Enter through the decorative iron gates that are more than a century old. Wind along the regal drive lined with craggy Norwood maples dressed in their rich autumn reds and oranges. Ahead on the hill is the Mansion at Noble Lane, a 25,000-square-foot luxurious resort and spa that is the dazzling new face of a forsaken post-Gilded Age estate with a curious past.
Historic buildings are precious containers of a region’s memory, haunted by their marvelous stories of another time. For every one that is lost, a piece of a city’s soul goes too. Ruin and loss are tragedies for historic preservationists—and special opportunities for visionary entrepreneurs, like Monique Greenwood.
What Greenwood and her husband, Glenn Pogue, have accomplished in assembling their resources to rescue and restore the once-magnificent mansion is proof of the adage that “no one loves an old house in vain.” Long-time residents of the area are ecstatic that this sorely neglected jewel from an opulent era in history is again shining brightly.
Having the vision
Constructed in the roaring 1920s as part of the F.W. Woolworth success legacy (see “Timeline” sidebar on page 5), the three-story, 70-room landmark building appeared on Greenwood’s radar, thanks to a friend who was absolutely certain that the former magazine editor had what it would take to breathe life back into it. “From the moment I saw it, I knew somehow I had to have it. It was at once majestic and magical,” said Greenwood.
She continued, “Of course when I purchased it, there were many who looked at me as if I had three eyes. But that third eye is the eye of vision. It gives the ability to see the possibility.”
But a “third eye” of vision must be matched with energy, determination and skills to accomplish the practical part of dreams. And Greenwood has proven many times to have those characteristics as well. The former editor-in-chief of Essence magazine wears the varied hats of mother, author, hospitality diva and hands-on innkeeper. She is President and CEO (which she says stands for Chief Enjoyment Officer) of Akwaaba Bed and Breakfast Inns, a company she owns with Pogue. It includes four other successful B&Bs: one in Brooklyn, two in Cape May, NJ and one in Washington, DC.
Still, even with 17 years of experience in hospitality ventures in various states, the Noble Lane restoration project was daunting. The exterior of the mansion had been extensively damaged during the production of a film shot onsite in the mid-’80s. Subsequently, the property housed a drug and rehabilitation facility, and then was left vacant for more than a decade. But, as Greenwood said, “It still had great bones.” The original character endured, although the restoration and interior design and decoration efforts cost more than $1.5 million.
Local contractor Dakan Enterprises was hired to complete construction. Ibo Interiors, a Brooklyn-based company, helped Greenwood create an aesthetic presentation to honor the historic details of the original mansion, while imbuing it with a functionality that is in keeping with the sensibilities of today. The end result is that modern amenities don’t seem at all discordant in cohabitating with elaborate early 20th-century fireplace mantles, intricate moldings and period architectural details like coved ceilings, webbed windows and oval rooms.
“We didn’t renovate,” said Greenwood, “we restored. There are few mansions like this in the country, and I want to preserve such grandeur.” In recognition of her efforts, The Wayne County Historical Society recently announced the Mansion at Noble Lane will be a recipient of its Historic Preservation Award for 2012.
The Mansion at Noble Lane is located on 22 lush acres in picturesque Bethany, PA, and includes:
- 14 guest rooms decorated with unpretentious elegance for maximum comfort.
- Private bathrooms with soaking tubs or air-jetted tubs and refreshing rain showers.
- Various lovely gathering spaces with fireplaces, including a wood-paneled dining room where overnight guests enjoy a hearty, locally sourced breakfast each morning.
- YOU-topia, a seven-treatment room spa open to the public by appointment.
- Leaves, a glassed-in tea room for lunch and high tea, open by reservation Thursday to Sunday, 12 noon to 4 p.m.
- Fitness center with an Olympic-sized, heated indoor pool.
- Tennis, volleyball and basketball courts.
- A formal English garden with a secret stone arbor.
- On-site parking.
- Indoor and outdoor spaces for private events hosting as many as 400 guests.
“I’m excited to do business in such a beautiful environment, but I’m just as ecstatic about making Northeast Pennsylvania my new home,” said Greenwood, who has turned a 5,000-square-foot carriage house on the property into a comfortable abode she shares with her family.
The Mansion at Noble Lane is described on the Akwaba website as being “perfect for spa vacations, couples rendezvous, girlfriend getaways, corporate and church retreats, and private celebrations, especially fantasy weddings for the indie bride.”
Room rates range from $150 to $255 and include a full hot breakfast.
For more information visit www.akwaaba.com , or call toll free at 866/466-3855.
The Mansion’s History
1908 – John Strongman , a senior executive with the F. W. Woolworth chain, built a modern two-story dwelling on his family property in Bethany to replace the aged house in which he had been born.
The early 1920s – The Strongman family purchased seven neighboring farms, and the collective became known as Bethany Homestead Farms. The 750-acre operation raised Leghorn chickens and registered Guernsey cows, and employed 30 people. The property also included a nine-hole golf course, playhouse, tennis court, indoor swimming pool, orchard and formal garden.
1923 – John Strongmans’ daughter, Hortense, and son-in-law Byron Miller became the property owners.
1929-30 – A 70-room, three-story grand mansion was constructed on the grounds.
1933 – John Strongman died at the age of 78, leaving a $2 million estate. His first wife, Charlotte Hinch, had passed away in 1895; his second wife, Caroline DeWitt, died in 1936. Wife Caroline and daughter Hortense were generous benefactors, known for their philanthropic work in both Bethany and Honesdale.
1961 – Hortense passed away, and Bethany Homestead Farms was left to her son, Byron Miller Jr. After her death, he sold several houses on the property and sub-divided the acreage. The mansion, barn and remaining land then changed hands several times.
1960-70s – Three very elegant restaurants were located inside the mansion.
1986-96 – “Playing for Keeps” was filmed onsite in 1986, featuring then relative unknown Marisa Tomei in a supporting role. The exterior of the mansion was left in terrible disrepair when the film production company departed. Subsequently, Bethany Center, a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center, occupied the mansion and made major exterior and interior renovations. Bethany Village, a 100-bed assisted living center, owned all the remaining property and renovated and occupied the barn.
Mid 1990s-2010 – The mansion was vacated and neglected.
2010 – Monique Greenwood of Brooklyn proposed to purchase the property, restore the mansion and develop a destination spa resort. The Mansion at Noble Lane was completed and formally opened to the public in June 2012.