Bethlehem's Sayre Mansion, built in 1858, restored as bed and breakfast

BETHLEHEM, Pa. -- From his brick mansion high atop Fountain Hill, Robert H. Sayre had a front row view of the city's iron mills and bustling rail yards in the second half of the 19th century.

By 1854, he was chief engineer of the Lehigh Valley Railroad and as one of the founders of Bethlehem Iron Works, he oversaw the mill's construction in 1861-63. He was busy at home, too. Before he died in 1907, he had had four wives and fathered 10 children.

Today, his red-brick home with a sweeping lawn, well-tended gardens and spacious front porches is the Sayre Mansion bed and breakfast. The main house, built in 1858, offers 19 well-appointed rooms and common areas filled with tasteful antiques. Dentil molding trims the dining room and living room. Transom windows, an early way to circulate air within houses, are visible throughout the first floor, but each guest room has air conditioning, too.

A former carriage house and stables, which was built in the 1860s at the back of the 2-acre property, was beautifully restored in 2005 and 2006. It offers three, 800-square-foot suites with jetted tubs.

"In the hayloft suite there are some original stable doors," said Carrie Ohlandt, one of the inn's three owners.

A pediatric nurse, Ms. Ohlandt purchased the home in 2002 with two business partners and has worked there since 2006. By the time she invested, most of the 18-month restoration had been completed. The home had previously been used as public housing, then sat vacant for several years.

The mansion is in the national historic register district called Fountain Hill. Family photos shared by Sayre descendants hang in the reception area.

"Robert Sayre IV and Robert Sayre V have stayed here," Ms. Ohlandt said.

If you stay in Mr. Sayre's first-floor bedroom, you'll have the pleasure of relaxing in a sitting room that has an antique desk, a fireplace, a small refrigerator and bookshelves filled with new titles as well as old, leather-bound classics.

The mansion also hosts weddings for up to 150 people. Within the past five years, Ms. Ohlandt said, 1,500 hotel rooms have opened within a mile of the bed and breakfast, which employs 13 people.

"We've managed to find a niche with the college [Lehigh University] and all of the entertainment that Bethlehem does." The town has a Bach Choir festival in May, a blues festival, an Octoberfest and a Christmas market that begins in November and continues for several weeks.

Heather Primrose, the inn's cook, is so friendly that she will write out, by hand, her recipe for chocolate chip zucchini bread, a welcome afternoon snack.

Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread

Slices of chocolate chip zucchini bread are served as a snack in the elegant dining room of The Sayre Mansion, a bed and breakfast in Bethlehem, Pa.

  • 3 1/4 cups of all-purpose flour

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt

  • 2 cups white sugar

  • 1 cup packed dark brown sugar

  • 2 teaspoons nutmeg

  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon

  • 4 eggs, beaten

  • 1 cup vegetable oil

  • 1/3 cup water

  • 2 teaspoons baking soda

  • 1 teaspoon of lemon juice

  • 3 to 3 1/2 cups grated zucchini

Optional: 11/2 cups walnuts or pecans and/or 11/2 cups chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, combine flour, salt, sugars, spices, eggs, oil, water, baking soda and lemon juice. Add grated zucchini. Mix until just combined. Fold in nuts and/or chocolate chips. Divide evenly between two loaf pan. Bake for about 45 minutes, or until tester inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Yields 2 loaves.

- Heather Primrose, The Sayre Mansion, Bethlehem

Marylynne Pitz: or 412-263-1648.


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