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“If the building has good bones it might make sense, but it takes a major capital investment,” he said. “Coming up with a successful business plan, then finding investors to make it happen, is a real challenge with these great old mansions.”

He said it’s also easier to come up with workable ideas for “smaller” mansions — perhaps half the size of the Wideners’ former home.

“It’s a very wonderful property but a very difficult property in the sense of bringing it back from the edge,” said David Rowland, president of the Old York Road Historical Society, who has long followed Lynnewood Hall’s precarious plight.

Lynnewood Hall’s reversal of fortune began when P.A.B. Widener’s son, Joseph, died there in 1943 and the younger generation deemed the property too large to maintain. Much of the acreage was sold to developers and the opulent furnishings were auctioned. In 1952, the Rev. Carl McIntire of Collingswood, N.J., a controversial fundamentalist preacher, bought the property for $190,000 and established a Christian seminary.

As maintenance and heating costs on the past-its-prime palace skyrocketed, the Faith Theological Seminary sold Lynnewood Hall’s magnificent fountain, marble walls and fireplaces and other parts of its interior to make ends meet. New York physician Richard Sei-Oung Yoon, a former student of McIntire and one-time chancellor of the cash-strapped seminary, bought its mortgage in 1993 for $1.6 million with plans of establishing his own church there.

He and Cheltenham Township have been embroiled in a years-long legal battle over Mr. Yoon’s request for tax-exempt status as a religious organization, which the township has denied. Meanwhile, Yoon has paid tens of thousands of dollars in property taxes, which Mr. Rowland said are being held in escrow while the case is held up in the courts.

Neither Mr. Yoon nor Cheltenham Township manager David Kraynik responded to repeated requests for comment. A caretaker lives on a 15,000-square-foot “guest house” but could not be reached.

Norman J. Manohar, current president of the seminary, now headquartered in Baltimore, referred all questions to the group’s attorney, Herman Weinrich. He did not respond to a request for comment.