Review: The Sayre Mansion By: Janel Spiegel and Joe Scrizzi
I had the opportunity to interview the General Manager and Director of Sales at The Sayre Mansion. Today, my fellow The Valley Ledger, super-talented Joe Scrizzi and I were able to experience tea time at The Sayre Mansion. We met with one of the many inn-keepers at this historical iconic mansion that sits atop the Fountain Hill neighborhood with a sublime view of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.
The Sayre Mansion is striking. The Gothic Revival style home was built by Robert Heysham Sayre, Mr. Sayre’s impact on the area stretches all over the world. Mr. Scrizzi and myself spoke with one of the many inn-keepers that take excellent care of every person that walks through the doors of The Sayre Mansion. It’s more than just a visit or a stay at a Bed and Breakfast or a hotel, you step back in time.
You leave 2022 behind you, it stays outside with the hustle and bustle of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. There is everything surrounding The Sayre Mansion for guests. If you want to take in a show, Arts Quest is close by, if you want something to eat, there are plenty of places surrounding the area.
The Moravian Star perched in the mountains is the guide for Bethlehem and when you enter into The Sayre Mansion parking lot, you are greeted by an awe-inspiring Moravian star hanging outside of The Sayre Mansion. Joe Scrizzi and I were able to walk around the mansion and check out the outside of the mansion. The architecture is impressive. You instantly think about Mr. Sayre and his family. You imagine the rooms being full and meetings happening, children running through the home.
There is something extra-special about The Sayre Mansion. It feels like this piece of history perched and yet hidden away from the world, hidden away from The Lehigh Valley. If you have a chance to visit, please visit. We were there and we met one of Karen Hunter’s incredible staff members Susan who took time to explain everything, and answer my questions, and Joe Scrizzi’s questions. The tea had hints of clove, and citrus. It was a black tea and Susan had it in a beautiful serving set.
I remember as a kid, my father’s father would make tea and his family would host tea parties. I remember having tea as a kid. I will always love and appreciate tea. Susan also had the most elaborate tiered tray dessert tower with some of the most festive, and delicious desserts. A beautiful set of macaroons, two different donuts, one filled with Nutella, one with jelly. They were light and airy. Beautiful strawberries in a pastry shell filled with Nutella, and dusted with confectioners’ sugar.
A delicate scone that had an arrangement of jams and clotted cream, which is butter. The jams were great. I could think of a million events I would want to do there, get married, have meetings, visit, have a tea party again, host a dinner, the list goes on for me. Joe Scrizzi is an incredible visionary and chef. He can come up with the most outstanding, unique one-of-a-kind ideas and food ideas. He talked to Susan about everything from how to make great chicken to making homemade pastries.
The staff and everyone working there deserves a great word, they go above and BEYOND for everyone. Joe and I were also served the most adorable finger sandwiches, a great variety, they consider and keep in mind for vegetarians, people with food allergies as long as you mention it ahead of time, we were advised it was not a problem at all. The cucumber alfalfa sprout sandwich was my favorite along with the egg salad in which who doesn’t love a great egg salad sandwich, come on. We were also served the Herbed Chicken and Cherry sandwich, and Salmon and Curried Egg Salad.
The tea is brewed fresh and served with milk, lemons, honey, and sugar. I say it’s an experience because that’s the best way I can describe it. You must experience it to fully take everything in, and embrace the peacefulness of The Sayre Mansion. If people continued traditions like this, it would an amazing chance for people to be a part of this and be present. You are present and, in the right, now while at The Sayre Mansion. One of the exuberant inn-keepers that took time to talk with Joe Scrizzi and I told us his favorite rooms at The Sayre Mansion, rooms 28, 21.
As I was checking out The Sayre Mansion’s website, I found one of the menu’s and they have such a wide-variety. Here is the information about the afternoon tea that happens on Thursday’s. The overall experience at The Sayre Mansion was a surreal experience. It takes you back in time and there is no end to what you can experience at the mansion. I imagine Mr. Sayre is somewhere happy knowing that people are staying and visiting The Sayre Mansion. If you get a chance to visit, even for tea you will love it.
The General Manager and Director of sales, Sarah Trimmer spoke with The Valley Ledger for an exclusive interview. The Sayre Mansion is considered to be a Historic Hotel of America, it was originally built in 1858. The mansion is linked to the Fountain Hill neighborhood.
Sarah Trimmer shares amazing stories, upcoming event information, and so much more in this interview.
The Sayre Mansion is located at 250 Wyandotte Street, Bethlehem, PA 18015.
TVL– Hi Sarah, it’s so great to talk with you. You’re the general manager and director of sales of The Sayre Mansion.
