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When it was built, it was said to be one of the most elaborate and expensive homes ever constructed in the entire Lebanon Valley.
The stately Millard Mansion sits at the entrance to the Pennsy Supply quarry in Annville, from whence lime has been mined in prodigious quantities since the late 1880s. The quarry was taken over by Jacob Millard at the turn of the century and remained in control by the scions of that early Lebanon industrial family which still gives its name to Millardsville in the eastern part of the county.
Construction on the mansion began in 1910. In 1911, work on the mansion was still underway, with the Daily News reporting of the home, built by magnate Harry Millard, “that when the structure is finished it will be the finest in this section, not only in exterior beauty, but in decoration and furnishing by the interior.”
Such plush outfitting was only appropriate for the tycoon, who was said to rival Milton Hershey for the amount of Lebanon Valley agricultural land he controlled, acquisitions fueled by his eponymous money-spouting limestone quarries. In the rolling hills of Lebanon County, Millard reigned over Millarden, a sprawling farm known for its horses and livestock. The sobriquet remains standing today on the columns welcoming – or perhaps warning? – one of their arrival at the property.
The Millards sold the property in 1966 to a Bethlehem Steel subsidiary, which proceeded to invest millions into modernizing the enterprise, including conversion of the mansion house into offices for quarry personnel.
“For nearly a century, Millard products have contributed to the nation’s industrial might,” reported the Daily News in 1972. “Millard lime helps make the steel that goes into the nation’s bridges, skyscrapers, ships, railroads and automobiles.”
“In the form of mortar, Millard products have gone into the construction of homes and many famous structures, including the United Nations Building.”
The original interior furnishings of the mansion are long gone, but after decades of being used as office space, the structure at long last feels like a home again.
Earlier this year, Tom Forbes signed a 10-year lease with Pennsy Supply, the current owners of the quarry, with plans to make the property an events space and short-term lodging rental property.
A 30-plus year resident of Mount Wilson, Forbes sold a second home in Florida, timing the top of the market, and put the proceeds into the venture. Although the lease was just signed this summer, Forbes was able to get a head start on his renovations and furnishings of the property through a handshake understanding with Pennsy – a flyer that was perhaps only slightly to the consternation of his attorney, Annville’s Tucker Hull.
Forbes said that the company had outgrown the office space the mansion offered and was looking for a re-use of the property. With a background in hospitality and high-end private events, Forbes had most recently been focusing on construction, and had plans to get into the “Airbnb” business when Millarden came on his radar.
Forbes, who at one point owned the Coleman Chapel in Lebanon (now planned to be moved to Elizabethtown), said he envisioned the mansion as being an all-in-one destination for weddings and other events. Ceremonies could be hosted in a planned garden outside, the wedding party could stay in the house, and caterers would have access to a new industrial-scale kitchen.
He has other happenings in mind, too, like hosting a murder-mystery night. (Mr. Plum with the wrench in the library?)
Forbes has meticulously transformed the mansion back to a domicile, designing each room with a theme that draws from his personal collection of furnishings, artifacts, and memories.
In total, more than 20 guests could be lodged in the mansion.
Forbes is currently in the process of having the mansion listed on short-term rental websites. He expects the property to list in the range of $2,000 to $2,500 per night. For comparison, a weekend rental at the Best Western Plus Hershey can be had right now for $222 per night.
If you are interested in hosting an event or stay at the mansion, Forbes can be reached at (561) 545-0139.
If you want to see the mansion yourself, over the weekend of Aug. 13-14, Forbes will be hosting an open house between the hours of 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. With questions you can reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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This article was updated after publication to include details of the open house.