Inside The Empty, Gilded Halls Of Elkins Estate

February 16, 2017 | by Kris Catherine


Elkins Estate, Cheltenham’s little Downton Abbey. | Photo: Kris Catherine

To describe the Gilded Age interiors of the Elkins Estate in Cheltenham as anything short of incredible would be a crime against neoclassical architecture. The rolling, 42-acre property and its pairing of Italian High Renaissance-and Elizabethan-revival mansions, designed by architect Horace Trumbauer, come into frame at the front gate with the distinguished nobility of an English country manor. The estate at 1750 Ashbourne Road speaks to a time when Philadelphia’s utility magnates treated themselves like royalty and articulated their accomplishments in the grandeur of their manors. Today, like Trumbauer’s other residential masterpiece nearby, Lynnewood Hall, the mansions of the Elkins Estate are vacant and without a capable steward willing to reactivate the properties with a financially sustainable reuse plan, while attending to upkeep and preservation. For now, the future of this resplendent white elephant remains shrouded in uncertainty.

Elstowe Manor, the crown jewel of the estate, was built in 1898 by William L. Elkins, the prominent Philadelphia businessman who, along with Peter A.B. Widener, built the Philadelphia Railroad Company and the streetcar monopoly, the Philadelphia Rapid Transit Company, through acquisitions of smaller lines and political opportunism. The interior of the mansion, designed by esteemed French interior designers Allard et Fils, is an architectural treasure chest filled with heavenly frescoed ceilings, carved mahogany panels, stately marble columns, and an eye watering display of crystal chandeliers, gold leafing, and regal, gilded molding.

The estate’s other mansion, Chelten House, was commissioned in 1896 for Elkin’s son, George. The façade of the house is fortified in Wissihickon schist and dark timber. Its upper floors are covered in cream-colored panels of prickly pebbledash. The interior walls are suited in Tudor-style wood paneling, and a lavish web of Gothic tracery weaves geometric texture into the ceiling. Both mansions contain large, industrial kitchens where, in the tradition of the French manor, the simplicity of worn, rustic wood and abraded, stainless steel contrasts with the overwhelming splendor of every other room in the estate.

After Elkins died in 1903 the estate was passed down to his offspring. By the 1950s, the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine de’ Ricci had acquired most of the property–they purchased Elstowe Manor from William L. Elkins’ grandson, William L. Elkins, and Chelten House from Stephen X. Stephano of Stephano Bros., Philadelphia manufacturers of Rameses cigarettes, in 1948. The Dominican Sisters used the two mansions as a religious retreat for women for over 75 years, while taking care of the properties and their original interior features through dedicated conservation. (It’s worth noting that in the same period another religious organization, the Peace Mission Movement of Father Divine, similarly preserved Willis G. Hale’s Lorraine Hotel along with several other buildings of Philadelphia’s Gilded Age.)

Due to the financial pressures of building maintenance expenses and dwindling retreat attendance, the Dominican Sisters closed the Dominican Retreat House in 2006 and sold the entire estate to the New Age nonprofit Land Conservancy of Elkins Park in 2009, which planned to use the property for a large-scale spiritual wellness center and special events venue. By 2010, the conversancy had so far executed a scattershot business plan pitted with small yoga retreats, wedding receptions, performance space for White Pines Productions, and a three-week photo shoot for Victoria’s Secret and was in mortgage default after missing nearly a year’s worth of payments. Possession of the estate was relinquished to the Dominican Sisters in January 2013 following a heated, three-year legal battle over $6.9 million in defaulted mortgage payments and the conservancy’s refusal to vacate the premises.

A feasibility assessment of the estate for preservation and business modeling was conducted in 2012 by CultureWorks Greater Philadelphia for White Pines Productions and the Wyncote Foundation. However, finding a capable operator based on the report’s advisement was met with a tepid response by the Dominican Sisters and the Township.

In 2014 the Cheltenham Township Board of Commissioners approved three zoning amendments to clear the way for luxury hotelier Apeiron to purchase the estate and convert Elstowe Manor into a boutique hotel with full-service luxury apartments. The project included using a portion of the 42-acre property for a public arts and cultural destination. To date, Apeiron’s plan has not moved beyond the proposal stage and no other projects for the estate are on the table. 

Text by Michael Bixler

Inside the mansions of Elkins Estate. Photographs by Kris Catherine.



