Overgrown trees and brush have obscured Jarcy’s Motel and its 20-acre lot for what Port Matilda-area residents say has been more than a decade.
The grounds near the old Clem’s BBQ on Old U.S. Route 220 includes a two-story home and a strip motel structure that was once a busy stop-over spot along the highway. A shed between the two structures housed an ice cream stand.
A Pennsylvania Furnace man and Penn State employee recently bought the property with a vision to turn the grounds into a weekend getaway facility with cabins and hostel-like group accommodations.
“We’ve found a gem between these two hills and the creek,” said owner Bart Grande. “We’re restoring it and hoping to revitalize the area.”
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Grande said he stumbled upon the idea to create a rustic cabin and hostel after traveling around Central America on surfing trips. Hostels typically provide lodging in dormitory or large-room type settings with shared lavatory and dining facilities.
“There’s a certain camaraderie that goes with it,” he said.
Grande said he researched the property by talking with residents and visiting the county Planning Office and a website showing aerial footage of Centre County by decade. He determined the structure was built between 1937 and 1957; however, no formal documents were produced.
Much of what he learned was gleaned from locals who recalled the site as it was decades ago, Grande said.
“It was a staple to this community that turned into a dump,” said lifelong Port Matilda resident Constance Bower. “The life got sucked out of it, but now we’re seeing hope for it.”
Centre Daily Times obituary archives show that the motel’s former owners, Deloris A. “Pat” and Harold W. Marks, died in 1999 and 2000, respectively.
From the highway, a passer-by could mistake the lot for a wooded area that merged with the forest surrounding its Bald Eagle Creek backdrop.
However, up until two years ago, what some believed was vacant structures actually housed tenants, Grande said.
Grande said he only found out Jarcy’s Motel was in use when he stumbled upon an urn with ashes from a previous tenant’s grandmother.
“We had to contact them and ask them to pick up their family’s ashes,” he said. “Who just leaves that?”
Grande said he bought the property for $115,000 at an auction in April.
“We’re lucky in a way that it was so run down, because we got all this for cheap,” Grande said.
Since then, he and his wife and five children, and good friend Andy Krishak, have spent countless hours cleaning up the area, cutting brush, mowing grass, clearing hiking paths along the creek, saving maple trees that were once overgrown with vines that were choking the trees. Grande said he has thrown away more than 50,000 pounds of rubbish.
“The people who lived here spent years collecting garbage they would throw out the window or store in nooks of the home,” he said. “It piled up for so long, I’ve lost count on how many 8-feet-high piles of junk we had to toss.”
When mowing the grass, he often encounters half-buried Mason jars and scrap metal.
“It’s a long, hard process,” he said. “I don’t look at it as one big project, but 150 small projects.”
Grande said the debris included tires, couches, mattresses, general garbage and abandoned mobile homes and trailers.
“It was like they allowed people to dump their garbage and never got around to burning it,” he said.
Grande said the only usable thing he uncovered was the old Jarcy’s Motel sign that he’s fixing up.
“Every day, people stop by and thank us for cleaning this place up,” Grande said. “A piece of Port Matilda seemed to die when this place went under.
Although much work still is needed, the front entrance is now clear and passers-by can view the grounds from the road.
By the end of the year, Grande said he plans to have the landscaping and existing structures completely renovated, while his ultimate goal is to have the facility open by the first Penn State football game of next season.
Grande is working with the Centre County Planning and Community Development Office on building additional cabins on the grounds and a bridge that will connect his site to the other side of his property across Bald Eagle Creek.
Once his business is up and running, he plans on only being open for the weekends from April to November when the last Penn State football game ends.
“We got this land that’s really a blank canvas I hope to turn into something that’s really community driven,” Grande said.