The Kutztown Area Historical Society honored a Kutztown couple who restored the Levan’s Tavern, later known as the Kemp’s Hotel, which dates back to 1740.
Kutztown Area Historical Society President Darlene Moyer, along with librarian and archivist Brendan Strasser and his wife, Meredith Martin, presented Brandi Woodard and her husband, Bert Savory, with a plaque in recognition for saving one of Kutztown’s oldest and most historical properties.
The couple recently renovated the building located on Kutztown Road in Maxatwny Township and opened Nectars Café and Juice Bar at The Yoga House.
“I’m familiar with this place for many, many, many years and was real concerned that the building would be torn down because it was in such bad condition,” said Moyer. “We’re losing beautiful old buildings.”
Moyer said there was much discussion in the Historical Society with not just Kutztown, but with other community historical societies as well.
“When she [Woodard] started renovating it and put tons of money into all new windows and everything, everybody was just so thrilled that she saved the building,” said Moyer.
“Part of the mission of the historical society is to recognize historical structures of significance in the East Penn Valley and we’re so thankful this one got saved,” said Strasser. “Without argument it is one of the oldest surviving buildings in the township.”
“It’s my honor to be president of the Historical Society to celebrate that you have restored this building in our community and we appreciate it so much so we thank you and we’re offering this plaque to you as our thank you from the Kutztown Area Historical Society,” said Moyer.
Moyer noted that John Landis, retired art professor from Kutztown University, designed the plaque.
“You restored a beautiful hotel. Do you know the history of the building? It’s probably the most historic building in this immediate area.”
Momentarily stepping back in time to 1740, Daniel Levan moved to Maxatawny from the Netherlands to join his brothers and built his home, which in 1765 became Levan’s Tavern—a place acknowledged in various historical writings as a meeting house for American revolutionaries George Washington and John Adams. According to Moyer, Washington’s recruitment troops were across the street camped on the hill when they were marching to Boston and looking for volunteers.
Back to the future, 248 years and several owners later, the tavern [later known as Kemp’s Hotel] had deteriorated and became a target for vandalism. A cry went out from the community to save the property and just as it seemed hopeless, Woodard saw the possibility for restoration. She had restored two other historical properties before and since Savory’s work involves fixing homes up for resale, Woodard took on the challenge. What she didn’t foresee was the reluctance from banks to finance the project or from insurance companies to insure the property without charging exorbitant fees. Woodard had no choice; she had to sell her home. She was worried she may have taken on too much and once renovations were complete, she and her family moved into the second floor of the Levan Tavern she renamed The Yoga House featuring the Nectars Café and Juice Bar.
“I love this place,” said Bonnie DeLong, beginning yoga instructor at The Yoga House. “When I first came in to help her, I got to see what it looked like. Vandals had been in here; window’s glasses were smashed; it was disgusting dirty carpet that I helped to pull up; it was pretty bad. They have really transformed it.”
“Now that it’s all finished and it’s absolutely gorgeous, it’s a blessing having saved it and restored it and it’s beautiful,” said Woodard.
Woodard spends most of her time downstairs where she works because it feels so much like home for her. Savory likes to help out on special occasions with the café.
Although Woodard is finally able to enjoy her new home, there is an ax hanging over her head that just may be the end of all that she and Savory have worked hard for.
“The Berks County Assessment decided that I did such a great job, they added $139,000 on to my already high assessed value. Needless to say, I’m in court fighting that,” said Woodard.
Woodard noted that she did not add any rooms or expansions; she just restored what was there. Dec. 9 is when she goes to court.
“I love old properties, the character; they don’t make them like this anymore and I really love to come in and restore something beautiful once again. That’s kind of my passion, however this one was an eye opener. I restored two other historic properties and never did my taxes go up,” said Woodard. “If I don’t win that and get these taxes lowered, I’m not really sure what plan there is.”
“It almost doubled our tax and we can’t afford it,” said Savory. “It’s only a café; it’s not a full-fledged restaurant anymore.”
Woodard said that was a big slap-in-the-face surprise that she didn’t think possible being that she didn’t change anything. She is not so sure she would be willing to take on a project like this again. On the positive side for Woodard, her business is doing better than ever now that she has fully moved in from her prior location in central Kutztown. She is already changing her rooms around to accommodate expansion of her programs to include a reformer studio with Pilates reformer machines as well as adding more slings since her sling classes sell out every week. Trying to maintain a sense of humor, Woodard noted that she is just changing room functions and not adding on.
Moyer said the Historical Society would be able to provide assistance in the way of information that could help Woodard in her fight.
To learn more about Nectars Café and Juice Bar at The Yoga House, go to https://www.facebook.com/NectarsCafeAndJuiceBarAtTheYogaHouse and http://yogahousekutztown.com/.