The former Ashcombe Mansion Bed and Breakfast off Route 15 in Upper Allen Township has a new owner who is planning to open a special events venue on the site next year.
Attorney Deborah Myers Welsh purchased the 22.5-acre property at 1100 Grantham Road, about a mile from Ashcombe Farm and Greenhouse. She is hoping to restore the 19th century Cumberland County mansion to its former glory and use it to host weddings and other private events.
The Victorian Queen Anne-style mansion was built in 1891 as a summer home for Margaret Moser, the widow of a county judge.
Between the purchase price and planned improvements this year, Welsh said she expects about a $3 million investment in the property, which will be known as The Willows at Ashcombe Mansion. The property was listed for about $1.4 million through Lemoyne-based Commercial Realty Group Inc.‘s Thomas Mallios, who represented both parties in the sale.
While barn-style weddings are popular in the area, the mansion would provide a different type of venue.
“We don’t have enough wedding venues on the West Shore,” said Welsh, who has been mulling the idea of an events space for about three years. “There is absolutely a need, the location is perfect and it’s easy to get to.”
She purchased the property from Ljubisa and Mira Stankovic, who have owned the property since 1985, according to county deed records. For years, they operated it as a bed-and-breakfast venue that also hosted weddings. But that business ceased more than three years ago and Mallios listed the property in August.
It’s unique features include custom-painted ceilings, stained glass windows, ornamental parquet floors, well-appointed woodwork, a curved staircase and a wraparound porch.
Welsh said she intends to maintain the home’s original features and artwork, but she wants to freshen it up with new paint and other minor cosmetic improvements.
Welsh also said she doesn’t intend to live at the property. Instead, her plan, pending township approvals, is to hire a full-time staff to operate it solely as a special occasion facility. The operation could include a general manager, executive chef and staff for cleaning and running events, she said.
It’s also possible she will partner with local caterers to help with events, she said.
Welsh plans to add a large all-weather tent next to the mansion that could host events for up to 350 people. She said she hasn’t ruled out the possibility of building a more permanent event space.
Bridal parties will use the mansion’s bedrooms as dressing rooms, but people using the facility for events also could stay overnight in the rooms, she said. “My goal is not a bed-and-breakfast facility, but an event center.”
Events themselves would take place on the main floor of the mansion.
“It really is the perfect use for the home,” she said. “We want to bring back the glory of the home.”
The main parcel where the mansion sits is about 16.2 acres. Welsh said her long-range plan would be to use a 6.3-acre connected lot, which is surrounded by residential development, to build a barn for smaller events and event storage.
She also would like to have the ability to offer on-site horse-and-carriage rides.
Welsh hopes to open The Willows in spring 2019. She is currently developing a website and social media pages for the new venue, which could begin booking events by late spring or early summer.