About the Author

Kris Catherine The world is a beautiful place, from that abandoned home hidden in the woods to the majesty of waterfalls, the world has many hidden treasures for us to explore and experience. My love for the arts started as a child and with the fine arts, but quickly evolved when I used to watch my father and his camera. When I finally had the opportunity to pick a camera up in high school, I never but it down. I have worked with the U.S. Navy and Air Force and provided photo services for major events. When I look back, I have found that many of us live our day by day life in a bubble and never get the chance to experience what the world has to offer. My goal as a photographer is to give you that experience.


  1. BJ says:

    Wow, I need a tour! There has to be a use for a building so beautiful.

    1. MUST be preserved for future generations! The photos are pretty, but the style of over saturating the colors to make them look like paintings is not my style.The are bright enough not to do that.

    2. Doris says:

      I remember the peaceful bliss of spiritual retreats at the Dominican Retreat several times a year. Wonderful memories.

    3. Lorraine Edward says:

      I stumbled upon a YouTube video today which was uploaded August 10, 2022. The channel is called Brothers of Decay. There is a crane existing in the front of the mansion and building supplies as well as some demo is present in this video. I am originally from suburbs of Philly and haven’t lived in that area for 41 yrs but my jaw dropped checking out this video. This place is straight out of The Sound of Music. Praying this reno work is still happening and not stalled. Hollywood needs to steal this as a movie venue! I dream of fairytale weddings happening here! As a decorator,I feel my heart thumping watching this! My God.. just the entrance and stairway makes one drool.

      1. Lisa M Gurcsik says:

        I know just how you feel. I am breathless and my hands are shaking. The magnifi cence and the grandeur is almost incomprehensible. And to think, this is a mile away from where I live. I want to know more!

  2. Davis says:

    An art student at Tyler in the late 60s, we would go on midnight walks on the property much to the chagrin of the Dominican Sisters!

    1. Ilia Fuentes says:

      I loved to see this
      Place. It is gorgeous

  3. James says:

    Checkbooks should open for this opportunity, especially if Bill Gates wanted a home on the East Coast! He could dump some of Warren Buffet’s billions given to him to own and renovate this palace.

  4. Tamara Hansen says:

    Beautiful photos!

  5. Kris says:

    Wow!! So beautiful?

  6. linda says:

    Wow! This would be the perfect setting for a Hollywood movie. Surprised no one has jumped on it already!!

    1. Roberta Rosskam says:

      Lived for many years in Latham Park, went to Tyler School functions, had baby sitters from Tyler but unfortunately do not remember seeing this gorgeous land Where exactly is it and how on earth did we miss it while biking or hiking in the area? Next time I get back down to Philly (in Boston area now) I’ll plan to go see! Is it open for visitors at this time? Can’t believe I missed this treasure, even taking the kids around to sell Girl Scout cookies! There must be a civic organization ( or two) to save this! Up here, we “seniors” often have “functions” in properties such as this. Would certainly be a great property for a fund raiser for , perhaps, next Congressional elections?? or a movie set?

      1. bret sewell says:

        its at ashborne rd and penrose ave

        1. Taryn Hickman says:

          Love this wonderful part of history in Philadelphia
          It is a landmark. Keep it just the way it is

        2. Phyllis Wise says:

          Oh breathtaking! I never knew! Amazing and thank you for making my heart beat faster!

        3. Doug Davis says:

          I think you’re confusing this estate with the Widener Estate/Lynnwood Hall. This one (the Elkins Estate) is not far from Lynnwood, but is located roughly at Cedar Ln. and Beech Ave.

      2. Pat Ziegler says:

        Located on Ashbourne Rd at Penrose Ave. Lynnewood Gardens is across Penrose Ave. Hope this helps.

      3. Laura Blumenthal says:

        The address is in the article – I remember it well, as I grew up steps away from it – but I had no idea what the interiors looked like – this is mind-blowing! It was between Ashbourne Road and Spring Avenue, bordered by Cedar Lane. The Dominican Sisters were on the other side of Cedar Lane, as I remember.

        1. Ruh says:

          Because there are so many Baby Boomers I think the fabulous property should be turned into a beautiful home for senior’s living!!!!!

