Manayunk Chambers Guest House Is a Top Bed and Breakfast

Mark Jerde spent over a decade bringing Manayunk Chambers Guest House to fruition. Now it's a top-rated bed and breakfast.

Mark Jerde wakes up early to make his croissants, mixing and rolling dough and meticulously layering it with butter for the perfect flaky pastry. Jerde, however, doesn’t run a bakery or restaurant. Instead, he crafts trays of fresh pastries for his guests at Manayunk Chambers Guest House because he loves it.

Jerde’s boutique hotel stands on Manayunk’s Gay Street and is the owner’s pride and joy. He turned the former Parsonage for Ebenezer UME Church into a a luxury bed and breakfast serving both the Main Line and Philadelphia. Hosted inside a 3,500-square-foot Manayunk townhouse on Gay Street, what was once a residence for members of the church, then a turn-of-the-century salon and one-bedroom apartment, now boasts four extravagant Victorian-style rooms.

Today Jerde and his husband Neal Orzeck reside in the building, too, though their quarters are separate from the B&B. In fact, the guesthouse has been in Orzeck’s family since the early 20th century, though it only recently regained the “Guest House” moniker.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Mark Jerde (@philly.bnb)

- Advertisement -

As far back as 2004, Jerde had the idea to turn the Orzeck family heirloom into one of Philadelphia’s top B&Bs, though it would be over a decade before that dream was realized. With a background in hospitality and culinary arts at places like the five-star Rittenhouse Hotel and the original White Dog Cafe, Jerde knew renovating such a historic building would be a lengthy process from the get-go.

All of the money Jerde and Orzeck poured into the renovations came from their own pockets. There were no investors or wealthy backers; instead, the duo were resolved that they would succeed through their own means or fail by them.

“It wasn’t until 2015 when we had our first guests,” Jerde shares. “So it was 11 years of ‘If I build it, they will come.’” 

After working for years as a pastry chef for Main Line businesses like the Wynnewood Food Fair to completing an apprenticeship with celebrity chef Aliza Green, Jerde was in no rush to finalize his opus until he was ready. He and his husband spent that decade retooling guest spaces from garish ‘80s-era decor into something more reminiscent of a Victorian lounge.

- Partner Content -

“When we bought it from my husband’s sister, she had decorated it in an ’80s style with pink pastels and grays and black flowers. I wanted to bring it back to more of a Victorian type of style,” Jerde remembers.

The Victorian-style rooms at Manayunk Chambers exude a certain elegence.
The Victorian-style rooms at Manayunk Chambers exude a certain elegence.

While Jerde is an expert in hospitality, and Orzeck is equally adept in his field of tech support, neither were handy enough to handle a whole renovation by themselves.

“Thank goodness for YouTube with learning how to do the plumbing and some of the electric,” Jerde chuckles. “Mostly it was just me and Neal. I did have some friends who were actually professionals, and I would play the gopher for them when it got a little bit above my pay grade.”

Though the redesign took years to complete, both Jerde and Orzeck were in no rush. For both, this was a side project, secondary to their real jobs. For Jerde especially, it was more than a hobby, but less than work.

Once the renovations were complete, Jerde could turn to what he knows best: pastries.

- Advertisement -

Every morning, guests can savor a delectable baked platter by one of the Philadelphia area’s finest, if lesser known, pastry chefs. From chocolate croissants to pumpkin and pecan muffins, cranberry scones and more, the treats offer a refined way to start the day in one of the Main Line area’s most charming locales.

Mark Jerde's Beautiful pastry spread baked fresh every morning.
Mark Jerde’s beautiful pastry spread, baked fresh every morning.

For Jerde, the ability to do what he loves in a place he loves is a “dream come true.” Manayunk Chambers Guest House was ranked the top bed and breakfast in the city of Philadelphia according to TripAdvisor for four years running and continues to receive a bastion of support for the labor Jerde and Orzeck have put into the space.

“It feels very rewarding having the accolades that I’ve received,” Jerde enthuses. “I [was able] to prove to myself that I was able to do it, and that was that.”

Surprisingly, Jerde did receive some resistance from the Manayunk community upon the Guest House’s opening.

“People just in general, don’t like change,” Jerde notes. “The neighborhood itself [was] giving strong pushback because of the Airbnb reputation, which is kind of a negative reputation right now with them becoming a party house.”

Jerde, of course, isn’t renting out the whole space and letting partygoers and college kids run buckwild. His clientele are mostly relatives visiting their families in town. Manayunk is a residential neighborhood, and Jerde found that many visitors to town didn’t have a place to stay close to their kids, grandkids, nieces and nephews.

As time has passed, the community has opened its arms more and more. Local businesses have noticed an increase in customers as tourists staying at the Guest House visit the shops and restaurants minutes away from its front door.

Now that Manayunk Chambers Guest House has established itself as the preeminent destination B&B for Manayunk, Jerde is working on expanding.

“We have a second property around the corner that I’ve been in the process of converting into an extension of the bed and breakfast,” he shares.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Mark Jerde (@philly.bnb)

Like the development of the original Guest House, this one is again based entirely upon Jerde and Orzeck’s own funds. Thus there are no deadlines to meet, investors to impress or benchmarks to reach.

Jerde plans to call it Manayunk Quarters to fit with his current motif as a lesser extension of the more extravagant Chambers Guest House.

There will be even more pastries for Jerde to bake for more guests in his kitchen, but that’s always where he’s been happiest. This is Jerde’s field of dreams. He built it, and the guests have come.

Manayunk Chambers Guest House
168 Gay St, Philadelphia

Related: This Bryn Mawr Home Gets a Demolition-Free Update

Our Best of the Main Line Elimination Ballot is open through February 22!