With a combined 30 years of experience in real estate development and construction, brothers Chris and Jon Virgilio have always been most energized by historic restorations. Before graduating from college, Chris worked as a mason and scaffold laborer on two historic buildings at Yale University, an experience that shifted his focus and cemented his appreciation for historic renovations. “Compared to new construction there is something deeply satisfying about preserving these buildings. It is more than just the structure, these buildings are the memories and tangible links to the past. They create a sense of community.” Thus, during his career in construction management he jumped at the opportunity to manage the restoration of the Rotunda at the University of Virginia, one of only six UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the United States.
As the brothers began investing in real estate in Central PA, there was never a question that they would renovate existing buildings; however, their first opportunity for a historic renovation was the purchase and revitalization of a 1922 Farmers & Merchants Bank Building in Tyrone, PA. With that under their belt, Jon began eyeing the Gamble Mill. “I have worked in Bellefonte for close to a decade, and I have always been in awe of the beauty and history of the town, especially the Mill. When the last potential buyer fell through, I called Chris right away. We knew we needed to restore this historic landmark.”
The Gamble Mill’s past is the foundation of its present
and will always be part of the identity of its future.
- A history of the Gamble Mill by Local Historia.
As the Virgilio brothers embark upon the next chapter of the mill, its storied history of over 230 years should be remembered. What we affectionately know as the Gamble Mill is derived from George M. Gamble who owned and operated the mill between 1901 and 1923. His name still can be seen in bluish lead-paint on the west side of the brick mill today, even after successors like F. M. Mayer painted over it. Gamble was just one influential chapter in the history of the Bellefonte Flouring Mills. While it manufactured grain for the community and abroad from 1786 to 1947, its past, present, and future is as rich as the celebrated “Snow Flake” flour it once produced.
The Gamble Mill Today
With the purchase of the Gamble Mill in 2019, the Virgilio brothers have committed to their mission to preserve, enhance, and reestablish one of the most recognizable and cherished buildings in the Borough. After five years of vacancy, extensive renovations were required to transform the property into a desirable mixed-use destination. During the multi-year renovation, Virgilio Investments, local architects, engineers, and contractors worked tirelessly to ensure that both interior and exterior renovations protected the rich architectural features of the Mill. Even with the recently updated modern accommodations, the building still showcases historic features with 235-year old beams and unique nods to the past like the lobby bench made from salvaged beams.
To enhance the Mill, Chris and Jon explored all possible uses. After talking to locals and vendors, they knew that a mix of uses would maximize accessibility and ensure that locals and visitors alike would have a place to experience what makes Bellefonte, and the Gamble Mill, such a unique, culturally rich place. This led to one of the most significant changes - the addition of a boutique inn and suites on the previously underutilized upper floors. This provides the Borough with needed additional overnight accommodations and further attracts guests to both the Gamble Mill and the town of Bellefonte.
Bellefonte’s recent investment in the cultivation of the historic Waterfront Business District aligns beautifully with the mission to reestablish the Gamble Mill as a prominent anchor of the Riverwalk. Of critical importance to this mission is the re-opening of the once-beloved restaurant space with new fresh-from-farm Creekside Restaurant from local chef and owner Michael Marx. Together with The Republic Bar for crafted cocktails, The Speakeasy event space, and Smith + Front boutique, the revitalized Mill will be reestablished as one of the area’s most attractive destinations for visitors and locals alike.