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Neglected Philips Hotel Has New Owner

by and on November 04, 2019 5:00 AM

Though he wasn’t a featured speaker or award recipient, Albert Bruno received a round of applause at the annual Philipsburg Historical Foundation meeting and dinner, held Oct. 16. Why? Bruno is the newest owner of a Philipsburg landmark — the former Philips Hotel — and plans to renovate the structure that has been sitting empty and dilapidated for years.

A century ago, the Philips was a flourishing hotel with a ballroom, an upscale restaurant and shops. Since the town’s decline, the 87-room hotel closed and eventually became an assisted living facility. In 2006, the retirement home, Windy Hill Village, moved locations.

In 2008, the building was purchased by State College attorney Faith Lucchesi and her husband, Tony DeBoef, who matched a $1 million grant to restore the structure, which they opened as The Philips Hotel & 1921 Restaurant.

The Philips closed suddenly in 2012, leaving the community shocked and confused. It’s been sitting empty ever since and has sustained extreme water damage and deterioration stemming from neglect.

In September 2018, Bruno purchased the property for $37,000. The structure was appraised for nearly a half-million dollars, and Bruno is currently appealing a tax bill of $24,000 he received after he purchased the building, and the appeal period had ended.

Bruno, a Pittsburgh native who splits his time between Pennsylvania and the West Coast, came to Philipsburg when he became involved with the Caring Healthcare Network, a rural clinic located at the end of Philipsburg’s Front Street.

Under Bruno’s direction, the Caring Healthcare Network has expanded from one part-time doctor, one part-time nurse and one part-time receptionist to employing more than a dozen health care professionals, including six physicians. Bruno is in the process of restoring Philipsburg’s old Dollar General store, located on Front Street, so he can move his clinic to a better facility.

Albert Bruno stands in what was most recently the dining area of the Philips Hotel & 1921 Restaurant, now in shambles after years of neglect.  Photo by Teresa Mull/For the Gazette

Sandy Maines is the Caring Healthcare Network’s front desk manager. Her son, Jacob, is studying to become an architectural engineer.

“I had always driven by the Philips Hotel, and I had said many times, ‘I’d like to buy that hotel and restore it. It’s a shame that it just sits there,’” Bruno said. “And Jacob sent me an email one day that said the hotel was up for a tax sale in four days. So I got on a plane and flew back, and I went to the tax sale, and I just started bidding on it. I wasn’t even sure if I was going to or not, but I ended up with it.

“When I went in (The Philips), it’s a big giant mess – that’s the nicest thing I can say about it,” Bruno continued. “But there’s still a lot of the bone architecture there. There’s something to it. I’ve done projects — not that big — but other projects. I would like to restore it. And I’m going to. I’m doing the Dollar General store first, because I have to move my clinic over there. Then I’ll tackle that project.”

Bruno says turning the Philips back into a hotel is his goal if it makes sense financially.

“I haven’t really seen what it needs to figure that out, because it comes down to the cost to restore it, and would it ever be profitable?” Bruno said. “But that’s my first choice — I’d really like to make it a hotel again. I think that’s something the community needs.

“I just love small towns and the people in small towns, and that’s where I always envisioned myself to be,” Bruno said. “But I didn’t know it would be Philipsburg, honestly. That just kind of happened, and once I made that step, and I employ a lot of people here, I just feel the need to expand everything here and do the best I can for Philipsburg.”



This story was produced by the staff at the Centre County Gazette. It was re-published with permission. The Centre County Gazette is a weekly publication, available at many locations around Centre County every Thursday morning.


Teresa Mull
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