8. The Final Remaining Piece of Original Free Standing Furniture
The only freestanding piece of furniture that is original to the home and still in the home is the organ bench pictured above. After Peter Widener died, the estate went to his only surviving son Joseph. Joseph lived there until his own death in 1943. At that time, the estate was liquidated in an auction covered by outlets like the New York Times and Life magazine. Everything that hadn’t already been donated to the National Gallery in D.C. went to the auction block. The auction drew hundreds of eager bidders and lasted five days. According to Life, the most expensive item purchased was a “tapestry-covered sofa and eight matching chairs that had once belonged to Louis XV.” It sold for $30,000.
It took a while for the hall to find a new owner after the Wideners. “It was a completely different time,” Thome notes, echoing the writings of Widener’s grandson, “People couldn’t keep up these types of homes anymore.” In 1952, a buyer finally came through. The estate was purchased by Faith Theological Seminary, a Christian school led by Carl McIntire. When the Seminary needed funds, it would sell off parts of the mansion, like wood paneling or mantelpieces. This trend would sadly continue with the next owner who came in 1996, Dr. Richard Yoon, leader of the First Korean Church of New York. Over the ensuing decades, Lynnewood Hall started to come apart piece by piece. Now, the Preservatin Society is working to restore the home to its former glory.