Keystone Edge: By Jim Cheney

In the 1990s, the Levi Deal Mansion was on the verge of being torn down. In fact, if the small southwestern Pennsylvania borough of Meyersdale had had the money, it would have been.

The Chateau-esque Victorian mansion, built in 1900 by coal and timber magnate Levi Deal, contained 15 rooms, including a top-floor ballroom. When built, it was undeniably one of the nicest homes in the region. After Deal sold the home in 1917, it was turned into a boarding house, a decision that would lead to the home’s slow deterioration and near destruction.

Fortunately, before funds for demolition were acquired, an ambitious real estate developer stepped in with the goal of turning the home into a bed and breakfast. While this small community might have seemed like an odd place for an upscale hospitality business in years past, the soon-to-be-completed Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) was set to bring thousands of trail users through the borough each year.

The 150-mile biking and walking trail runs between Pittsburgh and Cumberland, Maryland (with a connection to Washington, D.C., via the 185-mile long C&O Canal). By the end of 2006 — when the portions connecting the trail to the outskirts of Meyersdale were completed — the GAP offered cyclists and hikers a continuous 134-mile path from McKeesport, Pennsylvania, to Cumberland (it would be another seven years before the final 16 miles into Pittsburgh were completed).

Despite the trail’s increasing ridership, the mansion had to close its doors again when the housing bubble burst in the late 2000s. Recognizing the building’s potential impact on both Meyersdale and the GAP, The Progress Fund acquired the business. A non-profit community development financial institution, the organization focuses on building tourism infrastructure in small communities throughout Pennsylvania and neighboring states. They immediately set out to find someone to reopen and run this local treasure.

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