*Thank you to Mazda for letting us borrow the awesome 2018 Mazda6 Signature!
Every once in awhile you get to experience an amazing event. For my family that event was my sister-in-law Julie’s wedding at the Strasburg Railroad where she literally got married on a train with a reception at the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania.
the way there
On Friday we loaded up our sleek AF Mazda6 Signature, which was loaned to us for use on this trip, with room to spare (the trunk space is INSANE on that thing) and began the 4 hour drive from Pittsburgh, PA to Strasburg, PA. There was a lot of room in the front and back seating areas since we could fit everything in the trunk making the urge to stop the car and stretch non-existent.
Because the Mazda6 Signature is outfitted with charging ports in the back seat as well as having heated back seats interruptions were at a minimum. Bless.
In addition to that the navigation system is one of the best I’ve ever used in that it’s detailed, easy to follow and understand plus gives you a timeline of where all the next places would be in terms of food, gas, lodging and rest stops.
We had a smooth and (thankfully) uneventful ride into Lancaster County. That car was royalty and I miss it!
As we cruised into the town of Strasburg, PA the very first house we saw was this amazing Victorian mansion that made me want to throw my entire body out of the car just so I could land on the grounds and perhaps be helped up by any one who lived there and invited in for tea.
After we settled in to the Carriage House Motor Inn (where we were staying and where we plan to stay again when we go back) we immediately set out to tour the town. It was truly the town that you see in every single picturesque themed movie. But it exists in real life.
While we walked I snapped a few photos and found myself wondering if the town was haunted. My mind often wanders to anything paranormal when I see old homes seemingly riddled with history.
Most of the businesses and homes on Main Street had plaques that stated when they were established identifying them as historical landmarks. The oldest one was saw was from the late 1700’s.
As we got to the Victorian Mansion, which I later found out was the Gonder Mansion, that I mentioned previously I started snapping pictures like crazy. This home had turrets with colorful, shattered glass speckled all over… every detail was truly amazing and the home appeared well cared for. It looked so maintained in fact that out of everything I never assumed it was haunted (skip to the end of the post for what I found and what I saw!).
That evening we met up with some other wedding-goers and all had dinner together, basically calling it an early night.
the wedding ceremony
Saturday was the morning of the wedding and we had an early breakfast at The Speckled Hen across from The Carriage House. That place has AMAZING food, I can’t even. Then got ourselves ready to head to the Strasburg Railroad where our train would board promptly at 2:45pm.
Initially I thought that it was just going to let off the people affiliated with the wedding for us to have the ceremony somewhere but instead the train stopped in front of a beautiful field, unhooked our two cars and continued on. As we sat there all kind of wondering what was happening the ceremony began and Julie’s wedding party walked down the aisle.
All eyes were on Julie as she began her walk in her beautiful Victorian gown. It was a two train-car walk that she did with grace and beauty. She met up with her soon-to-be husband Dave at the front of the car for the actual ceremony.
The vows were exchanged, the joining of families happened and it was truly the most unique and beautiful wedding I’ve ever experienced in my LIFE.
There was a decent sized waiting time for the train to come back and hook us back up but, as a past bride myself, I think that was actually a good thing. During that time Julie and Dave were able to chat with guests which freed up a lot of time at the reception where chatting normally happens. They were more free to have fun and IMO that is a good thing.
After disembarking the train we were all sent across the street to the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania. In the lobby area we were served drinks and hors d’oeuvres while the event team set up for Julie and Dave’s wedding reception.
Upon walking in to the main area of the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania you’ll gasp or make some kind of noise because it’s that impressive.
HUGE, REAL trains are everywhere. You can even walk underneath them (which is so daunting but SO COOL) and learn about the vintage vehicles, check out world-class artifacts and even what was used for delicate china and heavy tools. It was a little eerie to walk along the cars in such a huge place during a private event, but I’m definitely going to go back again.
She also had a vintage photo booth that produced photos on tin that actually looked like they are authentically centuries old! You had to stand perfectly still for 13 seconds or they got blurry (my daughters photos were mostly blurry lmao). If you’re in Gettysburg or surrounding areas make sure you check out Victorian Photography Studio!
Every detail was stunning and perfectly executed. There will never be another wedding that tops this one!
