Nemacolin Is The Woodsy Wonderland You Need To Visit Now
Escape into a place that features everything that dreams are made of.
Escape into a place that features everything that dreams are made of.
Text: Kevin Ponce
If you’ve been keeping up with the wild ride of a season that was this year's The Bachelor with Matt James, you may have noticed the beautiful location they filmed the infamous season in. That place just happens to be a little fantasyland placed on the outskirts of Pittsburgh and nestled in the western woodland area of Pennsylvania called Nemacolin. Filled with a French chateau, a cabin that is a member of the Historic Hotels of America, and a plethora of world-class dining experiences, mesmerizing art pieces scattered throughout the property, and endless activities for the family, the resort is quickly becoming the nation’s go-to vacation spot. This magical haven of sorts also happens to be a family-run business—having been founded by Joseph Hardy, founder, and CEO of 84 Lumber Company, now owned by daughter Maggie Hardy Knox. As the 25th season of the ABC series came to a close this week, complete with a private viewing party at the chateau, V’s Kevin Ponce caught up with the resort’s VP of Brand Strategy and Maggie's son, PJ Magerko, to speak about the magic of the historical property, some memorable experiences he’s had growing up on the resort, and what’s yet to come for Nemacolin.
Kevin Ponce: For our readers who might not know about Nemacolin (yet!), how would you introduce the resort and what Nemacolin has to offer?
PJ Magerko: It really is unlike any other place because you can't go anywhere else in the world and experience all that we have, all in one place—a Parisian chateau, a Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired boutique hotel, a 1950s ice cream parlor, a world-class art collection. I say this humbly—there really is no competition in that way, especially [it being] so close to New York. So in that way, that's the SparkNotes version of Nemacolin.
KP: Love that! It’s really like something out of a dream because Nemacolin has everything. Just when you think you have everything, there’s something new popping up.
PJM: There’s more in the works! Behind the sundial lodge, we're building this incredible, full grotto, waterslide fantasy. So if we don't have it yet, we'll probably get it in a few months.
KP: Could you tell me a bit about the background and history of Nemacolin?
PJM: So it all started with the lodge. My mom and grandpa discovered it on a little day trip in 1987 and they saw that it was up for auction. It was the only building that existed [on the property] at the time, surrounded by woods. So they ended up purchasing that building and then expanded it from there, as a passion project. The spa, the chateau, falling rock, which is inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright's falling water which is just 10 minutes away, all came after that. So one thing sprouted and then it inspired the rest. We're obviously a family of dreamers—we just dream it and then make it happen.
KP: You know, this is a big family business and I really respect it because it's the essence and core of everything. You all seem so close-knit and I can tell there's love in every single corner of this place—no detail has gone unnoticed.
PJM: It's been cool to see how it's evolved over the years because I grew up here—this is like my second home. I haven't been involved in this capacity until the last two years [when] I moved away to go to school in New York for film and TV. I had to run [for] a little bit, but then always found myself back here. So, I'm blessed [that] I'm able to provide my gifts and talents to the property in terms of film, theater, production, and drama. We as a family bring our talents to the table and just make it happen.
KP: What is your personal favorite part about Nemacolin?
PJM: It really is the family aspect—it goes back to that because it all goes back to creating that warm variance for our guests, but also our associates and family too. It goes back to that feeling of [wanting to] escape and feel that other worldliness of Nemacolin.
KP: You just recently directed the commercial for Nemacolin! Tell me about the creative and production process behind it.
PJM: It was so fun! So wild [as well], shooting in the midst of a pandemic too. At the beginning of when The Bachelor started shooting, the property shut down and they were shooting their half, we were shooting our half and we were all in communication, making it work. We brought in everyone from New York, everyone quarantined, we had testing every single day, and thank God, there were no positives. We obviously love a movie musical moment and I wanted to highlight Nemacolin in that light and show the eclectic energy that it has at its core.
KP: What is something unexpected or not commonly known about the resort that our readers should know?
PJM: I think all of the ghosts!
KP: (*gasps*) Is there going to be a ghost tour coming up?
PJM: I think we're going to roll it out this fall for Halloween! Nemacolin is pretty haunted. All generally friendly ghosts but again, the lodge has been around for almost a hundred years. This is a historical hotel in America, mixed in with all the other things going on in the property, it's pretty spooky but in a fun way!
KP: Have you ever encountered any spirits here?
PJM: It was in the dead of night, kind of foggy. I was driving and there was this person that jumped in front of my car and I stopped, got out of the car, was like, ‘are you okay?’
KP: (*Power goes out*) Perfect timing!
PJM: (*laughs*) That was not planned! But I got out of the car, and crickets. There was no one.
KP: That’s wild! But let's talk about The Bachelor now.
PJM: We’ve accepted ALL the roses!
KP: How did this partnership with the show come about?
PJM: They shot here years ago for a dual episode during Jojo’s season and that relationship stayed strong ever since. The way that we work with any group that comes to the property is above and beyond. We just make magic happen. So our associates really partnered well with their crew and just really made all of their fantasies a reality. It wasn't until they wanted to shoot Matt’s season amidst the pandemic and where else can you bubble up and experience so much variety all in one place. That's why Nemacolin lent itself to that. So that it just was a great partnership in that regard.
KP: I mean the bowling day, the art gallery—everything was a perfect backdrop for each date! I mean it’s a 2,200-acre playground to do whatever you want. Aside from that, what are some places that were featured in the show that our readers should check out when they come to Nemacolin?
PJM: The spa, the art collection, of course, which is like a subtle reference in the show too. It was so amazing to have a bunch of our local artists featured and a bunch of world-renowned artists [as well]. Nemacolin has such a vast art collection that is so tangible and is so approachable and immersive.
KP: How many art pieces are on the property? I keep hearing different numbers from everyone.
PJM: We still keep adding to it so it's hard to say. Sometimes, I will be walking in a stairwell and say ‘Whoa, I've never seen that piece before.’ Mom, Pap, and now myself had been adding to it over the years so it just is ever-growing.
KP: Where do you see Nemacolin in the next five years? I know you have lots of dreams for this place.
PJM: We definitely are going to incorporate a lot more theater, more immersive-ness because it lends itself in so many ways. Think of it like the Watermill benefit, with performances and installations in the woods and in all of the different properties. Other than that, it's hard to say because there are inspirations that come up, like the pool idea came up a month ago and now we're making it happen this July. So you never know what we're going to come up with at the blink of an eye or a drop of a hat. So stay tuned!
KP: I love that! In 10 years, if this place doesn’t become its own city, I’ll be shocked!