      4. Barbara Kates says:

        Roberta, hello! You will find updated information about a developer who currently has plans for purchasing and preserving this elegant and storied property. The company is called Landmark, and his ideas have been presented to the community at an open house inside this gorgeous Trumbauer-designed estate. If his plan is accepted, the property will be open to the public in the future.

    2. S. Robertson says:

      I believe scenes for several projects were filmed here.

  7. David says:

    Decent article, but horrible photos. Cheap, amateur Photomatix processing and filters applied (same nuclear apocalypse filters often used by urbexers), which would never in a million years be seen in Architectural Digest. These mansions simply DO NOT look like that.

    1. John says:

      David – Coming from someone who has been inside both these amazing building – yes, you are correct that the pictures were enhance and touched up. The years have not been kind mostly due to lack of financial support but the bones of the architectural beauty is still there and living on strong. These photos show how I image it looked in the glory days when Elkins Estate was first built. So try not to be so critical and cynical as you too might need some photo enhancement as you get older.

      1. David says:

        Sorry, but any competent architecural/interiors photographer, let alone a talented professional, will tell you these are a poor. I’ve also been inside these buildings many times (top to bottom), and they look nothing like this. As I said, a program called Photomatix (can spot it a mile away, and which should never be used for interiors) was used, and silly filters applied. Verticals aren’t even straight. I’m guessing this person gave their time for free. These buildings are simply beautiful as they are, and need no gimmicks. Here’s how they actually look today.

        1. FJP says:

          David, thanks for sharing those gorgeous photos.

        2. Maryann says:

          David, looked on your website as to what these buildings look like, there are no “real” photos. Just pictures and advertising for your company!

          1. David says:

            Every link I posted takes you directly to an interior photo of Elstowe Manor on the Elkins Estate. There’s no advertising whatsoever. I don’t need to advertise.

        3. Joe says:

          Sorry David,
          Your photos have a similar, unnatural shine. Also, no need for a “program” to spot a filter. Any competant interiors/archetectural photographer, let alone a talented professional would never care to ‘crush that response’.


          1. David says:

            1,000 completed projects for hotels, resorts, luxury apartment buildings, architects, interior designers, developers, and historic properties in the u.s. and abroad says I know exactly what I’m doing. I didnt say a program tells me a filter was used. You misread my post. I said Photomatix was the program she used.

          2. Patrick says:

            Joe, I’m not sure we’re looking at the same photos are you, David’s photos have a “real feel” where you can see the wood grain and the richness of the color. The post photos have a fuzzy grayish tone to them, almost an out of focus look. Guess it’s true that when others are jealous they put down that person.

        4. Phadera Woods says:

          Thank you David, for the real photos. The difference is night and day.

      2. Karen says:

        Excellent response!

        1. David says:

          And I crushed that response, but the moderator wont let you see it because it embarasses the site.

          1. Michael Bixler says:

            David, we have a “no bullying” policy for our comments section. Be respectful going forward or go troll someone else’s website – eds.

      3. Cheral Lynn Leslie says:

        Never said Better Sir. These were my sentiments exactly. I was just on the property on yesterday. My Daughter chose to have her Wedding there. I live in
        Atlanta and had no idea how it looked. It took me back in time. So peaceful and beautiful. I can imagine how it was initially. Just needs some work. Philadelphia is Blessed to have such a placerich in history still here..

        1. Phil Graham says:

          There’s no right or wrong with photography but everyone has preferences. David’s derogatory comments spoiled the wonderful mood created by Kris Catherine’s interpretation. To me his photos are not better, just different, though his style is one I would never personally choose nor recommend, and his simply having done a lot of work and made many clients happy merely demonstrates the photographer has spiralled down into that classic chasm that puts money ahead of imagination and art. Until I saw his photos I felt inspired to visit. Shame really. I prefer Chris’s reality. Don’t listen to smartipants jealousy. There’s no room for such unjustified criticism. So rock on Kris.

          1. Cheryl Busch says:

            Well said, Phil. I know nothing about photography but as with art, “I know what I like.” Personally, I prefer Kris’ photographs no matter the methods used—they have a magical, mystical quality that, to me, captured the “rose colored” romance of that era.
            I am of the opinion, both sets of photographs are worthy but the condescending, criticism voiced by, David, with such superiority was downright distasteful—no matter how valid his point—or NOT. Kris’ photos made me want to visit. David’s reminded me of overpriced real estate, albeit, in a Sotheby’s folder. Happy to “take a pass”….

