Despite a devastating fire and the affects of the COVID-19 pandemic, a Carbondale event venue and bed-and-breakfast facility is thriving.
After an October 2019 fire destroyed the $10 million Pine Manor home — flagship of the Pine Manor Estates collection of upscale vacation rental properties and event venues — came COVID-19.
The pandemic brought with it postponed weddings, canceled retreats and getaways. Despite all the adversity, Pine Manor not only continues to serve guests, but it is growing.
Pine Manor LLC Owner Wes Gibson says the facility benefitted from expansion just prior to the fire and from the venue’s unique characteristics.
“The fire was devastating, but we didn’t lose any weddings because of it,” Gibson explains. “We had just purchased and refurbished Oak Manor. When we said that you can’t have your wedding at Pine Manor, but you can at Oak Manor, that was OK with all of the brides.”
Oak Manor, a 10,000 square-foot home on Striegel Road, was one of just several homes Gibson’s company has purchased near the original Pine Manor home, turning each into luxury guest homes and event venues. In all, Pine Manor Estates now covers nearly a square mile and includes 15 guest houses with a combined total of 79 bedrooms.
While COVID-19 led to the postponement of many weddings (the facility hosted fewer than five nuptials in 2020), the guest houses were popular throughout the pandemic.
“The surprising thing was that because people were so cooped up, we’ve had lots of them coming and spending extended time with us,” Gibson says. “The bed-and-breakfast part of Pine Manor has really blossomed.”
Gibson says guests have regularly come from Chicago, Indianapolis and even as far away as Texas. “We originally thought people would come here and travel, but we’ve been amazed how many people come and don’t ever leave the grounds. They like that it seems as if they’re in the country so close to the city.”
“One of the things that has continually impressed me is that Pine Manor draws people from all over the world to Carbondale and Southern Illinois. It really enhances our visibility as a community and a region,” says Carbondale Economic Development Director Steven Mitchell.
Gibson says one of the draws for special events at Pine Manor is the entirety of the grounds which provides opportunities for unique weddings, parties, reunions and special events.
“Every wedding is different because we have about 300 acres. Some people want to have them by the lake, some want to have them poolside, some choose a particular house. We provide a variety of options, let prospective couples see everything. They decide what they want and we put it all together,” Gibson says.
Sarah Brashear, owner of One Hot Cookie Bakery and Catering of Murphysboro, often provides meals for special events at Pine Manor, including many during the COVID-19 pandemic. She says the vastness of the venue has been beneficial for “socially distanced” social gatherings.
“There’s enough property that everyone is able to space out and you can hold the wedding in one place and the reception in another, but yet, everyone can stay right there on the property. It’s beautiful and it works so well,” she says.
Gibson adds that throughout the pandemic, Pine Manor has been able to continue to serve guests and expand and improve facilities. He says more is to come with plans for a pavilion, cottages and, of course, reconstruction of the facility’s name sake, the Pine Manor home.
“Our goal is to be able to handle it all; weddings, receptions, meetings, reunions, almost anything,” he says.