S.T.- Yes, I’ve been here for… it will be three years this December.
TVL– How did you get involved with The Sayre Mansion?
S.T.– I’ve been in hospitality management for about nine years. I managed and worked for various and other hotels in the area. I saw this opening available and I jumped at it. It’s been awesome.
TVL-The Sayre Mansion has a rich history since 1858. Joe Scrizzi and myself are starting a project for businesses and locations that have been around for thirty plus years. The Sayre Mansion obviously fits this description. It’s amazing to know that a place has existed since 1858, and some people do not know the full history of this beautiful place. What can you tell us about The Sayre Mansion that makes it different from other locations/lodging/businesses to you?
S.T.- The most recent economic outlook report that came from Discover Lehigh Valley, which is our travel bureau said that there are six thousand, five hundred and thirty-eight hotels in the Lehigh Valley, and that’s growing because we’re building more properties. I put that out to my team and I said, there’s nearly seven thousand rooms in the Lehigh Valley, and I said, why should guests choose us? We’ve got such a rich history, we’ve got unique spaces, we have twenty-three rooms which is on the larger side for a bed and breakfast, and each and every room is completely different from the next. You could stay here twenty-three times and never have the same experience. We have a full breakfast that’s made from scratch. It’s not your typical hotel continental of toast and pasties. We make everything homemade, even our granola that we serve with our yogurt. It’s a very different experience when compared to lodging.
TVL– What is one of your favorite aspects of The Sayre Mansion?
S.T.- I’m interested in the history of it, I just find it fascinating that this building was slated for demolition in 1991. I think about it every day when I walk through the doors. I think, wow, this almost didn’t exist, and what a shame that would have been. I think about the other mansions that were up here on Fountain Hill that have been raised. I’m glad that the owners preserved the history. They were able to evolve it into another thriving business that serves the community.
TVL- The Sayre Mansion hosts weddings, I saw there will be a Murder Mystery that looks like fun. There are picnics, weddings and more. What would you recommend that people try at The Sayre Mansion?
S.T.- I wish I had a dollar for every time I heard it, I’ve lived in the Lehigh Valley my entire life and I’ve always driven by there and I’ve never been inside. I encourage people to come here if they have never been here. Of course, most of our overnight stays are from folks that are not from the Lehigh Valley, and that’s why their staying here. For the locals to come in, it wasn’t happening often enough so, we developed a lot of events that people can attend if their local. One of the most popular is our afternoon tea. Once I started here, I thought this would be a great ambiance, a great atmosphere for an afternoon tea. I was thinking Downton Abbey so, it’s really taken off. We do afternoon teas every Thursday. We do a seating at 2:00PM, and then again at 4:00PM (eastern standard time). We can also do private tea’s as well. So, in fact today we’re hosting a local retirement community. They’re bringing forty of their residents to enjoy afternoon tea with us today.
TVL- That’s nice because it’s different than a restaurant or a bar. It’s steeped in years of history and richness. The ambiance seems incredible and peaceful.
S.T.- Yes, when you’re sitting in the dining room or the parlor, that is the very dining room that Mr. Sayre dined with his family. That’s the dining room that many of the founders of this area dined in. Mr. Sayre was good friends with Asa Packer, the founder of Lehigh University. They had all sorts of dignitaries and politicians as guests. Our parlor features the original crown molding from 1858, and the original fireplace. You’re surrounded by the antiques of the day which is interesting.
TVL– Has there been an experience that has stood out to you over the years?
S.T.- It was great to see when the pandemic regulations started to loosen. We witnessed multiple reunions on our property. Someone would come here from California and it was the first time they were able to fly. It was the first time they were able to see someone who lives here in the Lehigh Valley in maybe two years or more. One in particular was a brother and sister. They were adopted and they found each other on the internet during the pandemic. They met each other for the first time right here in person in our parlor. To be able to witness moments like that. And, every time a bride does a first look with her dad in one of spaces, I can’t hold back the tears. It’s such a blessing to be able to witness such special moments like that every day at work.
TVL– Why do you think people don’t always find their way to The Sayre Mansion? I was talking to a few friends and people, and some people didn’t know you could stay there. I said it looks like there is a lot to do, and you can stay there in one of the many rooms.