    2. Lisa M Gurcsik says:

      Who the hell are you? I don’t see your photos. I guess it’s easier to criticize than to actually put yourself out there and risk criticism.Shame on You.

  8. Rebecca says:

    Why the change between Eakins and Elkins throughout the article?

    1. Michael Bixler says:

      Thanks for the catch, Rebecca. Must have had ol’ Thomas Cowperthwait Eakins floating in the back of our mind!

      1. Rebecca says:

        Thanks! Thought I missing some sort of connection between the two.

  9. Ed says:

    This property and many other architectural gems in and around Philadelphia should be preserved by a trust from Billionaires who could help save these important buildings for future generations.

  10. Phyllis says:

    Turn it back into a retreat house. They were so inspiring.

    1. R.J. says:

      I think it should be preserved and share the history with the public through tourism. Like Hearst castle or the Winchester mystery house, on the west coast. It is a beautiful architectural monument with rich historical background. I hope a wealthy someone will put up money to help preserve this beauty.

      1. Lisa M Gurcsik says:

        Great idea! I’ve been to both of those places you mentioned, and I live a mile away from this magnificent estate and I for one, would love to walk through those rooms and soak up the history that was born there.Just for a few moments, go back in time and really “feel” what it was like

  11. Tom says:

    This is a wonderful photo essay of two magnificent mansions. We should be grateful to the Dominican Sisters for taking such good care of the properties over the years. It’s a stark contrast to the nearby Widener estate, Lynnewood Hall, which was stripped to the bones by its successive owners and is now a crumbling shell. Thanks for sharing these beautiful photos, Kris.

  12. Lynne L says:

    Good heavens, this is spectacular!! Why is this not a wedding venue?

  13. Stephanie says:

    It was a wedding venue up until 2010 I think, the conservancy couldn’t keep up with the payments.

    1. Rini Chakraborty says:

      It was… I got married there in 2011. It was even MORE breathtaking with the furniture and the tapestries.

      1. Lisa M Gurcsik says:

        Oh my God, do you have pictures of your wedding?

  14. Jewel says:

    Why not make it a museum and open for tours, events, weddings, ect. Maybe something similar to Biltmore and the mansions in Newport. I would definitely visit.

  15. Vicki says:

    Thank you so much for writing about these Estates. Very interesting. Cannot believe the
    Estates are in such good shape! All the chandeliers, ornate woodwork,and ceiling frescos

  16. Joanie from Jersey says:

    Wow, seeing these fabulous photos of the Dominican Retreat House took me back to my first visit there, back in the Fall of 1966…Being a Catholic school student in Jersey at the time, with arrangements made by my teachers, “Franciscan sisters”, I, along with a few other students at my school, volunteered to serve as “waitresses” once a month, to RETREATERS, who would stay from Friday night until Sunday afternoon….We students would help the Dominican sisters “serve” the Retreaters three meals a day, during those weekends, in exchange for free room and board….It was a wonderful experience for us girls….and, the main thing that stands out to me, other than how “beautiful” the Main Building and St. Dominic’s was, is how WONDERFUL the “Dominican” sisters treated us during those many stays….I was lucky enough to stay in contact (by mail) with one “sister” in particular, SR. JOAN, for over 40 years, and even now, we STILL exchange Christmas cards every year…..When the Retreat House was up for sale a few years ago, Sr. Joan got in touch with me, inviting me and a good friend of mine (who also served the Retreaters on those fun weekends, to come and visit her at the Retreat House, (after more than 40 years since our last visit in the late 60’s) for one last look at such a wonderful landmark that we had visited as students back in the day…One Saturday afternoon, my friend and I did go back….It was so great to see visit there again, remembering all the wonderful weekends we girls had so many moons ago…I will keep these fabulous photos of such happy memories forever, not only on this website, but also in my mind….Sincerely, Joanie….

