Mt. Gretna Tour of Homes & Gardens
Saturday, August 3, 2013, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
(Always the first Saturday in August.)
Enjoy a fascinating glimpse into the architecture and style of Mt. Gretna's iconic homes. A self -guided walking tour includes homes and gardens of contrasting sizes and styles, some homes almost a century old; others just finished.
Each summer Chef du Tour Emi Snavely selects a different collection of homes reflecting the various styles and tastes of Mt. Gretna homeowners. The result is a delightful day in the shady, nostalgic surroundings of Mt. Gretna.
Sponsored by Brownstone Real Estate Co.
Enjoy twelve stop on this year's tour.
See below for an example of the homes you can visit on the tour.
How far is it to Mt. Gretna? Mount Gretna is located just off the PA Turnpike between Lancaster and Lebanon along PA 117 off PA 72 (Turnpike exit Exit 266 ). Approximate driving times: Reading / Carlisle: 45 min; Philadelphia / Baltimore: one hour, 45 minutes; Washington, DC: two hours, 20 minutes; New York: three hours, 30 minutes.
$20 in advance / $25 day of the tour
By Phone: 717-361-1508
By Mail: Send your check at least 1 week in advance to Gretna Music, 1 Alpha Drive, Elizabethtown, PA 17022. Include $3 for postage and handling.
In Person: At one of the following MTG Tour of Homes Ticket Sales Outlets beginning early July.
Mechanicsburg: Stauffers Garden Center
Wyomissing: Progress Electric Supply
A Sample from the Homes on the 2013 Tour
Former Cape Cod in Chautauqua
Built in 1972, this large contemporary style home has experienced several major remodeling projects in recent years, converting it from a Cape Cod into a home that closely resembles the look of a beach house. The first renovation project took place in 1999 and added new angles to the roof, a new dormer, and a cedar patio. In 2004, through another major structural upgrade, 1,000 sq. feet of floor space was added, including a large living room, a master bedroom, sunroom, and a studio/office space above the garage. Well-known Mt. Gretna builder John Balmer did the construction work for both projects. The home now features 3,500 square feet of living space, four bedrooms, three full baths, and a two-car garage.
Homeowners Joe and Kathy Plizga purchased the house in 2008, when they moved to Mt. Gretna from the Denver, Colorado area. Joe is a retired Navy submariner, and Kathy is a free-lance court reporter. Mt. Gretna seemed like a perfect place to live, due to Kathy’s work requiring travel to Harrisburg, Lancaster, and other areas in Central Pennsylvania.
Recently, an opportunity arose for the Plizgas to move to Honolulu, Hawaii, where Kathy accepted a free-lance court reporting position. Because Joe is retired from the Navy, they are able to utilize the many military benefits of living on the island of Oahu. The Plizgas cherish the time that they spent in the peaceful community of Mt. Gretna and living in the lovely home on Lebanon Avenue.
Terraced Tranquility Garden in Chautauqua
After Karl moved to his Chautauqua cottage in 1997, he started to dig out the hillside from underneath his home in order to create a basement – not an easy task in Mount Gretna where the clay ground is laden with the familiar native red sandstone rocks. As he dug, he collected the rocks – even one as big as the bed of his Ford pickup truck – and used them to aesthetically transform the grounds around his home into an interesting and peaceful landscape.
He started by using hand-cut sandstone to build a wall in front of his property along Lancaster Ave. all the way up to and including his neighbor’s property. More digging. More rocks.
People walking along the scenic Chautauqua avenue would comment on his efforts:
“When are you going to be finished digging?”
Karl would respond “I don’t know and I don’t care.”
Karl dug out his basement and around his cottage for nearly eight years. Now that he has finished shoring up the basement foundation and built terraced paths around and behind the home, he is still not finished. “I try new things and evolve and grow with the landscape,” he said.
A professional geologist, he remedied the slope behind his cottage by adding a stone terrace and patio. The wall curves just enough outside of the door for a fire pit and chairs to relax and gaze at the oak, poplar, pine, maple and rhododendron.
Limestone steps lead to the Asian-inspired pergola Karl built as a centerpiece to his garden. He earned the notable wind chime in a photography contest and used green lumber to build the basket weave base. The top part mirrors a spider web design, as he always found the intricacies of spider webs to be exceptionally fascinating. Over the years, cross vine and red honeysuckle have added a natural aspect that attracts hummingbirds and butterflies
Hall of Philosophy
Dedicated in 1910, the Hall of Philosophy was built on the site of the Sarah Tyson Rorer Hall of Cookery. The namesake of the original building, Sarah Tyson Rorer (1849 – 1935), had an illustrious career as the Domestic Science Editor of the Ladies Home Journal for 14 years, published 54 books on cooking and nutrition, and became a household name as the “Nation’s Cooking Teacher” at the turn of the 20th century. She presided over the Chautauqua Household Science Department, teaching and lecturing on proper diet, hygiene, and cooking. Plans for building the current Hall of Philosophy began in 1908, with the announcement that Rorer Hall would be torn down. For over a century, the Hall of Philosophy has served as the hub of Chautauqua activities. The building’s exterior, inspired by classic Greek architecture, has remained unchanged since it was erected, and the interior has experienced minor alterations over the years.
