One of several charming Victorian-era homes Tom and Wanda Berman own in the heart of Adamstown came with some unusual bonuses: a clay tennis court largely reclaimed by the earth and the skeletal remains of a steel-framed greenhouse.
The couple originally wanted the grounds as a gathering place for guests staying at their Amethyst Inn Bed & Breakfast — the plum-colored manse with a wrap-around porch just down Main Street.
If they stumbled into restoring and renting out cottages, as Tom Berman claims, their latest project has them sprawling headfirst into the wedding and entertainment industry.
Last year, the Bermans’ niece talked them into turning the bones of that greenhouse into a reception site, one that would, of course, be ready in time for her big day.
It’s now an open-air venue, complete with twinkling lights, nylon sails for shade and a potter’s shed turned caterer’s kitchen. That old tennis court has been worked into a lush expanse of grass, where a tent surrounded by Wanda Berman’s colorful, landscaped beds can accommodate up to 175 guests.
It’s all a quick walk up the hill from the local Evangelical Congregational Church, and the cottages can provide overnight accommodations or room for the bridal party to get ready before a ceremony.
The star of the re-do is the greenhouse itself, or what’s left of it. A previous owner once used it for a commercial geranium operation, but the building was sold years ago. Tom Berman thinks the buyer was disassembling and moving it when he came to a huge steel beam that would have been difficult (and maybe prohibitively expensive) to transport.
Even with about one-third of the roofline gone, the original footprint was still clear. The outline and remaining knee walls would shape various seating, dining and entertainment areas in the Bermans’ grand plan.
“I have never seen a greenhouse used like this,” says Wanda Berman. “The setting is gorgeous. This was something we maybe thought of doing in the future. But the incentive was our niece’s wedding.”
Their vision was timely, considering the popularity of rustic and barn-style weddings over the last several years.
Nationally, venues with greenhouses are growing in appeal. Rancho Dos Pueblos in Santa Barbara, California, boasts both a barn and a small greenhouse. The Foundry on Long Island is a brick-heavy industrial building featuring a glass roof.
During daylight hours, greenhouses put nature and sunlight on center stage; at night, it’s all about mood lighting and beautiful reflections. Either scenario makes for beautiful photos.
The Bermans began their conversion by carefully removing glass that was up to 100 years old. In some places, trees had grown through the roof. Panes that were salvageable were given new life in the potter’s shed (which now houses counters, a microwave and refrigerator).
With the help of a Bobcat, the Bermans, General Manager Taylor Greenawalt and other employees and family members, they excavated the site and poured new foundation in places. They hacked out roots that stretched for 40 feet.
They ran electricity and poured in 50 tons of stone to create seating areas, then painted the original cinder blocks a deep red.
The finished greenhouse includes an unsheltered seating area with a wood-burning fire pit created from the greenhouse’s original boiler.
The main room is divided into three parts: several picnic tables with candelabras running alongside them, a bocce ball court and a bed filled with potted plants.
Antique ladders, oil-burning candles and metal washtubs round out the vintage feel.
Though there’s no air conditioning, a small wedding was held there in July.
Since its debut last fall, the greenhouse also has been used by small groups for wedding showers and other social gatherings. It’s open to all of the Bermans’ guests, who might play bocce or Viking lawn darts or relax by a kerosene heater when it’s cool.
But after 28 years of running the Amethyst Inn and renting out properties from Lancaster County to North Carolina, the greenhouse conversion may be the Bermans’ last hurrah.
The couple is looking to sell the entire Adamstown operation — greenhouse included — so they can ease into retirement.