    1. Nancy says:


      You could not have said it better! h do I remember this well, and I too served and chaperoned many a weekend at the Dominican Retreat house from the mid to late 1970’s. Sr. Anne and Sr. Joan were there at that time too. This photo essay brought back so many memories of the women I met and still keep in touch with; and the peacefulness I felt just being there on the grounds. The photos of St. Dominic’s Hall are the ones that I remember so fondly, as I be assigned that hall to work and would go on teen retreats in St. Dominic’s. It’s funny how Elkins Park has been on my mind so much lately and then boom, here it is in print. Those are times I do cherish and always will. Sincerely, Nancy

      1. Joanie from Jersey says:

        Hi Nancy,
        Thank you for your response….One other thing I forgot to mention…Not sure, but I think we girls only went once, to one of the Dominican Retreat House “Halloween” parties that the “Sisters” held for all of us “retreat servers”….I can STILL remember as we walked into the “Squash House” where the party was being held, there was Sr. Maureen, looking absolutely gorgeous, in a white sheet holding a candle in her hand….Wonderful memories!…..Also, my good friend, Barbara and I used to LOVE staying over the weekend at St. Dominic’s but enjoyed “serving the retreaters” at the Main Building….I remember one night we girls were hungry….We somehow snug down to the kitchen and Sr. Peter caught us….lol….As a punishment for being somewhere that we shouldn’t be, she gave us a BIG bag of “Oreo” cookies to take back to our room….lol….I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity, as a teenager, back in the day, to meet such wonderful Catholic “Sisters”, not only throughout my Catholic school years, but also at the Dominican Retreat House….Sincerely, Joanie

    2. Dorothy (Zaprala) Watson says:

      I was just looking on line regarding the retreat house to find it is no more. So sad it is gone. Before moving to Palm Springs, CA almost 40 years ago, I lived in the Phila. and New Jersey area. I went to the retreat the first weekend every May back in the 60’s. What a wonderful experience I had staying in that beautiful house. The pictures brought back such wonderful memories. It is a pity that someone in the Phila area is doing nothing to preserve this treasure and put it to some good use. There are so many things someone could do with that property….Sincerely, Dottie

    3. Lisa M Gurcsik says:

      What a beautiful memory, you are very blessed

  17. Thomas Brummett says:

    Great Photos!


  18. morton berk says:

    as a big fan of lynnewood,whitemarsh hall and trumbauer i was thrilled to see these pictures to say the least!!i’ve got to somehow see this in’s got to be saved and restored to past beauty..these posts have all been great…thanks for the pictures and text…get me in!!!!

  19. Harvey Sklaroff says:

    Used to walk through the property after school and short cut to the Cheltenham Mall many many years ago. I never knew the inside was this amazing!!

    1. Dave Fink says:

      Harvey I saw this property for the first time a few short years ago when working at Milton’s house. I had heard the buildings were wonderful inside, and I never knew they were this wonderful!

  20. Eileen Hartmann says:

    The most Beautiful place I have ever seen, Breathtaking, IS that the Dominican Retreat House, I think I was at a retreat there, yrs ago,

    1. Davis says:

      That is correct it was for many years the Dominican Retreat House.

  21. Jim Clark says:

    What a magnificently beautiful Estate. It mus have been magic to live there. Thank you very much for the tour Kris, fantastic pictures.

  22. Linda Frommer says:

    Fascinating article. I hope that the hotel manages to execute its plan. Will be lovely. We certainly don’t want demolition.

  23. Norma Bush says:

    Our prayer group from Medford lakes , N. J.Went there for many retreats, it took our breath away on Friday when we walked thru the door, it was like a ball room. And were greeted by the nuns. Sad when it closed, and we wondered what was happening to it.

  24. Todd Hart says:

    Decadent conspicuous consumption from the last Guilded Age, when most of the wealth flowed to the few at the top.

  25. Peggy Jack says:

    Thank you, so much for this walk down Memory Lane. In the late 1980’s and 1990’s I used to come here, with friends, once or twice a year for retreat. It was always was a peaceful, restorative experience. The environment, the kind, intelligent, progressive Sisters with their talks and prayers, and the interesting, enlightening chaplains restored the flagging Faith of many, including my own. There was an additional element – the late night chats in the secret basement vaults where women supported and shared advice with each other. Some of us assisted with fund raising, but, of course it was not enough and it was a sad day when the Sister had to make the difficult decision to close. One thing not mentioned in the article was that a home was made on the estate for sisters, too frail and infirm to do active retreat work. Once again, thank you, it made me smile to “revisit those lovely buildings.