During this year’s Tour of Homes, historic portrayals of two notable Mt. Gretna women will take place in the Hall of Philosophy. Sarah Tyson Rorer will be portrayed by Kathy navely, and Ann Hark (1891 – 1970), renowned Mt. Gretna author and journalist, will be portrayed by Linda Campbell. Mrs. Rorer will appear at 9:45, 10:45, 11:45 and 12:45, and Ms. Hark at 10:15, 11:15, 12:15, and 1:15pm .
The Hall of Philosophy will also be open as a “Grab ‘N Go” Café from 9:30am until 1:30pm, selling coffee, snacks, and light lunch items with proceeds benefitting the PA Chautauqua and Gretna Music.
Lorenz-Inn formerly known as Baer’s Den in Campmeeting
Following an extensive renovation, the home of Doug Lorenzen and Pam Bishop is a perfect blend of modern upgrades and historic features. Originally built in 1904, the home was purchased by Doug and Pam in 2008. They then began a massive remodeling project that lasted two and a half years.
Doug, a retired environmental geologist and home improvement contractor, removed the home’s back wall and extended the first floor by seven feet, after gutting the house and replacing all of the plumbing and electrical wiring. He installed a large, airy kitchen with granite floors and a bank of windows, and a deck that overlooks the Mt. Gretna Heights community, along with a full bath and a laundry area. In the living room, French doors with side lights were added for extra light, accentuating the white stained solid bamboo flooring.
Upstairs, the completely renovated bathroom features a fully tiled shower and granite floor. Authentic American chestnut beadboard lines the ceilings of the three newly renovated bedrooms and office, while hand-quilted bedspreads, made by Pam’s grandmother, cover the beds. For Doug and Pam, a special area of the home is the sleeping porch that they refer to as their “tree house.” “This is one of my favorite parts of the house, because I could always picture myself reading a book and being in the trees,” says Pam, a retired environmental lawyer.
Another unique element of the home is the original bay windows, including the one that brightens the master bedroom. Pam especially loves the bay windows, noting, “We have more light in this house than in most Mt. Gretna houses.”
Pam and Doug discovered that in the 1940s their home, now named “Lorenz-Inn,” was called “Baer’s Den” by the Baers, who owned the home at that time. With the impressive transformation that Doug and Pam completed themselves, “Lorenz-Inn” will mark a memorable chapter in the story of this historic home.
The Innkeepers’ Cottage in Campmeeting
Bed and breakfast owners David and Bonnie Harvey live in an historic home built in 1795 in Ephrata, PA, which is also a four bedroom inn, open year-round. In search of a relaxing retreat that was not far from their Ephrata home and business, the Harveys chose a cottage in the Campmeeting as a vacation home and moved in two years ago. A photograph of The Kimmell House Bed & Breakfast is prominently displayed on the wall in the cottage’s light and airy dining area. Built in 1896 on a double lot in the Mt. Gretna Campmeeting, the Harveys refer to their Weaver Avenue cottage as “their new house,” considering that their full-time residence was built a century earlier.
David, a retired engineer, has made a number of renovations to the cottage, including completely renovating the dining room, upgrading the kitchen with raised ceilings, new wiring, and a new door frame, and installing new flooring in the upstairs bathroom. A special accent piece that David and Bonnie acquired at an antique shop in their native hometown of Conneaut Lake, PA, is a stained glass window in the bathroom. They searched for two years to find a window that was the perfect size. The stained glass theme is carried throughout the home, with a special custom-made stained glass window featured in the front of the cottage, crafted in 2007 by the late Dale rundon, legendary Mt. Gretna stained glass artist. Blending historic features and new renovations, for the Harveys, “the cottage is our getaway,” says Bonnie.
Woods’ in the Woods in the Heights
In early 2000, David and Susan Wood began a grand revitalization of the property on the L-shaped footprint of the original 1960s era home. “We had to take it right down to the floor,” says David. This provided endless opportunities for designing a new contemporary home, including bamboo floors, plentiful windows and skylights, an open floor plan, a spacious outdoor pool that was recently converted to salt water, and a glass block shower in the master bath. Mount Gretna resident John Balmer was the designer and builder of the new home. Interior decorator Glin Atkinson, also of Mount Gretna, suggested attractive color schemes for the rooms. The Woods began making plans for the home’s design in early 2000, and moved in by Thanksgiving of 2001.
One of the most prominent features of the home is the built-in shelving in the living room that showcases David’s collection of clocks and watches, which also overlooks the entryway in the home’s multi-level design. During the summer, the beautiful outdoor saltwater pool, complete with poolside hammocks, is their favorite part of the home. The pool water was converted to salt water about four years ago. Surrounding the pool is an abundance of tas – so many that Susan and David remarked that the home could affectionately be called “Hosta la Vista.”
Another recent upgrade is the transition to a geothermal heating and cooling system. Previously, the home was heated with oil, but the new geothermal system dramatically reduces the use of oil, which is now used only as a back-up for extremely cold weather. The home and its outdoor spaces and recent upgrades all incorporate design principles inspired by the book The Not So Big House, by Sarah Susanka, which reveals the virtues of multiuse rooms and high quality home construction – and the Woods’ home is a perfect example.