BROOKVILLE — Nearly two centuries of memories and stories are tucked between the walls of Brookville’s oldest residence, Hall House on Main Street. New owners Arthur and Catherine McKinley are preparing for many more stories and more memories.
Hall House was designed and built sometime in 1848 when its first owner, the pioneering Brookville lumberman Joseph E. Hall, purchased the one-acre plot on the west end of town for $200. The house was designed by his architect in the classical Greek Revival style, (like the White House) referred to as a temple with wings.
Over the next few decades Hall House was home to several successful businessmen. In 1885 the mansion became the residence of Richard Arthurs Sr., and remained in his family for more than 70 years. The building was passed on to his son and daughter-in-law, Samuel and Rebecca Arthurs. Samuel died in 1926 and Rebecca made it her home until her death in 1955.
At that time, as provided in her will, the building was established as the Rebecca M. Arthurs Memorial Library, which opened as Brookville’s first (and only) public library in January 1958 with an extensive collection of books donated by a number of prominent citizens.
About 20 years later, in May 1976, the library was moved to its present location on Valley Street and later that year Dr. William Mark McKinley bought the Arthurs house, converting it to apartments and office space.
In the mid 1990s the Hall House was purchased by David Taylor and was primarily used for rentals with one large apartment unit on each of its three levels.
The Hall House mansion returned to the McKinley family when Arthur and Catherine became the owners in 2019. “A number of people including contractors told me to tear it down, as it needed so much work,” Arthur McKinley said. But he had a different vision and began extensive restorations necessary to save the historic landmark and to create an upscale bed and breakfast. “The town lacked hotel rooms and I felt there was an opportunity to meet that need and to offer a unique style of accommodations.”
The challenge was not only to restore the old house in a manner approved by the National Register of Historic Places, but to redesign it in a way to maximize the number of bedrooms and bathrooms. There was also extensive work on the 180-year-old roof, a completely new furnace, plumbing/electrical upgrades and the installation of central air conditioning. The front porch with its 2-story ionic colonnade (made from solid tree trunks) had to be rebuilt along with a rear sunporch. Working alongside of local contractors, McKinley also repainted the entire building inside and out and has now started work on the rear landscaping.
When the restoration of Hall House is complete there will be five bedrooms, each with a private entrance, en-suite private bathroom, fireplace and queen or king bed. At this time three of the guest rooms have been completed. “We reimagined a mansion as a BnB and it all works,” McKinley said.
The large central room of Hall House is the Grand Hall or Gallery, with its decorative plastered ceiling, crystal chandelier, marble fireplace, mirrored ceramic floor and adjacent sunroom. This space has been restored to serve as a large common area and event space for guests. A number of large period oil paintings have been installed along the walls along with special lighting to create a dramatic formal painting gallery. Arthur McKinley commented that “Some guests have said it reminds them of the movie, A Night at the Museum.”
The first guest to stay at Historic Hall House BnB was welcomed last Thanksgiving 2020 during a wave of COVID. “We had just one room fully renovated at that time and everyone was wearing masks,” McKinley said. “Our guests have been great and very complementary. Some of them have given great ideas to incorporate going forward. But I’ve been surprised how much Nespresso coffee people can drink.
The McKinley’s handle most Hall House bookings online through Airbnb.com which helps with guest payments, communication and support with many things such as COVID. The platform also provides valuable feedback reviews on both guests and hosts.
Hall House visitors come in a variety of categories. Some are young people. Some are retired. Some guests have come to Brookville to visit friends and relatives, or attend weddings. Business guests come to meet with local companies like Beverage-Air or Berry Global. Then there are the tourists visiting area attractions like Cooks Forest, Cadillac Museum or Redbank Valley Trail. Several adventurous guests from the Pittsburgh area actually arrived and departed Hall House on their bicycles. Finally, there are long distance travelers who are driving cross country and pick various upscale BnB’s to spend a night.
“The guest that traveled farthest was a gentleman from Jerusalem, Israel, who was the winner of the global piano competition –Piano Cleveland. McKinley said. “It’s been a thrill to meet a variety of really interesting people that are coming through Brookville and staying at Hall House. Many make time to explore the historic Main Street they ask for suggestions on what to visit and where to eat or shop. They go away impressed and often promise to return.”