  26. vetdoc1 says:

    I used to live across the street from Lynnewood Hall – Widener Estate – and I used to ride my bike through the grounds of the Elkins Estate all the time. I recently drove by Lynnewood Hall and was deeply saddened to see how the property has been allowed to fall into ruin. It was such a majestic place and has been pillaged over the years. Sad…just very sad. I am happy to see that the Elkins Estate has been kept up, at least so far.

  27. William R Wolfgang says:

    I once new of an institution named Faith Theological Seminary that was housed in a place called Elkins Park. I have to wonder what it’s connection was to that which is pictured here.

    1. Paige Holm says:

      That was across the street at Lynnewood Hall.

  28. Lisa says:

    I have drove pass this property and the one across the street and have wished I had the funds to purchase both. Grand Versailles we have right here outside of Philadelphia. I think the Elkins Estate should be turned into a Grand Wedding venue( which I know they had tried before but who was running it at the time had no sense of style or presentation). Events held in this Grand Estate, Ceremony, reception, rooms for wedding party to stay and prepare for occasion. And the Estate Linden Hall could be turned into a Gorgeous Hotel to accommodate Guest. From Glamorous Rooms and Restaurants to Spa’s, Boutiques, and just pure relaxation. And to get out of Philadelphia. And of course show off the Incredible grounds, with all the exotic tree’s that were brought in years ago when the owner had it built. Over the top French Gardens. A miniature Longwood Gardens to bring in revenue during the down season’s. And put both on Tour for the Holidays. Just my Dream! 🙂

  29. Bobbi Penniman says:

    I attended the auction when the property was sold in 2006 (I bought a vintage sewing machine and some small art) and had high hopes that the home would be in good hands going forward – the plans were optimistic!

    Please, someone, don’t let it fall into the same state of disrepair as Lynnwood seems to have experienced. What a treasure these three homes are.

    1. David B Ahn says:

      Would you please contact me ?
      I would like to know about the auction.
      We are developing the mansion and we
      want to get some original art piece
      of the building. Thank you.

      1. Lisa M Gurcsik says:

        Hello David, I unfortunately knew nothing about the auction. You said you were developing the mansion? I would love to hear any plans and would gladlyvolunteer my time in anyway that could be of use in your endeavor. Lisa M Gurcsik

  30. Joe says:

    Thanks for publishing about this. I live nearby and marvel every time I pass these three places.

    (Pretty sure the Divine Lorraine Hotel wasn’t one of Trumbauer’s…)

    1. EMMA says:

      I would love to have my wedding pictures taken there. I guess the gate is not open?I don’t know who to contact….

  31. mary e. keul says:

    Was part of the Dominican Retreat House for over 30 years. The pictures do
    present a different view. They were truly Camelot days. The rooms filled with
    women searching for God. The Dominican sisters always gracious, and willing to
    help in the search.

  32. MickR says:

    Would love to see this place myself as well. I remember reading about it on Curbed I think. Shame the patriarch only lived there for a handful of years.

    One question: “… the Peace Mission Movement of Father Divine, similarly preserved Trumbauer’s Lorraine Hotel …”

    I know Willis G. Hale designed the Divine Lorraine Hotel on Broad, so what is this other Lorraine Hotel by Trumbauer that I have missed out on?

    1. Michael Bixler says:

      Thanks for catching, Mick! Yes, the Divine is unmistakably Hale.

  33. Nicholas A Pappas says:

    This complex, at one time, captured a snapshot of the gilded age. Bravo to the photographer whose artistry exquisitely captured that bygone era with exhilaration.

    As an aside, does anyone know if the Stephano Bros. (cigarette manufacturer magnet) descendants remain the current owners of Chelten House?

  34. Steve Gotzler says:

    Make them into museums of those ages.

  35. jkwalker says:

    I would prefer to see this gorgeous site fast tracked for a luxury hotel (that I couldn’t afford) rather than to deteriorate unused.

  36. Barbara J says:

    In Europe, from Spain to Russia, this would be one of the stops on the tourist trail. I have certainly paid admission to see lesser sites than this. Unfortunately, there’s no royal story that goes along with this.

    1. Joseph F says:

      Yes as on the Hudson River, but this locale is unusual for such an ostentatious display and far off the tourist trail.
      I’m most impressed by the flooring throughout, and tile-work in the kitchens, maybe the only attainable aspects for most.
      Overall, while thankful for an article on a property I knew nothing about, Elstowe Manor seems too over the top compared with Jay Gould’s Lyndhurst as an example, or even Rockefeller’s Kykuit.
      Possibly Elkins could have better adorned his employees with his largess?

