Dysktra, Vick, Widener mansions make ‘Creepy Abandoned’ list

Posted: April 12, 2011

Out of "thousands of palatial estates deserted and patiently awaiting sales," Forbes picked "Nine Creepy Abandoned Mansions" - and three have Philadelphia connections.

The others include the site of a murder-suicide, two allegedly haunted houses, and the Florida residence that Osama Bin Laden's brother ditched.

Of local interest are:

"1915 Moonlight Road, Surry, Va." was the site of "Bad Newz Kennel," where then Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick, now the Eagles starter, ran the illegal dog-fighting operation that landed him in prison. Vick sold the vandalized, looted place for about $450,000 to a developer who fixed it up and put it on the market for $1.1 million in 2007. Last month, Dogs Deserve Better, a Tipton, Pa., nonprofit, gave up its bid to turn the site into a canine rehab center.

"1072 Newbern Court, Thousand Oaks, Calif." is one of two mansions abandoned by former Phillies all-star Lenny Dykstra, who bought the place from hockey legend Wayne Gretzky for a reported $17.5 million. After a high-flying flirtation a couple of years ago with appearing to be an investment guru, Dykstra saw his fortunes plummet, to the point where he owed millions, went bankrupt, became the target of lawsuits - and even wound up living in his car. A maid's charges of sexual abuse were dropped by investigators early this year. The house is now listed for $10.5 million, says Forbes.

"Lynnewood Hall, Elkins Park, Pa." - a neglected 110-room mansion on Ashbourne Road - is the one site actually in the Philadelphia area. The home, compared to Versailles, was worth an estimated $8 million in 1908, after being built for Philadelphia streetcar magnate Peter Arrel Brown Widener. A hundred servants reportedly worked there in its glory days. The public was allowed to view its art treasures for more than two decades, until 2,000 works - including paintings by Rembrandt, Vermeer and Renoir - were donated in 1939 to the National Gallery of Art. The estate's value quickly faded, as its 400 acres were winnowed down to the 36 around the main house. In the early 1950s, the Rev. Carl McIntire acquired the property for $192,000 as the home of the Faith Theological Seminary. In 1996, the deed passed to a McIntire student, New York physician Richard Yoon and his First Korean Church. Yoon lost a legal bid a few years later to declare the site a church, but is still the owner. A single caretaker now lives in a side building, and Yoon has declined offers of help to clean up the grounds, which have become an "eyesore," said Stephen Barron Jr., a preservation enthusiast who chronicles the mansion's story on www.lynnewoodhall.com.

Also on the Forbes list:

Khalil bin Laden's lakefront estate in Oakland, Fla., which he fled after the 9/11 attacks.

A Southington, Ohio, mansion once owned by tiger-raising heavyweight champ Mike Tyson.

An estate at Sands Point, Long Island, that might have inspired F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby.

A Los Feliz, Calif., mansion empty since the 1960s, after a doctor killed his wife with a hammer before fatally chugging acid.

Two fancy digs rumored to have ghostly residents: Mudhouse Mansion in Lancaster, Ohio, and Kimball Castle in Gilford, N.H.

Contact staff writer Peter Mucha at 215-854-4342 or pmucha@phillynews.com.


comments powered by Disqus