Guesthouse gets new look, but keeps sense of history

Renovation of century-old home nears completion

Cecil County

February 02, 2003|By Jennifer Blenner | Jennifer Blenner,SUN STAFF

COLORA - Ron and Carol Hemrick said they hope to open their guesthouse, the Olde Hanna Mansion, in the next month. The century-old house is nestled in the southwest corner of Cecil County and remains the landmark of Colora.

Ron Hemrick, a native to the area, bought the house as an investment in 1990. "I didn't know it had any historical significance," he said. He named it the Olde Hanna Mansion. "I wanted to keep the original history of the house," he said.

In 1997, Ron met Carol Tegge at a dance for Parents Without Partners, an organization for single parents. Fourteen months later, they married. During the past four years, Carol Hemrick said, they have spent more than $200,000 restoring and renovating the guesthouse. "We have tried to keep a lot of it original," Ron Hemrick said. The Hemricks have replaced 72 of the 80 windows with thermal windows, replaced several floors and refurnished the house.

From the outside, the white three-story house looks small, but it has 26 rooms.

The house has five suites, four of which are completed. The final suite needs carpet and work on the bathroom.

Each suite contains a kitchen, bathroom and bedrooms, but the number of bedrooms varies depending on the suite. A single room costs $40 to $70 a night, and a suite costs $110 to $170 a night.

The Hemricks said their place fills a void in the area. "It's a one-of-kind place. Nothing is comparable to it in the area," Carol Hemrick said. It is a different kind of place to stay in, she said, adding that the area has few hotels. "I think there is a need for a place for travelers to stay."

The guesthouse opened its doors in August and closed in November because of the area's weak economy. However, the Hemricks still rent out suites as apartments. Christina Keller of Conowingo rents one of them. She said she moved in in December.

"I was looking on the Internet for houses and it came up there, she said. Her boyfriend heard about it from his father, who is a friend of Ron Hemrick's. "When we came and looked at the place there was all new hardwood floors, and I am really into older houses," Keller said.

"Ronnie and Carol were really nice, too, and that made a difference," Keller added.

The Hemricks live in one the suites.

They have encountered their share of problems. In 1995, three storms caused major damage to the house. In 1999, the house was hit by Tropical Storm Floyd, which caused $75,000 damage. "We lost slates off the roof, two trees in the front yard, and there was a lot of water damage," Ron Hemrick said.

Because the support beams run from the basement to the roof, the house sustained heavy water damage. "The water leaked down three floors," Carol Hemrick said. Eight rooms had damaged hardwood floors.

The Hemricks have restored one-third of the house to its original form.

James J. Hanna, owner of a local lumber business, started building the house in 1904 and completed it April 18, 1905. Its original purpose was to accommodate guests and visitors to nearby West Nottingham Academy.

After Hanna died, his relatives sold the property to a colonel at Bainbridge in 1964, who made the house into apartments. A year later, the house was sold to Norman Anderson, owner of a feed store. He was affiliated with the West Nottingham Academy, and the house was used as apartments and a guesthouse for the academy.

After Anderson died, his wife lived in the house for several years. Anderson's nephew, John, sold the property to Ron Hemrick.

On any given day, the Hemricks receive dozens of visits from passers-by and people in the community.

"People have watched the house over the years and stop by," Carol Hemrick said. Often, she said, people come in and take a look because they are curious.

"A man and wife came by one day. He attended school [West Nottingham Academy] in 1937, and he knew all about the place," she said.

Carol Hemrick said it has been rewarding living in and working on the guesthouse.

"Just one person coming in can change your mood completely and make all your work worthwhile."

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