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The Group Travel Leader Going on Faith Select Traveler

Keystone Pennsylvania Venues

different side of Pennsylvania greets meeting planners who look beyond the state’s well-known, large cities.

Not necessarily an entirely rural environment, this in-between space, sometimes thought of as fly-over country with the Poconos in the middle, is home to the heart of the state’s and much of the country’s history.

Pennsylvania’s meeting venues allow groups to step right into the state’s rich heritage, from restored revolutionary farms and industrialist estates to pieces of the past that carry over into today in the form of still-working farms and Masonic theaters.

General Potter Farm

Potters Mills

Until recently a working farm, General Potter Farm takes its name from Revolutionary War General James Potter, who had a farm on the land in the mid-1770s. The current structure, a barn built in the 1830s, consists of two distinct spaces, the vaulted-ceiling upper level and the stone walled basement, along with extensive grounds.

Thanks to years of careful renovation by the present owners after taking over the barn from its previous use as a furniture store, the original wide-plank floors and exposed beams now grace the light-filled upper floor, complementary modernizations including central heating and air conditioning. Downstairs, in what the owners sometimes call the “pub,” stone walls and a fully exposed beam ceiling offer a cozy, enclosed space. When weather permits, groups can also take their meetings or receptions outside down by the creek and return to the barn for meals.

Weddings typically take up entire weekends, as packages offer combination bookings for Friday and Saturday, Saturday and Sunday, or all three days; but weekdays are open for other things, said owner Lori Marchese. “We’re taking weekend bookings for 2017, but there are some dates left in 2016,” she said. “We’re open year-round, and we usually have weddings year-round, though February and March often have nothing going on.”

When groups rent the barn, they have the entire property for the whole day, from 8 a.m. until the end of the night, so it’s not possible for meetings to squeeze in during the day when other events are scheduled.

Cairnwood Estate

Bryn Athyn

Before they became famous for the New York Public Library, John M. Carrère and Thomas Hastings were hired by Pittsburgh Plate Glass founder John Pitcairn to design his country house, their first large-scale commission. They later went on to design the Ponce de Leon and Alcazar Hotel in Florida, the Jefferson Hotel in Virginia, the House and Senate offices in Washington and the Manhattan Bridge, Standard Oil Building and Frick House in New York City.

Groups today can enjoy Pitcairn’s house, Cairnwood Estate, almost entirely as it was upon completion in 1895, thanks to the stewardship of three generations of the Pitcairn family, who lived in it until it was donated to its current nonprofit owners for continued maintenance and management.

“It’s like a new house in old bones,” said Shannon Walko, director of the estate. “There was a full renovation of the house in 2000, and it opened for events in 2015, completely restored. When you host your event at Cairnwood, we have only one function per day, so it’s like your own private castle; you can use any room and the 100-foot flagstone terrace overlooking the historic district.”

While the house can accommodate groups of up to 200 for seated functions and up to 275 for indoor-outdoor seating, smaller groups won’t feel dwarfed when having the space to themselves. Individual rooms on the first floor, including the music, dining and billiard rooms, are designed for a maximum of 50 to 60 people, and Walko says there is no minimum for rentals. “With corporate groups, we’re popular for board of director dinners for people meeting in the Philadelphia area.”

In addition to the main house, small groups can also rent the garden house, which typically serves as the visitor center for the National Historic Landmark Bryn Athyn Historic District, the nearby Bryn Athyn Cathedral and the Glencairn Museum, as well as Cairnwood Estate.