These Three Pennsylvania Hotels Reveal the Simple Pleasures of Staying at Places With a Past
What do a historic farmstead, an 1875 cork factory, and an 1890 glass factory have in common? A lot, it turns out, when they’ve all been converted into hotels in eastern Pennsylvania. While historic hotels are often favored by travelers for the stories they tell of famous past guests and bygone eras, these rehabilitated industrial and agricultural buildings present stories all their own. Recently, Preservation visited the Glasbern Inn, the Cork Factory Hotel, and Ledges Hotel, all Historic Hotels of America, to explore their legacies and to see how they’ve been adapted into luxury lodging.
Glasbern Inn | Fogelsville, Pennsylvania
The Glasbern Inn doubles as a small farm, so don’t be surprised if you see a couple of Scottish Highland cows saunter up to the front porch of the inn’s 19th–century farmhouse during your stay. A fence separates guests from the cattle, but the bovine presence serves as a reminder that the farm-to-table credo at the inn’s restaurant isn’t just a cliché.
Glasbern has been a farm since 1787 and passed through several owners, sitting abandoned for 13 years beginning in 1972. In 1985 Al and Beth Granger purchased the 16-acre property. The couple, who owned a bed-and-breakfast in nearby Allentown, desired a more rural setting for themselves as well as their inn. Beth had just one stipulation: “My wife insisted we install indoor plumbing in the farmhouse,” recalls Al.
With running water finally available inside, the Grangers set about transforming the outbuildings on the rest of the farm into rooms for guests. The original tractor shed became the Carriage House, which contains two guest rooms with gas fireplaces and the original pine floors and beams. Builders transformed the decrepit garage into the Gate House; it and the nearby Garden Cottage are among the most private on the property.
The old barn holds the inn’s main reception area, 11 guest rooms, a petite pub, and a rustic restaurant, where wooden ladders climb nearly 30 feet up to the barn’s cathedral ceiling. Hearty breakfasts of eggs Florentine, pancakes, and omelets feature ingredients grown on the farm or nearby. Dinner entrée options include beef from Glasbern-raised cows and seared duck breast from birds raised sustainably, 30 minutes down the road.
Since Beth’s death in 2006, Al has continued to expand the property, which now encompasses 150 acres. The original farmhouse was divided into three guest rooms, and several other historic buildings were moved and then reassembled on the property, bringing the total number of guest rooms to 37.
Glasbern is a romantic sort of place, without much to distract you from serious relaxation. (Not surprisingly, the inn hosts a full slate of wedding parties year-round.) There’s a spa offering massages, as well as a heated outdoor pool. Hillside walking trails meander by a pen of alpacas and several ponds of chattering ducks and geese, as well as that herd of curious cows.
Cork Factory Hotel | Lancaster, Pennsylvania
Several photographs mounted in the hallways of Lancaster, Pennsylvania’s Cork Factory Hotel depict female factory workers on an assembly line, running industrial equipment. Judging by their work clothes and “victory roll” hairdos, it appears many of the photos date from the 1940s, when the Armstrong Cork Company was one of the largest employers in town, churning out thousands of cork-lined bottle caps.
One has to wonder what the women in the photographs would think of their old workplace these days. They would undoubtedly recognize the complex’s brick exterior and its 90-foot-tall smokestack, but that might be it.
The oldest parts of the complex date to 1865, when Lancaster’s factories are said to have produced more cork than anywhere else in the country. Cork products were still being made here until the 1960s. At that point, Armstrong Cork sold the buildings to Kerr Glass, which stopped manufacturing bottles and bottle caps in 2002. The buildings sat mostly vacant for two years, until entrepreneur Barry Baldwin purchased the 6-acre property. He re-imagined the 200,000-square-foot, four-building complex, now called Urban Place, as offices, apartments, and a four-story, 93-room hotel.
Before you even arrive at the hotel, you’ll probably glimpse that towering smokestack, a redbrick beacon abutting the hotel’s main entrance. Throughout the lobby and common areas, you’ll find more historic photographs and period pieces, such as an old wooden phone booth and assorted industrial tools. Guest suites and standard rooms are minimally decorated, allowing the original brick walls and fir ceiling beams to stand out. If it isn’t in use, the hotel’s second-floor ballroom is worth a gander for its beautiful wooden bracework, dangling iron chandeliers, and black-and-white photos of the complex before its rehabilitation.
The hotel’s Cork & Cap restaurant serves up a complimentary breakfast buffet for hotel guests and remains open for lunch and dinner. It’s a handsome space with limestone walls and a large, U-shaped bar made of reclaimed wood.
You can also quench your thirst nearby at the Lancaster Brewing Company’s own historic edifice: the former Edward McGovern Tobacco Warehouse, built circa 1880. If you have kids in tow, the Lancaster Science Factory’s hands-on exhibits make for a fun distraction adjacent to the hotel. And the sights of downtown Lancaster—including what’s purportedly the country’s oldest continuously operating farmers market, now housed in a Romanesque Revival building that dates to 1889—are a 10-minute drive away.
Ledges Hotel | Hawley, Pennsylvania
Ledges is a most descriptive name for this 20-room hotel on the side of a rocky gorge above Wallenpaupack Creek. A series of multi-tiered wooden decks juts out from the stone walls, providing guests with front-row seats to the creek’s tumbling cascades.
In the 1890s, all that flowing water powered the J.S. O’Connor American Rich Cut Glass Factory, which churned out thousands of exquisite glass pieces through the early 20th century. The property then served as a textile mill until developers converted the space to an inn during the 1980s. In 2011, the Genzlinger family, which owns two other historic lodgings in the area, transformed the five-story building into a boutique hotel and restaurant.
Clues to the site’s manufacturing past can be found throughout Ledges—particularly at Glass, the hotel’s small-plates restaurant and lounge. It occupies the former basement of the factory, where a massive water wheel provided power. (In the 1920s, the creek was dammed, and adjoining Lake Wallenpaupack was built to supply water for a new hydroelectric plant.) The water wheel is gone now, but among the walls of exposed Pennsylvania bluestone, an old outlet pipe with a foot-wide diameter remains. A set of O’Connor Champagne glasses glitters under LED lights in a case, while enlarged images of the factory’s cut-glass patterns grace the walls. Wood planks, salvaged from a fallen 250-year-old copper beech tree, make up the polished bar and tabletops.
Decor throughout the lobby and rooms is comparatively sleek and contemporary. Nine suites on the second floor have spiral staircases leading to master bedrooms. (To get the best views of the falls, book rooms 102, 202, or 204.)
For workout junkies, it’s a short walk up a hill to the Hawley Silk Mill, where hotel guests have complimentary access to the building’s Lake Region Fitness center. This hulking, 75,000-square-foot structure, also owned and redeveloped by the Genzlinger family, was built in 1880 and is thought to be the largest Pennsylvania bluestone building in the world.
Originally known as the Bellemonte Silk Mill, the factory employed 300 women and girls during the 1880s and 1890s. The mill remained a mecca of textile manufacturing—peaking in the 1950s, when workers produced more than 750,000 pairs of underwear annually—until it closed in the 1980s.
In addition to the fitness center, the silk mill’s first floor holds an expansive gourmet market, several boutiques, an art gallery, a salon, a Pilates studio, and the offices of the local News Eagle newspaper. Steps from the old mill lies the former factory storeroom, which once housed thousands of silkworm cocoons that supplied raw materials for the mill. It’s now a cozy, one-room coffee shop that’s open for breakfast and lunch and, like Ledges Hotel itself, bears a most suitable name: Cocoon.