On Sunday we packed up and headed home but not before visiting The Strasburg Railroad one last time. I got a couple more pictures of the. sights and even a shot of Owen and Lydia hanging on the platform 9 3/4 sign (what self-respecting railroad doesn’t have a nod to Harry Potter?!).
The entire way back all we could talk about was returning to check out more of the festivities, antique shops, other stores…. there was so much to do down there! I especially wanted to look into the haunted ghost tour that I’d seen a sign for.
When we got home I sat right down to start editing my photos. While doing so I remembered I wanted to look up that Victorian mansion from Main Street…. and boy was I in for a surprise.
the gonder mansion
The Gonder Mansion is located at 130 W. Main Street in Strasburg, PA. It was built in 1905 for railroad tycoon Benjamin Gonder. Yes, folks, it is haunted.
It was when I returned home that I looked up the house and found out the name as well as the history.
Before reading about it and discovering it was haunted I was editing my photos of the mansion. I swear in one of the turrets I saw the face of what seemed to be a small girl. I knew it wasn’t the owners (whom we later found out were the caretakers) because they were pulling in as I was snapping the photos.
Benjamin Gonder had a sister named Annie who wasn’t allowed to live in the main house. It’s said she had “serious mental disabilities”. Because of this he banished her to live in the smaller house next door. In 1915 Benjamin Gonder died and in 1918 Annie was found dead in Pequea Creek.
It has been reported that since her death men (and only men) have heard the sounds of her cackling laughter within the house. She’s been reported to have been seen IN THE WINDOW of the mansion as well as on the rocking chair on the porch. In the cemetery where Annie has been laid to rest many have said they’ve seen full body apparitions by her grave as well as shadows running in the moonlight.
There isn’t a whole lot more that I could find, but you can bet if I can get a tour of that place I will take you along with me. Even if it’s not actually haunted it looks so beautiful. I’ll bring a guy with me just in case Annie is around… he can report on any laughter he overhears!
For your pleasure this is a zoom-in look at the one window where we believe we can see a face. I darkened it so you could really tell where the eyes are. What do you think???
Sources for Gonder Mansion – 1, 2, 3.
will we go back?
At the end of our quick weekend away for my sister-in-laws wedding I can say with 100% certainty that we will be back and hopefully very soon. We’ve already talked about visiting again and staying in the Carriage House (unless the Gonder Mansion wants to house us because I’d be ALL OVER THAT!).
What was the most incredible wedding that you’ve ever been to? Do you believe we saw the ghost of Annie Gonder?
Robert Smith says
Hi Brooke, what a fun location! I loved the photos of the beautiful wedding. Thanks, keep sharing!
James Smith says
Hi Brooke, I never heard about this amazing place. It will be a new experience for the couple to marry in Starsburg rail road. Thanks for your post. Keep sharing this type of unique post!
James Smith says
Hello, what an amazing idea it is for wedding. The venue is looking awesome. It’s really great! Keep sharing such unique ideas.
It really was! The railroad said they’d never done a wedding like it before. I have a feeling they will have more in the future!
Lani Derrick says
What a beautiful and fun town! We love trains so that is always a draw for us. That wedding was perfect!
Oh, you would LOVE Strasburg then!
Riding in style! We’d do more road trips if we had a car like that!
Kendra Darr says
What a fun location! And the Mazda6 is a fun car to drive 🙂
Jessica Holoka says
I’ve been to Strasburg, PA and rode the open air car (froze my butt off, but it was worth it to feel like we stepped back in time)! Such a cool wedding idea! And what a cool mansion! I don’t know if I’d be brave enough to tour it or anything like that, but that’s a crazy pic you got! I definitely see a face!
I darkened the pic a bit because on my facebook page a lot of people said they couldn’t tell. My son said it was definitely more noticeable darker lol I’m dying to get inside that place. If anything I’m hoping to see some cool antiques. (old lady status lol)
Bekah W says
What a cool idea for a venue! Pennsylvania has some beautiful offerings. And mazda is a comfy way to get there – my hubby has had 2 Mazda 3’s now!
We were all in love with the Mazda6. It’s a very serious contender for our next car! We’re headed back to Strasburg hopefully SOON!
Anita DeMarco says
I loved the Mazda6 and I loved the photos of the beautiful wedding and the location. Good Job!