|By Marylynne Pitz, Pittsburgh
Post-GazetteMcClatchy-Tribune Business News
Mar. 9, 2007 - To residents of Bedford County, for the past 17 years she has been a grand old lady with a sad but noble air of genteel decrepitude.
Following her $120 million facelift, the Bedford Springs Resort, which hosted seven U.S. presidents and countless captains of industry, including Henry Ford and John Wanamaker, will reopen in June. Even the original glass windows, where honeymooning brides once used their diamond rings to etch their names in hotel history, will return.
The new resort, famed for seven mineral springs, will feature a 216-room luxury hotel, new outdoor pool with cabanas, a "spring eternal spa" with 14 treatment rooms, updated golf course with water features on 12 holes, a gold medal trout stream, a conference center and four restaurants. Many rooms will offer porches with rocking chairs and views of the 2,200-acre site, which became a national historic landmark in 1984.
Keith Evans, an exuberant Texan from Dallas and an investor who has worked on the project for a decade, recently toured a model room with Congressman Bill Schuster, who held an anniversary party at the hotel before it closed in 1986.
Mr. Evans pointed out the original paint colors such as Bedford blue, quilted bed coverlets reproduced from original hotel patterns, platform sinks topped with Carrera marble, wireless technology, a 32-inch flat screen, high definition television, I-pod docking station and a porch that overlooks the Cumberland Valley's lush scenery.
"He turned to me and he said, 'This is so much better than it ever was!' " Mr. Evans told an audience of 100 people during a cocktail reception last night at LeMont restaurant atop Mount Washington.
In the early 1900s, Bedford Springs was a star of the "springs circuit," a route traveled by affluent people from Baltimore, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., who enjoyed the waters at The Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., and The Homestead in Hot Springs, Va.
Located in south-central Pennsylvania, Bedford Springs is a 90-minute drive from Pittsburgh and was once considered as a possible summer home for the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. The new resort is a two-hour drive from Baltimore and Washington, D.C., and a three-hour drive from Philadelphia.
Mr. Evans said he and his staff have worked with members of the National Park Service, the Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission and the Bedford County Historical Society to preserve the property's historic character. The property is owned by Bedford Resort Partners Ltd., which purchased it in 1998 from Bedford County. One of the investors is Mark Langdale, U.S. ambassador to Costa Rica.
The state of Pennsylvania has invested $26 million in the $120 million project, which included rerouting a portion of U.S. Route 220 over 22 acres of land owned and donated by the resort's investors.
Now, the portion of that road which ran in front of the resort will run behind it and be used by service trucks. To accomplish that task, 600,000 cubic yards of rock were dynamited out of the Allegheny Mountains.
Demolition of some buildings on the site began in 2005. But a stone mill where grain was ground and a miller's home still stand along with one of the nation's earliest indoor pools, which was built in 1905 and features balconies and an elaborate dome.
The $8 million task of restoring a golf course designed by Spencer Oldham in 1895 began in November 2005. Shober's Run, a tributary of the Juniata River, runs through the golf course. During the last century, the creek, which is also a gold medal trout stream, was dammed and used to power an old mill. As a result, sediment flowed into the creek and eroded its banks, especially during heavy floods.
With advice from a stream bank consultant and $1 million, Mr. Evans said, "we moved 60,000 cubic yards of sedimentation out of the stream and recycled it on the golf course." In addition, 14 new acres of wetlands were created.
The resort also will offer miles of trails for cyclists and mountain bikers and the bikes on the property will come from Cannondale, which operates a factory nearby in Bedford County.
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