  37. Also Davis says:

    Ironic that the hall with chairs is the least interesting for a performance, while the beautiful ballrooms are empty. I wonder who White Pines Productions is. I’m sure this would be good recording facilities.

  38. Tracey Pannell says:

    Hi, is this open to the public for tours? I would love to come here for my wedding pictures, even if it was only for an hour. Even if we could only get pictures outside. Do you have any information?

  39. Robert Eli Bass says:

    I have a great love of architecture. Have spent many hours looking on line at historic properties. This is the BEST one yet ! ! ! Don’t let this place fall into disrepair ! ! ! The interiors are the best I have seen in America. Also I am enjoying all the comments. The Dominican Sisters did a beautiful job keeping this place in what looks to me to be all original condition? I found Elkins Estate through YouTube..

  40. Mary Lou DeNardo says:

    Beautiful pictures that brought back beautiful memories. I attende weekend retreats from when I was in my twenties until it closed maybe 24 years. I miss this retreat house so much. I especially miss all of the wonderful sisters. I always knew I had one beautiful weekend (first weekend in February) every year where I could pray, meditate, socialize and just be! I’ve tried other retreat houses and it is not the same. Oh, if only………

  41. Diane - says:

    I am filled with sadness afterlooking at these pictures. I can’t describe the haunting sadness this has left me.

  42. Anna Marty says:

    I too, have precious memories of the Dominican Retreat House, at Elkins Park, PA. I was 22 years old when I entered the noviciate of the Dominican Sisters in 1955 and spent two and a half years there; 6 months as a Postulant and two years as a Novice, but left the order two weeks before I was to make First Profession of vows.

    I sometimes think of the sisters I became acquainted with in the noviciate, and the Professed sisters that worked at the Main building (the Elkins Estate).

    It was marvelous to see photos of the Elkins estate, and brought back many beautiful memories. I recognized the photo that was the retreatant’s chapel, the pews now gone. No photo shown of the sister’s Choir behind the grill that separated it from the retreatants chapel. Were all of the choir stalls removed? I would hope that such a sacred space that housed the sisters would be preserved.

    Thank you for the opportunity to share my memories of this this very special place.

    1. Richard M Weber says:

      My sister was Sister Mary Johanna, and was there about the same time as you.

  43. douglas six says:

    hi can you tell me how soon the William Elkins and the Lynnewood hall mansion will be redeveloped I live in Columbus Ohio we drove to a car wash convention then we drove to look at the mansions then we started to go to the white marsh mansion then we were lost we asked a government worker for directions he told us that there is a park close to the mansions that the government put in a 5 foot round sewer pipe in the park so when they demolish the mansions it can be used for the new buildings there was a lady at the post office she said that bill Crosby was fighting to keep the buildings from being demolished now he is in jail could you please tell me what is going on with the mansions I would love to go to church at Lynnewood hall and go on a church retreat at William Elkins Mansion. how soon might the two mansions be redeveloped like the white Marsh mansion.

  44. douglas six says:

    hi I talked with a Dominican sister that is involved with the William Elkins estate she said that it is in contract to be sold she would not say what is going to happen to the estate. could some one tell me if it will be torn down like the white marsh mansion or will it be redeveloped like Edith mace field house. I live in Columbus and they redeveloped al Desantis mansion and I wish that they never redeveloped it. what would every one that lives there like to see happen with the to mansions should they be torn down like white marsh mansions or be redeveloped like the Edith Mace field house or turned in to a place like bolt castle, falling water or the Winchester mansion. what would every one want to see happen to the mansions. can you please help me. if you wood like to demolish them I would like to be there if you want to redeveloped them I would like to see them before this takes place if you would like to save them and fix them up I would like to help.

  45. Kat MacMurray says:

    I’m interested in Horace Trumbauer and wonder if there is an organized group of HT enthusiasts I could join? I am deeply interested in this era and its architecture, fashion, etc. Thanks!

