Since moving to the Elkins Estate in 2009, Amy Ragsdale has heard several different visions for the property proposed by one previous developer and several prospective buyers. But it was Landmark Developers who came up with what she believes is the best plan for the Montgomery County estate after the company acquired the 42-acre property in 2019.
Four years after Landmark took on ownership, Elkins Estate’s centerpiece, the 64,000-square-foot Elstowe Manor, has opened as a wedding venue and boutique hotel after a $10 million renovation. The transformations of other buildings at Elkins Estate to create more overnight accommodations and amenities are also underway.
“This is, like, the most perfect solution. Use it for what it was built for. Elstowe was built to entertain,” said Ragsdale, who is now the property’s resident historian and a member of the Landmark team.
Elstowe Manor, built in 1898 for businessman William L. Elkins and designed by architect Horace Trumbauer, features 33 new and renovated overnight accommodations, a large ballroom and several other smaller rooms. The Italian Renaissance-style building was constructed with Indiana limestone, and the interior was done by French designers Allard et Fils.
The Elkins Estate, located at 1750 Ashbourne Road, was purchased from the Elkins family in 1932 by the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine de Ricci, who owned it until Landmark Developers acquired the Elkins Park property in 2019 for $6.5 million. The Plainfield, New Jersey-based company develops and operates several hospitality properties under its hospitality arm Landmark Hospitality, including the Logan Inn, the Mansion Inn and Hotel Du Village in New Hope.
Landmark preserved the majority of the original manor, only adding certain things, such as a sprinkler and HVAC system, to bring the building in compliance with modern day codes.
Elstowe Manor’s ground floor features an entryway with Italian marble floors and French marble columns; the music room, which can serve as a cocktail hour or indoor ceremony space; the library; the smoking room, which has wall decor made of ostrich leather; the billiards room; the breakfast room; and the dining room.
An outdoor space off of the library also serves another spot for a wedding ceremony.
Also on the ground floor is the main ballroom where wedding receptions are held. The front portion of the space used to be Elkins’ art gallery, featuring works from renowned artists such as Rembrandt, John Singer Sargent and Winslow Homer, while the back half served as a chapel added on in 1939 by the Dominican Sisters.
Landmark converted the ballroom into a single open space and added two bars near the entrance. The ballroom allows for a maximum capacity of up to 400.
Elstowe Manor will have a total of 33 guest rooms across four floors. The two floors underneath the ballroom house 18 hotel rooms and a room where a bridal party can get ready before a ceremony. The second floor of Elstowe Manor has seven “historic guest suites,” including a Honeymoon Suite.
Work is still being done to turn the third-floor servants’ quarters into the final eight rooms offered in the manor.
Wedding packages offered at Elstowe Manor give visitors the option to rent the building for as few as five hours or as much as the entire weekend. Landmark handles the food and drink and valet services at the venue, and Ragsdale herself is available to give historic tours of the property.
Landmark has hosted two weddings at Elstowe Manor so far, the first of which was held on June 10, and is currently taking reservations through 2024. The company does not yet have its own catering team for the Elkins Estate but expects to employ almost 75 people at Elstowe alone and a total of 200 across the entire property.
The $10 million renovation of Elstowe Manor is a part of the more than $25 million redevelopment of the entire Elkins Estate. Work has already begun on the next phase of development, the renovation of the approximately 30,000-square-foot Chelten House, built for Elkins’ son, George W. Elkins. When complete, the building will feature a conference center, restaurant and bar and 17 additional guest rooms, Landmark founder Frank Cretella previously told the Business Journal.
The redevelopment of the Chelten House is expected to be completed in a year, according to a spokeswoman for Landmark.
Other updates to the property include turning the stables into three to five longer-term stay cottages and a distillery, renovating the old casino building into two long-term stay accommodations, and converting the building used by the Dominican Sisters for a chapel and a home for retired nuns into a spa and roughly 20 additional hotel rooms.
Another set of hotel rooms will come online when Landmark completes the renovation of the 84-room dormitory built by the sisters in 1961. The building, connected to Elstowe by the billiards room, will offer an additional 42 rooms.
Across the entire Elkins Estate, the property will offer 117 overnight accommodations. The guest rooms will be available for wedding guests and open to the public for booking.
A helipad, a public amphitheater and a recording studio are also among future plans for development at the Elkins Estate.
Landmark was not the first company to attempt to turn the Elkins Estate into a wedding and event venue. David Dobson, who led the Land Conservancy of Elkins Park Inc., purchased the property in 2009 to renovate it to host weddings, corporate events, health and wellness retreats and other events. The nonprofit was evicted a few years later and the Dominican Sisters regained control.
Ragsdale, who moved onto Elkins Estate while Dobson was in charge, stayed on to look after the property. In her time at Elkins, she has facilitated its use in filming for the 2015 film “Creed” and for historical productions.
Landmark has other properties in development in Greater Philadelphia. The company has plans to build a 44-room hotel, restaurant, pool and artist-in-residence quarters at the current site of the Landing, a popular New Hope waterfront restaurant and bar that Landmark purchased in 2021.
It is also redeveloping Durham Springs, the former site of the Cascade Lodge in Bucks County. Plans for the 17-acre property include a revitalized restaurant and event space and three dozen new overnight accommodations.