CARLISLE, PA (July 23, 2010) - Within walking distance of the successfully opened Appalachian Trail Museum, the Central PA Conservancy (CPC) is applying the same model to reopen Pine Grove Furnace State Park's historic building the Iron Master's Mansion.
The Iron Master's Mansion is a staple in the hiking community as an easily accessible hostel to stop for the night. The hostel, like the Appalachian Trail Museum, is 2 short miles from the midway point of the 2,175-mile Appalachian Trail and only a 2 hour drive from Baltimore and Washington D.C. Located at Pine Grove Furnace State Park, who is already bringing over 400,000 visitors in 2009 with a 25% increase in 2010 due in part to the new Appalachian Trail Museum, the Iron Master's Mansion is a necessary asset. The CPC assumed responsibility and maintenance of the property in May 2010 from the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. After evaluating the importance of the history and need for the hostel along with new opportunities for the space, a grassroots effort has begun to restore the building.
The 183-year-old hostel's main purpose was to provide overnight stays to thru-hikers with a small outreach to youth and church groups. CPC has identified a greater use for the building that will benefit the community and allow a value for the space to a much larger audience. The new hostel will offer 28 co-ed sleeping beds (14 bunk beds) in two large rooms to use as overnight accommodations for thru-hikers or to rent to groups for family reunions, youth camping stays, field trips and more. The other rooms of the mansion will be used for education and interpretation of the history of the location and region, environmental education and serve as meeting space. The CPC will also be completely renovating the kitchen facilities to accommodate commercial use for the guests and provide an opportunity to cater to groups looking for food services for meetings, events and group dining.
The educational programming that will be available at the mansion will give community members, school groups and visitors a place to go to learn about the outdoors and the environmental assets of this area. The mansion is also steeped in history, once a stop on the Underground Railroad, the building features a closet hidden underneath the stairs and a hole in the hardwood floor that opens up to 2 large rooms underneath. It has also been home to some of PA's well known residents including Frederick Watts, the "Father of Penn State University" and leading Civil War financier Jay Cooke. The CPC has plans to dedicate each room in the mansion to a theme that reflects our area and the mansion's history.
The mansion will fuel many different tourism opportunities. "The new Iron Masters Mansion will address so many of our key objectives as a visitors bureau. It will serve as educational programming, offer unique meeting space, provide a location for area history and complement the successful Pine Grove Furnace State Park and Appalachian Trail Museum", said Shireen Farr, Director of Tourism at the Cumberland Valley Visitors Bureau.
The CPC has identified what needs to be done to make the newly opening mansion a success and are reaching out for sponsors and contributors as well as more volunteers. Debbie Bowman, Executive Director for CPC stated, "In order to reach the April 2011 opening generous support from sponsors, contributors and volunteers is necessary." If you would like to participate or contribute to the Iron Master's Mansion please contact Debbie Bowman at 717-241-4360.
The mansion has recently received a $25,000 grant from Lowe's Charitable and Educational Foundation to help renovate and reopen the historic mansion on time. More than 75 volunteers will assist with interior and exterior rehabilitation of the mansion on Saturday, July 24th. The volunteers, including 25 local Lowe's employee volunteers, will replace lighting fixtures, landscape, paint, secure fencing, repair stairs and more. If you would like to participate in this volunteer work day it begins at 9 a.m. at the mansion, 1212 Pine Grove Rd., Gardners.
The mission of the Cumberland Valley Visitors Bureau is to promote Cumberland Valley as a tourist destination, attract visitors to the area, enhance the visitor's experience, and to encourage and promote overnight stays.
The Cumberland Valley Visitors Bureau is also part of Pennsylvania's Dutch Country Roads region, the number 1 visited region in PA, a true vacation destination where country meets city and the past lives side-by-side with the present.