    1. Michael Bixler says:

      Hi Kat,

      Indeed there is! Check out the Philadelphia Chapter of The Institute of Classical Architecture and Art:

  46. douglas six says:

    hi is there any way to see the William Elkins estate before they put in the apartments or the could they please let the public see the estate one last time before it is changed for ever with apartments. people are saying the Lynne wood hall mansion is get redeveloped soon. I live in Columbus Ohio I would love to see both William Elkins estate, Lynne wood hall mansion, White Marsh hall mansion and the house buy the main gate and if I could see Bill Crosby mansion and if I could talk to Bill Crosby. I would be willing to pay to see some or all of this. any help that people could give to make this happen would be great.

  47. douglas six says:

    hi does the 250 dwelling units mean that they are going to put in 250 apartments. could you please tell every one what is all going and what they can put in they only have to leave 25 % as green space so they can use a lot for building and parking spaces if each apartment uses 2 1/2 parking spaces and the hotel and bar uses 1 1/2 spaces for cars . it will change the look of the site how would it look with a large 5 story building or a lot of 16 family buildings. please try and make this place like bolt castle, or falling water or the Winchester mystery house and make Lynne wood hall part of this. once it is changed it is all over with then they will put 5 story buildings every were like they are doing were I live. if you want to live looking out your window at a 5 story building. go for what the commissioners want they do they live by the mansion or do the live were a lot of 5 story buildings are. you have no idea how great you have it.

  48. douglas a six says:

    hi it is showing on the mls that Lynne Wood Hall at 920 spring ave is sold and they are and they are saying that William Elkins Estate is at 1750 Ashbourne is sold could you please tell me what is going on with each estate and were the 250 apartments are going at 1750 Ashbourne is going in with a site plan and what is going in at 920 spring ave and witch buildings are going to be torn down can the public see both estates before they are changed for ever. I live in Columbus, Ohio I would like to see them before they are changed for ever.

  49. Richard M Weber says:

    My sister was a Dominican nun that lived at the convent. As a child (1950’s) I roamed the rooms, halls and grounds of the Elkins Estate. To say that they were spectacular would be an understatement. I have many fond memories of this place!

    1. Ralph Fey says:

      The plan is a sensitive historic restoration of each of the existing buildings.
      The guest rooms will be the former rooms of the staff, home owner and sisters sleeping quarters.
      There are no new buildings planned. Landmark’s work is impeccable.
      Other Historic Hospitality projects include Hotel Du village, Logan Inn,
      StoneHouse, and Liberty House.
      Ralph Fey AIA

  50. Melissa says:

    Wedding venue, yes, but maybe something else because there aren’t enough weddings to keep it going. perhaps a park or a country club or a multi purpose venue. Something similar to the Huntington Library in Pasadena California. Offices could be put in there as long as it is kept intact. Does anyone know how we can tour it?

  51. Angela Rinehart says:

    Wow! This is absolutely gorgeous….I would love to see it if I’m ever in the area…..
    They shouldn’t ever tear it down and it should be used.

  52. Susan says:

    Way back in 1960, I visited the grounds of a beautiful estate specifically to see the gorgeous azalea bushes in full bloom. I remember the name of Father Neblo. Could this have been the Elkins Estate? I’ve thought about this place for years…I would love to know!

  53. Bonnie Elkins Garrison says:

    My maiden name is Elkins, as I was researching this came up. I would love to visit here someday. Please Philadelphia keep this beautiful mansion restored.

  54. Elaina Shank says:

    I painted some rooms here when the sisters had it. It was beautiful, I remember the huge grandfather clock and at the top of the stairs there were tapestry on the walls. They had Christmas trees in all the rooms. I can remember the rooms had I think 12 foot ceilings. I was amazed at the beauty. These photos brought back the memories of being there. The sisters were so nice.

  55. howard s raabe, jr r.a. says:

    Beautiful buildings and interiors. Has a great Venetian or maybe a Papal feeling. What spectacular rooms.

  56. Patricia J Murphy says:

    I am very much into historic preservation all over the country. I now live in New York City but in the past I have been on several retreats held in both of these buildings and have also volunteered at the retreats spending several weekends there and also a week long retreat for the sisters. I think we should make every effort to save these buildings and also Lynnwood Hall across the street. Probably the best people to purchase it would be a uniniversity like Temple U, U of Penn, or other college or university in Pennsylvania. Maybe an outside college or foreign college can buy and utilize these buildings. Universities and colleges have bought such buildings over the years like ArcadiaUnviersity and Eastern College. I want to help with the preservation of these buildings so please keep in touch with me. Thank you

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