LANCASTER — The historic Thayer Mansion got a buzz last weekend during an Easter-themed open house to which the new owners invited the whole community. Hundreds of people gathered around the April 16 event hosted by the DeStefano-Mahabir family, who bought the property at 679 George Hill Road last year and moved there in January.
“Thank you to everyone who brought delicious food and volunteered to help today at our Easter party. … You helped make this a huge success,” Tanya DeStefano wrote online after the post. “My parking lot attendant had about 350 guests. Special big thanks to Ev Moody and the Lancaster Police Department for keeping traffic flowing and helping to make it a safe and fun party. I also have to thank Jay for the megaphone, it was much appreciated.
New Town resident Megan Karavedas brought her one-year-old son, George, to enjoy the festivities.
“We are here to celebrate and meet new people,” Karavedas said.
Council on Aging and Community Center Director Alix Turner, who is also a Lancaster Select board member, attended the open house.
“It’s such a wonderful event,” Turner said. “The DeStefanos are generous and welcoming neighbors in the spirit of Lancaster and Easter, a perfect day.”
A large buffet of food donated and prepared by area residents and family fed visitors, who also enjoyed eating popcorn, decorating cookies and doing crafts.
Animal Adventures brought three bunnies, a duck and a few baby chicks for the kids to hold and pet, and there were plenty of garden toys and games, including a corn hole, putting contest and rope race. bag.
People greeted each other with smiles and hugs and DeStefano’s husband of 25 years, Kris Mahabir, was seen welcoming guests and chatting with their three children – Tiffany, 24, Maxwell, 22 years old and Alexander, 10 years old.
DeStefano posted a photo of a box filled with hundreds of colorful plastic Easter eggs that she said local women helped her fill with candy and stickers for both egg hunts – one for ages 5 and under and one for ages 6 to 12.
Annie Wag, 5, from Lancaster collected eggs while sporting bunny ears and a group of four young friends from the town lined up excitedly for the second egg hunt – Baylee Aguirre, 8, Celena Fournier, 8, Samantha Mylott, 9, and Violet Short, 8.
“Please pick up all the leaves in the yard,” one man joked over a megaphone.
The family’s three children said they had finally settled into their room of choice after testing several of the mansion’s 45 rooms. Although they won’t disclose the price they paid, a quick Google search revealed that Zillow says the property sold for $2 million in December last year.
The estate was built by Bayard Thayer in 1904. It became a Catholic retreat known as Cenacle in the 1970s and in 1986 it was transformed into the Maharishi Ayurveda Health Center, an upscale spa steeped in treatment Ayurvedic and diet programs that have hosted celebrities. including Michael Jackson and Elizabeth Taylor. It was a filming location for the 2019 film adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s mid-19th-century novel, “Little Women,” and there’s a cemetery on the property that adjoins conservation land.
Longtime resident of the city, Jennie Drake, who worked in guest services at the Maharishi in 2004 and 2005, lives down the road. She gave out badges to open house visitors and spoke fondly of the place.
“It’s just the most special property, I miss the peace,” she said. “It’s a lovely place. The views are just amazing.
Alan and Martha Colby were also at the open house, a couple who have lived in the mansion and been caretakers of the property for the past 10 years. Alan Colby was Maharishi’s operations manager, responsible for 20 of the 24 employees.
“It was fulfilling,” he said of his time there. “People came in pain and left happy. There were a lot of good people and good energy.
They said they would move out at some point now that the family had moved in. When asked what they plan to do with their new free time, Alan Colby said they will be traveling and visiting relatives.
“We haven’t had a vacation in a while,” he said.
DeStefano is a full-time mother and homeschooled her children. Her husband went to Massachusetts Institute of Technology and worked at Fidelity and then Wall Street and is now a commercial real estate investor. Their two oldest children work with him in the family’s commercial real estate business.
The couple have ties to the Maharishi, having been invited there for a weekend in 1994.
“We enjoyed taking walks in the woods and loved the beautiful architecture of the house,” DeStefano recalls. “Last summer we came to Lancaster to go fruit picking and visit the fabulous farmers stalls here and unexpectedly walked past the front door of the house…and saw the sale sign and we remembered this was where we had been and loved it. So we decided to buy it. »
They also own a Queen Anne Victorian home on Cape Cod built in 1887 which they have remodeled and restored.
“We’re both passionate about preserving America’s historic homes and this house has a lot of history,” she said of their home in Lancaster.
They have purchased 60 of the total 200 acres and are working with their realtor to secure the rest of the acreage to keep the land together. They plan to keep the mansion as a private home and restore it and the gardens and possibly organize some charity fundraisers, but if that happens it will take years as there is a lot of work to be done on the property. house, including septic repairs. . They have several house projects currently underway, including electricians updating all the wiring and a slate roof specialist replacing the tiles, and they will have all eight chimneys redone.
“The original 1908 eight-burner gas range and oven works in the main kitchen,” DeStefano said. “There are two other kitchens and two other gas ovens, one is working perfectly and the other is being repaired. We found a local landscape architect to help us go through old photos of the garden and make plans to restore it and the secret garden. The house still has cast iron clawfoot tubs and we purchased it with all the furnishings including antiques, dishes, linens, etc.
DeStefano said she was “inspired by old stories I had read about the parties this house hosted for families in town” and decided to have the Easter party outside in the front yard. .
“I opened it up to the town and asked if anyone could bring food and volunteer,” she said. “I was amazed by the loving spirit of the city. Dozens of neighbors and Lancaster residents brought food and helped.
DeStefano said they were delighted to welcome the community and are grateful to the many people “who contributed to a wonderful Easter celebration.”
“Thank you to everyone who brought food and drink and volunteered to help with the Easter party,” she wrote online. “I felt so much love and support. As our great Lancaster Police Chief, Ev Moody, wrote to me, as I began to plan the party, ‘together we become something that never ends. is not possible alone”.
DeStefano said Moody reached out to her after the party and told her how nice it was for the community to come together, especially after the past two years.
“To say the day was a success would be to sell it short of all it achieved,” he wrote. “Thank you for inviting the community to meet you, your family and your home. Truly a great day for all involved.
I believe you and your family created a magical first impression, which inspired much of the community to break away from the recent norm of the Covid lifestyle we had all grown accustomed to,” Moody wrote. “It was welcome, needed and certainly appreciated. Moving forward, getting to know the community will provide endless opportunities, I encourage you to follow the dreams that brought you and your family to Lancaster. I look forward to helping make those dreams a reality.