Two historic Harrisburg mansions were slated to be demolished in 2005, but residents struggled to save the important buildings that overlook the Susquehanna River.
A ribbon cutting ceremony was held in the mansions on Tuesday to celebrate the restoration of the second mansion. One of the villas now known as The Ledgestone has been open as a bed and breakfast since 2015, but the second villa, The Mary Sachs, was recently remodeled and will be open for bookings in about a week.
“That is extraordinary,” said Mayor Eric Papenfuse. “The building has regained its former glory. It’s a wonderful addition and we’re so excited to be able to cut the ribbon. “
Papenfuse, who will soon end his second term as mayor after failing to win a third term, said the villas were the fodder for his first political speech 16 years ago at the Third Street synagogue.
“You may remember, these buildings have had tough times. They were all abandoned, ”he said. “Mary Knackstedt (the owner at the time) came up with a plan to tear them all down and build a massive new settlement.”
But as the luxury condominium plan moved forward, nearly 100 parishioners opposed her proposal. Papenfuse said the protest is a crucial moment that brings the entire community together for monument protection.
“We teamed up, we fought, we preserved the buildings and they weren’t demolished,” he said. “I was here in the beginning when the buildings were sold, and today we come full circle on the promise. Sometimes it takes 16 years or more to get things done. “
The mayor was among a group of residents and local officials who gathered Tuesday to celebrate the opening of the second mansion as part of The Manor on Front, Bed and Breakfast on the 2900 block of North Front Street.
Mike Wilson, owner of Integral Construction, said he and his wife Sally are excited to welcome more guests to their new premises. He said it was her love of architecture that led her to buy the property for $ 500,000 in 2014.
“This is our fun hobby. We absolutely love architecture, ”he said.
Construction has been going on since they bought The Mary Sachs in 2014. The Wilson’s waited to open a second bed and breakfast location while the first grew. Wilson said COVID delayed the opening of the second mansion for about a year.
They were getting busy in the high 80s to low 90s percent so they figured it was time to open up new space to cover the property’s overheads.
The couple also plan to add three more suites on the third floor and in a coach house in the back.
The suites in “The Ledgestone” are named after the previous and current owners of the villa. The Mary Sachs suites are named after famous fashion designers who influenced the inventory and products Sachs selected and sold in their stores.
The building “The Mary Sachs” was designed with a contemporary New York flair. It has shared seating areas with six private suites.
During Tuesday’s ceremony, Jeb Stuart of the Historic Harrisburg Association remembered the days of draper and philanthropist Mary Sachs, also known as the Merchant Princess of Pennsylvania. He said the villa was built in 1926 by a Harrisburg businessman named Ira Romberger. Mary Sachs bought the house in 1935 and died in 1960. The house later became a law firm and then stood abandoned for more than a decade.
After cutting the tape, David Morrison, executive director of the Historical Association, revealed a new historical marker that tells the backstory of Mary Sachs. The plaque across from the mansion on Front Street is the latest of 120 markings, he said.
The Manor on Front attracts customers from all over the world, including New York, Canada and France, said Mike Wilson.
For more information on The Manor on Front, visit their website.
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