Amy Ross Manko – farm owner, entrepreneur, real estate developer – saw another opportunity and seized it.
She bought that ornate Grand Victorian at 405 E. Maiden St., the one known colloquially as the Lyons’ Mansion. It has been a bed and breakfast inn in recent years, and she is refurbishing it into ... a bed and breakfast.
Manko acquired the three-story building where Grammy Rose’s Bed & Breakfast operated in Washington in recent years. She did so at a June 18 auction, a transaction that was finalized Aug. 6. The new owner declined to provide the auction price.
“We’re calling it The Shepherd’s Inn and we’re going to open Sept. 1,” said Manko, owner of Ross Farm in North Bethlehem Township and a lifelong Washington area aficionado. Breakfast, she said, will be the only meal served there. “We don’t want it to be a restaurant.”
But she does plan to host teas, wine dinners, whiskey dinners, rehearsal dinners and showers – all catered – inside the mansion, which dates to 1888 and sits on six-tenths of an acre.
Manko is tidying and brightening the place, working diligently with a team that includes husband Scott; son Drew; Heidi Hileman, the innkeeper; and others ahead of the opening in two weeks.
Their goal is to have the five guest rooms ready for the upcoming Washington & Jefferson College football season, when the inn hopes to attract families and followers of visiting teams – and anyone else seeking a leisurely stay.
W&J will play host to Wittenberg in the Sept. 7 opener at Cameron Stadium.
The mansion is a three-story, Queen Anne style structure that is enormous with many distinctive features. They include: 6,600 square feet of space; 15 rooms, all with a name (to be determined); 16 gas fireplaces; numerous floor-to-ceiling windows; and a Victorian pump organ. Outside, there are 20 parking spaces in the back and two stylish turrets out front.
“Every room is different,” Manko said, adding that “the home is nearly original except for the elevator” a previous owner installed.
The new owner and her team have been making decorative changes, going with different colors in some rooms. They’ve replaced a number of windows and are doing a lot of cleaning.
Visitors approaching the mansion from the front walkway are greeted by four sculpted stone lions, which, some have speculated, were commissioned by Norman and Helen Lyons, who owned and lived in the huge house from 1961 to 1997.
That would be lyin’. Manko said the inanimate felines were not on the scene until after that couple relocated. Mr. and Mrs. Lyons were known for organizing clothing drives for local children in need.
Another couple, Rose and Tim Davis, were the most recent previous owners of the building. Manko said the Davises lived in and ran the bed and breakfast for 14 years, before shutting down the business end in May. She added that the couple is retired and now residing in South Park.
As of early last week, The Shepherd’s Inn did not yet have a telephone number and its website – shepherdsinnpa.com – was not active.
As part of her duties as innkeeper, Hileman will stay overnight when there are guests, accompanied by her husband, Steve. They raise sheep as a hobby on a small farm in Avella. Her supervisor at the inn is thrilled over the prospect of Heidi overseeing a flock of guests.
“Heidi is a bubbly, positive person, an ideal innkeeper,” Manko said. “She is a real asset to our organization.”
Manko, Washington born and raised, is something of a local historian. And the possessor of a diverse local resume.
For eight years, she was head of the Literacy Council of Southwestern PA, based in Washington. She now runs a fiber studio, Ross Farm Mercantile, at 80 N. Main St. in the city; is part-owner of a local real estate development company; is president of seven businesses in the Eighty Four area; and owns that farm near the Pennsylvania State Police barracks.
Her Washington County roots, she said, extend about 300 years, to her fifth great-grandfather.
“This county means something to me. It’s in my DNA, it’s my heritage. We need to preserve it. Helping this community has always been my main objective.”
Relaunching a bed and breakfast is her latest endeavor toward that objective. Soon, Manko promises, there will be rooms at her inn.