S.T.- I think the only good thing to come out of the pandemic was that we merged with Karen Hunter Catering, and Karen has been in catering for over thirty years. She was always the preferred caterer here at The Sayre Mansion. Now we’re one business and we’re able to develop events from the ground up with her. We’re hosting more in-house events, the tea being one of them. Karen and her amazing team make everything. I think it’s what I alluded to before that people think, I live in Bethlehem so I don’t need to stay in Bethlehem at a bed and breakfast. So, they only see us as a place to stay. We’re a place to hold events, have a nice dinner, an afternoon tea experience. One of the things that we did last year that was successful was our Fourth of July event. We have an awesome view of the fireworks from our front lawn. We have a great big picnic, you spread your blanket out right here on the grass, and if you have too many festive drinks, you can spend the night here. Our Fourth of July package will be posted on the site soon. It’s great, we have this big event tent, we have live music. It’s about getting reacquainted with our local market.
TVL- I was fascinated by The Sayre Mansion and the history of everything. It’s so amazing that it’s existed since 1858.
S.T.– Yes, we’ve got the original front door which is just beautiful. The original fireplace in the parlor. We still have Mr. Sayre’s office intact, in the back of room 111. That’s one of my favorite spaces. The conservatory with the glass ceiling. That was the top of his library. I have a very cool story for you if you’re up for it.
TVL- Oh my gosh, yes! I would love to hear the story.
S.T.- I’m very excited about. The home was built in 1858 and Mr. Sayre built his enormous three-story library with his office in 1890. At that time there was no floors or ceilings in there, there was a loft but it was just this big wide-open space, and the glass ceiling illuminated it. He built it just to have a library. He had 15,000 books, and he even employed a live-in librarian. He was so proud of his library. He painstakingly collected the rarest books. His librarian would stamp a custom book plate on the inside of every book. When I started here, I learned about the library and my mom was a librarian so it piqued my interest. I learned that his fourth wife, he had four wives, not at the same time but after Mr. Sayre died, she auctioned everything off and moved to Connecticut with her son. I thought, man how great would it be to find one of those 15,000 books and just bring it back home. I found one on eBay and it was $13,000. I messaged the seller because he was right in the Philly area and I said, hey do you want to bring this book for a visit? He just wasn’t interested, which is fine. I always look at every estate sale, yard sale, thrift shop, and I tell all of my guests about it. I just really wanted to find one of these books, and you know it’s one of the books because of the book plates. Last summer we had descendants of Mr. Sayre here. They were holding a memorial service across the street, and they were here with us for a couple days. Michael Cox who lives in Allentown, he said, I might have one of those books. He brought it to me last week. He gave me two of Mr. Sayre’s books. I was walking around hugging the books, I was downright giddy about it. We have plans of displaying them.
TVL-That’s so great and exciting, at least you got two books. If I would find one of the books, I would be so excited to bring them in.
S.T.- Yes, I feel like I’m making Mr. Sayre happy in a way.
TVL- I was reading about some of the paranormal experiences and the Paranormal Investigation that happened there recently. Have you experienced anything paranormal at The Sayre Mansion?
S.T.- Yes definitely. We have had two paranormal dinners here with plans of having many more. The spirits here are not aggressive and they don’t bother people. When we have our events and we’re attempting to communicate with them, they seem to be very active. We had a series film here so keep an eye out. Personally, sometimes I have to spend the night here and I was in room 11 one night which is Mr. Sayre’s library suite and I woke up around one in the morning, and I felt someone lying next to me. I threw the covers over my head and I said to myself, go back to sleep, it’s all in your head. Then at four o’clock in the morning, the curtain rod and the entire curtain was ripped clean out of the wall. I ran out of the room as fast as I could, and I won’t sleep in there anymore. I still love the room, and it’s still my favorite room but I just won’t sleep in there today. People have had different experiences. Mr. Sayre fathered twelve children but only eight of them survived into adulthood. Five of them passed and three of those children were here at the mansion.
TVL- I’m looking at the Moravian Star information on the website. It’s nice that The Sayre Mansion keeps the tradition going.
S.T.- Yes, I think you can’t be in Bethlehem without seeing or knowing about the Moravian Star. As soon as you come over the bridge you see the great big star up on the hill. In our Hayloft suite, there is a fantastic view of the star.
TVL- What do you want to say to the people that will be staying at The Sayre Mansion or that will be visiting The Sayre Mansion? What do you want people to know about The Sayre Mansion from your perspective?
S.T.- I always tell our groups that are considering hosting family reunions here or if they are getting married here or they’re getting married in the area, and they want their family to stay here. Mr. Sayre built this family home; he built this home to house his family. I think there is something really special about gathering with friends and family here because it’s almost as if the property is being utilized for its intended purpose. So, I love our travelers but I really value the big groups of people that are looking for a place where they can all stay and enjoy it together. I love that people use our property as a place to gather and make memories. It warms my heart.
TVL- I thank you so much Sarah for taking the time to talk with me today for The Valley Ledger.
S.T.- Thank you, Janel.
Make sure to check out the website and social media to keep up to date with The Sayre Mansion.