Who knew that one of the most interesting luxury resorts in the US is in rural Pennsylvania? In 1987, 84 Lumber Company founder Joseph A. Hardy, III bought some land southeast of Pittsburgh in an area that had been established by William F. Rockwell in 1960 as Nemacolin Trails Hunting Reserve and Lodge. The town was named after Chief Nemacolin, hereditary chief of the Delaware Nation, and Hardy’s Nemacolin resort is now a destination hotel and retreat run by his daughter Maggie Hardy and her son, PJ Magerko. The creative, whimsical, and welcoming property offers the widest range of diverse activities and experiences I have ever seen in one location, including a world-class art collection, a huge spa, several destination restaurants, and all manner of outdoor activities for all ages and in all seasons.
It’s possible to design an itinerary around one of several themes — family luxury, romantic getaway, meditative retreat — but it’s also ok to just arrive and follow your nose, mixing and matching, deciding as you go. On my recent too-short visit there, I was able to cover a lot of territory, from dining at the exquisite Forbes Five-Star restaurant Lautrec, helmed by Kristin Butterworth, to taking a deep-dive docent-led tour of the art collection, which includes not only the likes of Botero and Stella but also a chunk of the Berlin Wall, to visiting the Holistic Integrative Therapy Center, where Dr. Jerry Lin, DACM, Dipl.OM, L.Ac. holistic medicine across a range of therapies, including Traditional Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture practices.
The first important decision to make is which of the five accommodation types to situate yourself in. In addition to townhomes and larger estate properties (which are for sale as well as rent), there are three hotel choices, each distinct in nature. The Lodge is the most casual, while The Chateau is the most formal, and Falling Rock is the most secluded and exclusive. I stayed at The Chateau, which is the first building you come upon when entering the property, and it’s designed after the Ritz Paris. The lobby is grand — ornate and floral, with a bar amidst the seating areas with an indoor route through a sea of art to The Lodge next door. (For parts of the property further afield, shuttle remain at the ready to transport guests wherever they’d like to go.)
Rooms in The Chateau are vast, high-ceilinged affairs with thick walls that seem practically soundproof. The top floor of the building has a private club, as well as a private art collection for guests of the club to enjoy. Marble bathrooms, which feel more spacious than some New York City studio apartments, have deep soaking tubs and walk-in showers.
The property’s spa is a serious highlight. I whiled away the entire morning there with a deep tissue massage followed by matcha tea service by the fire in the lounge. It’s becoming clear, at this point in my visit, that space and time are abundant here at Nemacolin, and both generously offered to guests at every turn.
I was also able to spend some time at another healing venue on property, the Holistic Integrative Therapy Center, where Dr. Lin not only customizes wellness programs for all patients, but he is also able to offer free and reduced-fee services and education to staff. (The employees of Nemacolin that I spoke with all said, to a person, that the company treats them as valued team members much like family, and this mindset was most evident during the pandemic, when the management did everything in their power to keep staff employed.)
Dining at Nemacolin is an equally wide-ranging experience. A multi-course meal at Lautrec, served in the shadow of several original Toulouse-Lautrec paintings, is not to be missed. Chef Butterworth’s style is equal parts refined and inviting, and her prix-fixe menus offer both vegetable-forward and more classic French-style dishes. The world-class wine list has hard-to-find French wines dating back to the middle of the last century.
In between all the dining and relaxing, there’s a ropes course, mini-golf, axe-throwing, and both indoor and outdoor swimming.
It’s impossible to encompass in one story, not to mention experience in just one brief visit, all that Nemacolin offers. And now that pandemic restrictions are beginning to lift, live events are back on, and Nemacolin will once again host Dive & Drag: Pride 2022. On Jule 11th, Susanne Bartsch returns to Nemacolin for a celebration of transformation and inclusion at the property’s outdoor sports and entertainment venue, The Peak, with a drag show performance. You can find full details here.
To book a room or house or to make a dinner reservation, visit the Nemacolin website.