mansion and assessed what had to be done to make the building livable and workable. Vandals had gotten in and done significant damage to the interior walls.  The original electrical wiring at the time of its construction employed Direct Current, or DC. All electrical wiring would have to be replaced for 120 volt AC current, and new fixtures installed. Numerous other repairs would also have to be done. After making the down payment, McIntire spent $150,000 remodeling the interior and making the necessary repairs “…to provide improved facilities for the staff and students of Faith Theological Seminary,” according to McIntire’s biographers.  However, the biographers also reported McIntire acquired a large quantity of surplus paint from the Philadelphia Naval Yard at low cost and many interior walls were painted in this battleship grey paint.

For the next 40 years, Lynnewood Hall would be the home of McIntire’s religious school.  He was an avowed anti-Communist and he spent much of his time during his radio broadcasts working to expose Communists in America during the height of the red scare fomented by Senator Joseph McCarthy.  Among evangelical Christians, McIntire was considered one of the most conservative leaders of the movement, but his ideals oftentimes appeared as extremist to others.

Nevertheless, Lynnewood Hall had full-time residents, and this kept Trumbauer’s sister mansion to Whitemarsh Hall sustainable.  McIntire, however, found out how costly it was to maintain the mansion and the estate. However, Whitemarsh Hall eventually became vacant when its last owner, Pennwalt Corporation, left.  The Stotesbury estate during the 1960s and 1970s became a white elephant and no one wanted to buy it or try to preserve it. Vandals had their way with Whitemarsh Hall and it became overgrown with vines, windows were broken, and it eventually resembled a movie set in some gothic horror film.  In 1980, Whitemarsh Hall was finally torn down.

This might have been the fate of Lynnewood Hall had it not been for Faith Theological Seminary.  The mansion pretty much stayed out of the newspapers, even if Carl McIntire did not. This changed by the early 1990s as McIntire’s organization dwindled in size, he lost many supporters, funds began to dry up and the costs of trying to maintain Lynnewood Hall kept rising.  The mansion had fallen into disrepair.  McIntire nearly lost the facility several times to a sheriff’s auction, but always at the last minute, the money was raised by some benefactors.

During the 1990s, Lynnewood Hall entered a decade of legal battles, threatened auctions of portions of the interior, the takeover by the Resolution Trust Corporation, and preservation groups in a heated debate with courts and the Cheltenham Township in valiant efforts to prevent its piecemeal dismantling. At one point, there was a first, second and third mortgage on the property.  McIntire found Rev. Richard Yoon with several wealthy individuals to pay the first and second mortgage off.

Cheltenham Township passed an ordinance that prohibited the Seminary from dismantling any more of the mansion’s irreplaceable pieces from the interior. Eventually, McIntire lost Lynnewood Hall to Dr. Yoon who held the note on the third mortgage after McIntire defaulted on a payment.  Now, the Old Grey Lady would enter a new chapter in its checkered history.

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