Chamounix Mansion Offers The World Of Hospitality

Peak Johnson, for GPA -- A hidden gem seeded in Fairmount Park, The Chamounix Mansion Philadelphia International Youth Hostel (3250 Chamounix Dr.) has a history that dates back over 180 years.

The history of the mansion’s site began in 1677, when it was incorporated into a four hundred acre land tract owned by John and Andreas Wheeler and surveyed by Richard Noble.

“It started off as a private residence and changed hands over the years and eventually became city property,” said Andrew Victor, manager of the Chamounix Hostel. “The city started buying land across the Schuylkill River originally to protect the city’s water supply, but through eminent domain they got the property.”

The city used Chamounix for various things before it officially became a hostel. It was a refreshment stand, a motor club, even a boarding house at one point. Eventually, the mansion was left to disrepair and was going to be torn down in the 1960s.

Some civic-minded people founded the “Friends of Chamounix” and through the organization were able to have the mansion renovated and turned into a hostel.

“Hostel International at that time was very keen on acquiring or working with buildings or grounds of significance and protecting and maintaining them,” Victor said. “Hostels started in Germany to get people out of the city, to get the fresh air and the scenic aspect of the countryside. So at that time in the sixties, hostels were still rural. Chamounix was a wonderful location, you’re outside Philadelphia but still close enough to see the city.”

Today, Chamounix Mansion provides clean, inexpensive accommodations for groups only with two different size houses. The handicapped-accessible Carriage House is an ideal facility for group accommodation. The hostel also offers meeting rooms with kitchen and dining areas for workshops, retreats and events.

Chamounix amenities include a lounge, video library, internet kiosk, vending machines, fully equipped kitchen with dining areas and a recreation room with piano and foosball. Washer/dryer and lockers are available.

“About 60 percent of our guest are from the United States,” Victor said. “The rest are from everywhere else. Every country that has visa relations with the United States, we’ve probably had guests from there. That being said, a vast majority of our overseas guests are from the United Kingdom, Germany, Japan, Australia, Luxembourg, Turkey and China.”

The Chamounix also has recurring groups that visit from around the world such as one Canadian school that comes to the mansion annually and a French tour package group that visits in the summer.

The staff at Chamounix are pretty good at suggesting unique and different things for visitors to the city to check out.

“We get guests who are here for usually two or three days and they’re trying to get in as much as possible,” Victor said.

Open for eleven months of the year, there are certain guests who come back to Chamounix annually or semiannually.

“We are providing for people who otherwise might not have the means to see Philadelphia,” Victor said. “So we’re bringing tourism and in turn, tourism dollars and exposure to the city.”

Image courtesy of Chamounix Mansion.