The venue's $600,000 remodel marries historical charm with contemporary style and amenities.
Last year was the first full year that Darby House, previously managed by Cameron Mitchell Premier Catering, fully operated as its own entity, says Nicole McCrate, director of sales and marketing for the venue. That change, she continues, allowed the Darby House team to start thinking about how they’d act on feedback from clients over the years.
“We really started hearing the same things over and over,” she explains. “Also, we really did a lot of legwork looking at our competition. What is it that [engaged couples] want in the wedding world? … Over the last 10 years, I’ve seen weddings evolve in a lot of different ways, and what was important 10 years ago isn’t necessarily important anymore. And things that are now important that necessarily weren’t back then.”
The Darby House team compiled their wish list—neutralizing spaces while preserving historical displays, improve spaces for wedding parties to get ready, updating fixtures and finishes—and set to work on a yearlong project beginning in early 2020.
Then, the COVID-19 pandemic shut down much of business as we know it in March.
“COVID hurt us in a lot of ways and then helped us in a lot of ways,” McCrate notes. The loss of incoming revenue was a challenge, she explains, but it also opened an otherwise full booking calendar, allowing for nonstop work on the spaces that otherwise would have needed to be event-ready every weekend.
Hardwood and stone flooring throughout the venue and on its back terrace was stripped and refinished. Wood trim was standardized throughout the building. Trophy cases that previously in the background of many scenes were replaced with neutral walls. A new Heritage Gallery was added to display memorabilia from the Galbreath family, which has owned the property since the 1930s. The main entrance was converted to be ADA-compliant. New chandeliers and windows modernized and brightened the main dining room, and new ready rooms provided more space for couples and their wedding parties to prep.
“I definitely hear, overwhelmingly, that spaces to get ready in is a top-lister of things that absolutely need to happen” in a wedding venue, McCrate says. She attributes this to the trend of having a ceremony and reception in the same space, creating the need for a one-stop wedding venue.
To that end, the bridal ready room was expanded, and a second ready room was built from scratch. The new Heritage Gallery connects the two, and both rooms have easy access to a convenience space that McCrate says is perfect for setting up a breakfast or lunch spread.
“We intentionally made both of those spaces able to accommodate 10 to 12 people,” she adds. The bride-focused room includes hooks for hanging full-length gowns, a tri-fold mirror, two vanity spaces, banquette seating and an ensuite bathroom. The groom-focused room was converted from a former office and includes a foosball table, leather seating, a vanity space, its own ensuite bathroom and décor elements that highlight the Galbreath family’s passion for hunting.
The new Heritage Gallery makes for an excellent conversation-starter during cocktail hour. There, guests will find memorabilia from the Galbreath family’s ownership of the Pittsburgh Pirates (1946-1985) and various Kentucky Derby race horses.
Also newly expanded at Darby House is its list of exclusive caterers. Cameron Mitchell Premier Events has stayed on board as an option, but couples also have the option of hiring Made From Scratch, Catering by Scott or Hudson’s Edge Catering & Events.
A phase two of renovations is tentatively planned for 2022, McCrate says. “But I will be honest … we really tackled our wish list this first round—the biggest heavy-hitters of the impact that was going to be made,” she adds. “We’re just so proud.”