I was pedaling to the park the other day and did a double take at this big old historic house on Yellow Springs Road near the covered bridge.
Turns out the place is about to become Party Central.
A popular backdrop for goo-goo-eyed engagement photos, the park is now officially getting in the wedding business, leasing an estate that had fallen into genteel decay to two Phoenixville guys: Robert Ryan Catering and Design and The Party Center.
The 5,000 sq. ft. home and gardens were once home to Philander Chase Knox, U.S. Senator and Secretary of State. (Is it bad luck that knots will be tied at old Philander’s place?)
Anyway, the catering and party rental partners, Valley Forge Park Events LLC, have been sanding, painting and polishing away since May 10, getting the spot shipshape for weddings, galas and corporate shindigs. Hence, the pick-ups trucks out front that caught my eye.
Bob Ryan tells me his venue will be top shelf all the way and will include:
*A WHOPPER of a tent. 4.000 sq. ft. for 200 guests to dine and dance from April 1 to Oct. 31. (Sorry, no winter weddings here…)
*A refurbished first floor and back terrace for cocktail hours only. About half the house will be open to partygoers. The home’s small historic library will likely be relocated, Ryan said.
*A rustic-chic vibe inside the tent with dining tables “handmade of barn wood in Amish country,” new-to-the-industry “criss-cross” chairs and “gorgeous” carpeting and lighting.
*An 12’ X 32’ “outdoor living room” tent bump-out overlooking a stream and barn, ideal for cigar bars, single-malt scotch bars and the like.
*56 planters with deer-proof flora (sure, if you say so…) and a newly landscaped façade that mimics the period.
*A “water feature” for photo ops.
*Two upstairs hospitality suites for brides and their maids.
*The finest porta-potties money can buy. Purportedly so posh that guests who powder their noses will return raving: “You MUST go to the loo!”
If you’re agog over the possibilities, well, that’s the intention. The partners decided from Day One “this can’t be just another historic house with a tent.”
Ryan Catering’s niche is “character” venues. The father-son company has exclusives on The Barn on Bridge in Collegeville (circa 1773) and Columbia Station (circa 1858).
It’s the first party venue ever in Valley Forge National Historical Park.
Hard up for maintenance cash, the park hopes to lease three more spots: the nearby Spring House, the Maurice Stephens House and the former Kennedy-Supplee mansion.
Ryan says the park’s “been a dream to work with” — even if it took nine months to negotiate the 10-year lease.
Showings begin in the next few days; shindigs to commence July 15.