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Photos: Pa. FDs use historic 110-room mansion for search training

Firefighters from three departments were able to train inside several of Lynnewood Hall’s rooms


Elkins Park Fire Company/Facebook

Ambler Gazette

ELKINS PARK, Pa. — Recently, La Mott Fire Company, along with Cheltenham Fire Company and Elkins Park Fire Company, held a training at the Gilded Age historic mansion, Lynnewood Hall. With more than 110 rooms inside, the unique structure with dim lighting, narrow hallways and hidden staircases created a challenging environment for over 50 participating firefighters.

A Glance Inside the Historic Mansion

Architect Horace Trumbauer designed the Gilded Aged mansion, built between 1897 and 1900 for Peter A.B. Widener and his family. Before it was abandoned, the building had an art gallery, a ballroom large enough for 1,000 guests, a swimming pool, wine cellars, a farm, carpentry studios and an electrical power plant. Widener’s grandson nicknamed the estate “the last of the American Versailles.”

This true architectural masterpiece was bought and sold throughout the years, but the owners could not afford to maintain the entire building, or keep up with the property tax. In 2023, Lynnewood Hall Preservation Foundation purchased the 34-acre estate to preserve its history.

According to the Lynnewood Hall Preservation Foundation, the group is “committed to seeing Lynnewood Hall return to being an active contributor to the local community and beyond. Using only the highest standards of conservative craftsmanship, sustainability principles and research, the Foundation will create an important cultural site while providing educational, recreational, and work opportunities for the communities of Greater Philadelphia.”

La Mott Firefighters Overcome Lynnewood Hall’s Challenging Structure

The training at Lynnewood Hall raised numerous challenges for participating firefighters. Members of La Mott Fire Company practiced intricate searches in a large area with the goal of rescuing three dummies. Sections of the mansion were blocked off for the training, and the dummies were placed in three discrete locations. Dressed in heavy gear and with limited air, the firefighters had to track sections searched and remove the victims from upper floors once located.

“It was exciting to train in a completely new environment. It tested our teamwork skills and at the end of the day we came together with one common goal, to complete the drill. At La Mott we always have each other’s backs and I’m proud of all of our members,” said participating firefighter and President of La Mott Fire Company Dave Schwartz

The site only has one driveway so a La Mott Fire Company driver used a recently purchased TAC-2 engine to gain entry through the tight streets and densely packed residential neighborhoods.

This exercise honed in on communication, accountability, and air management skills. At the end of the day, La Mott Fire Company, Cheltenham Fire Company and Elkins Park Fire Company, were able to complete the search-and-rescue mission and recover the three dummies before they ran out of air.

“Opportunities like this are rare and come along infrequently. This opportunity allowed our firefighters to experience something different from our live burns or vehicle rescue trainings, in a controlled environment. It put their skills to the test and I’m really proud of everyone that participated,” said La Mott Fire Company Chief Kevin Lynch.

The opportunity to train at Lynnewood Hall was made possible by La Mott Fire Company Deputy Chief Al Sergio, who worked with the foundation to coordinate the drill. While participating fire companies trained, Wyndmoor Hose Company No.1, Independent Fire Company and Cheltenham Township Emergency Medical Services covered the township.

“We are so grateful for the staff at Lynnewood Hall Preservation Foundation. Because of them, our firefighters were able to perform incredibly unique search-and-rescue training, expanding their skill set and further contributing to the safety and well-being of the public,” said Sergio.

La Mott Fire Company welcomes new volunteer firefighters. No experience needed. All volunteers receive the training and gear they need so they are always ready to respond. To learn more about La Mott Fire Company or sign up to volunteer, visit

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