North Huntingdon couple gives new life to Gettysburg manse
June 27, 2013 10:15 AM
The sitting room at Swope Manor Bed and Breakfast in Gettysburg.
Entry to Swope Manor in Gettysburg.
By Dave Zuchowski
Although John and Lori Jumba don't consider themselves Civil War buffs, they do like to visit Gettysburg.
"We really like the town, and it's not too far away," said Mr. Jumba, 42, of North Huntingdon.
On one of their visits in 2010, they met up with a real estate agent while walking around town who suggested he show them some houses up for sale. One of them, the circa 1836 Swope Manor sits in the heart of downtown, a block away from the town square.
"One look and we both fell in love with it," Mr. Jumba recalled.
The 8,700-square-foot mansion was completely furnished and came with a 3,300-square-foot carriage house out back. It was too much for the couple to resist. They bought it in September and the first overnight guest arrived on May 1 at what has since become The Swope Manor Bed and Breakfast, but not before an expensive renovation and upgrade.
"Sixty to 70 percent of the furniture came with the house," Mr. Jumba said. "We bought new beds from N. B. Liebman online, quilts from the Art Works in Gettysburg and Persian rugs from Linder's in McKees Rocks. We also bought some additional complementary furniture from antique stores."
Each of the manor's 13 rooms has a different decor and color scheme; they are named mostly for Civil War references, but also for the Jumbas' two children, Emily Rose, 11, and Jacob Rocco, 5, as well as the last previous owner, Dorothy Ralson.
According to Mr. Jumba, the house has a lot of common space suitable for weddings, showers, meetings and afternoon teas, which the Jumbas will add. A large, two-level deck overlooks a yard, spacious by Gettysburg standards. Visitors are treated to fresh cookies daily and a glass of wine or beer on check-in followed by a personal tour of the premises that includes an overview of the manor's history. Breakfast is served in one of two dining rooms.
History lovers should relish not only the historic sites in town, many of which are within walking distance, but also the manor itself. The east section got its start in 1836 as a home for Gettysburg banker, George Swope, the wealthiest man in town at the time, who tore down a late 18th century log house to make way for his new residence.
The west addition came along in 1860 as a home for Swope's son, John, and his family. The younger Swope distinguished himself by graduating from both Princeton and the medical department at the University of Pennsylvania. He became president of Gettysburg National Bank and served for two terms as a representative from Pennsylvania in the U.S. Congress.
Both father and son and their families were in the house while the Battle of Gettysburg raged outside in July of 1863. With the 150th anniversary of the battle now imminent, the new B&B is off to a good start occupancy-wise, although there are rooms available for the remainder of the summer.
As co-owner with his father, John, of the Steel Valley Ambulance Company in Homestead and co-owner with his wife, Lori, of the Autumn Ridge Personal Living Home in Monroeville, Mr. Jumba said he got into the hostelry business to "try something new."
To care for the Jumbas' new venture, they interviewed four innkeeper candidates and settled on Van Richards, a Michigan transplant who moved to Gettysburg nine years ago with his wife and family after visiting the town and "falling in love with it."
For four years, Mr. Richards worked as assistant manager at another Gettysburg B&B, then took a job as administrator at the Gettysburg YWCA. With the program for five years, he designed the schedule, curriculum, battlefield tours and classroom lectures for the largest elder learning program in the United States.
"This experience gave me knowledge of the history of the town, the battle and the house," he said. "I can design an entire vacation stay for our guests tailored to their interests."
Mr. Jumba goes even further, calling him a concierge.
"He can advise people where to go, what to do in town and the area and where to dine," he said. "He'll even make all the reservations our guests may want."
For more information on the Swope Manor B&B, phone 888-963-9714 or visit website theswopemanor.com.