Conestoga House and Gardens

The Conestoga House and Gardens 

A businessman and downtown Lancaster real estate investor is the new owner of a historic Lancaster Township estate which he plans to continue to offer as an event space while keeping partially open to the public.

Rob Ecklin, of Ecklin Development Group, completed the purchase Thursday of Conestoga House and Gardens, a 12-bedroom, 9,688-square-foot estate home on 7.8 acres at 1608 Marietta Ave.

An affiliated Ecklin company bought the property and its celebrated formal gardens for $755,000 from the James Hale Steinman Conestoga House Foundation.

The property, which includes stables, a 60-foot swimming pool and a bathhouse, has operated as a summer garden tour house and events venue since 1982.

Ecklin, who owns Quarryville-based cleaner and lubricant maker Stoner Inc., also has numerous properties in downtown Lancaster including the Griest building on Penn Square.

Ecklin said the Conestoga House and Gardens is a special property that “we really want to see thrive.”

“We’re looking to continue to maintain and improve and enhance that property for the long term,” he said.

The five staff members who maintain the extensive gardens will be kept, and the grounds will continue to be open to the public during some yet-to-be determined times.

The new owners plan to begin hosting events at the property in June.

The James Hale Steinman Conestoga House Foundation is a private foundation funded by The Steinman Foundation, which is a local, independent family foundation funded by companies that make up Steinman Communications. Those companies include LNP Media Group.

Shane Zimmerman, vice president of the James Hale Steinman Conestoga House Foundation, said annual maintenance amounted to nearly $500,000 on the property, which didn’t generate income since nonprofits could use it for free.

“After providing financial support to Conestoga House for nearly 40 years The Steinman Foundation board came to the conclusion that the funds would have a greater impact if they were allocated to other philanthropic endeavors,” he said.

The Colonial Revival-style house was built between 1813 and 1815. It operated as a tavern for the Conestoga wagon trade between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, and then as an inn in the 1840s.

The house underwent extensive renovations after it was purchased in 1927 by James Hale and Louise McClure Steinman, and it remained home to the Steinman family for over 50 years.