Let’s Party, But Where? Venues Guide, Part 2: Columbia Cty
The backdrop of natural beauty in the Rural Intelligence region has been luring brides and grooms to say their “I Do’s” here for years. But really, why shouldn’t any event — birthdays, anniversaries, corporate gatherings — get to enjoy the fabulous venues (and yes, frequently the views) that make a special gathering so memorable? After exploring some great locations in Northwest Connecticut, we move on to Columbia County.
Photo: Gigia Einarsdottir
By Elizabeth Hartley
Thor Icelandics, Claverack, NY
A picturesque farm in Claverack with fenced pastures and 50 or so friendly, fuzzy and very sweet Icelandic horses sure seems dreamlike, right? (It is.) The farm offers two locations for pitching an event tent: the hill, which has unobstructed 360-degree views from Albany to New Paltz, and the upper track, an actual competition track at the heart of the farm.
Capacity: 250, give or take
In-house catering: No
Indoor/outdoor: Entirely outdoor and seasonal, May through October
What makes it unique: Brides and grooms can ride in to their ceremony on horseback. Because there’s only one event per weekend, there’s less pressure to set up and break down.
Basilica Hudson, Hudson, NY
Once upon a time, Hudson, the only city in this rural county of dairy farms, had a gritty industrial heart. Built in 1880, this former forge and foundry is very close to the Hudson River and resembles a Medieval church. Basilica found new life a few decades ago as an event venue with spaces (including outdoor areas) both large enough and flexible enough to house every sort of event imaginable.
Photo: James Day, Within This Day Photography.
Main Hall At 6,000 square feet, this is the principal space for big events (as well as performances, film productions and photo shoots). An intimate wedding of 80 won’t get lost here, but the space can comfortably hold 1,200. There are first-rate restrooms, soaring ceilings (ranging from 20 to 40 feet), multiple entrances and a convenient loading dock.
North Hall Typically set up like a small theater, this striking space features the same high ceilings as the Main Hall, including tall windows and decorative brick and tile work. It’s popular for wedding ceremonies, can seat 150, and has updated heating and A/C so it’s comfortable year-round. Bonus: Separate entrances allow independent access from the rest of the building.
Back Gallery Located in the smaller of Basilica’s two buildings, this 40-foot by 40-foot space has exposed brick and white walls, an industrial heater, and museum-size loading doors. It’s ideal for art exhibitions, intimate ceremonies or performances, and other small-scale events. Two skylights in the 15-foot-high ceiling provide natural light, while ceiling lights can be adjusted as needed.
West Wing Easily accessible from the Main Hall, this space often functions as the bar during large events and its two large windows make it perfect for food service, too. It’s warmer and more intimate than the rest of Basilica, but can easily accommodate 250 standing or 100 for a sit-down dinner. The West Wing Entrance is an adjacent 700-square-foot area that can be used for receptions or coat check.
What makes it unique: Like any enormous re-purposed space, the sheer scale, high ceilings and abundant natural light at Basilica give it enormous flexibility for large events and elaborate themes. Its proximity to the Hudson River and the Amtrak station (both are a few hundred easily walkable feet away) makes it super convenient and easily accessible, too.
Oak Hill, Hudson, NY
One of a dozen or so mansions built by the Livingstons along the Hudson River and the last one still in the Livingston family, Oak Hill is also one of the newest event sites in Columbia County. The 100-acre estate has great views of the river and the Catskill Mountains. The manor house was built in the 1790s by John Livingston, son of Robert Livingston, well known as one of the region’s original land-grantees. Legend has it that John, seeking out the best views, climbed an oak tree to determine the best spot for the new home, hence the mansion’s name. The grounds are park-like and offer several places to pitch your event tent. Or use the barn, which has a capacity of 150.
Capacity: 250-300 in an event tent; 150 in the barn
In-house catering: No, but you can hire Oak Hill to produce your event.
Indoor/outdoor, seasonal: Both, May through October only
What makes it special: The views, exquisite park-like grounds and exceptional privacy.
Clermont State Historic Site, Germantown, NY
Clermont State Historic Site, a Livingston estate, was home to seven generations of this prominent family. The mansion has hosted scores of engagement parties, wedding ceremonies and receptions for the family since the 1700s, and in 1996, management opened the gates to the rest of us, making a variety of sites available on the grounds of the home that include a wooded area, expanses of open lawn or century-old gardens — all with exceptional views of the Hudson River and Catskill Mountains.
Capacity: 50 to 300, depending upon the site
In-house catering: No, but experienced museum staff provide guidance
Indoor/outdoor and seasonal: Outdoors only, May through October
What makes it unique: Interestingly, rental fees are not based on the size of the guest list or the number of hours the site will be in use. (Fees range from $800 to $2,200 for wedding receptions, depending upon the location and time of day.) Site managers also don’t require you to use one of their approved caterers, but they can recommend those who have produced successful events, ensuring a smoother and more trouble-free experience.
Old Austerlitz, Austerlitz, NY
In the eastern part of Columbia County, Old Austerlitz is a charming part-restored, part-re-constructed historic village that celebrates the region’s local history. Located along both sides of Route 22, Old Austerlitz is the brainchild of life-long Austerlitz resident and antiques-dealer Bob Herron, who works with a passionate group of local history buffs to administer and expand the multi-acre site. The buildings include a picturesque church built in 1853 and a red one-room schoolhouse, both native to the site, as well as the 1794 Morey-Devereaux House and a rustic barn perfect for events, both of which were re-constructed on site in the last decade.
Capacity: The Barn: 150 for a sit-down dinner; The Church: 120 for ceremonies
In-house catering: No, but excellent kitchen facilities in Morey-Devereaux
Indoor/outdoor: Both, but seasonal
What makes it special: This charming compound (think a mini Old Sturbridge Village) offers a variety of spaces to set up your tent while maintaining open country views. One event per weekend helps ease stress. Ample parking.
Hudson Opera House (now Henry Hudson Hall), Hudson, NY
Built in 1855 as Hudson City Hall, this exemplary building is New York State’s oldest surviving theater, one of the region’s most-treasured historical buildings, and the cultural heart of Hudson. In another few weeks, after a year of restoration that includes, among other improvements, the addition of an elevator, the Opera House will reopen its upstairs theater for community and private use for the first time in more than 55 years. The space can support a variety of seating configurations.
Capacity: Performance Hall: 100 to 250 for seated dinners; up to 300 for performances. West Room: 80. Common Council Room: 60. Center Hall Gallery: 100
In-house catering: No
Indoor/outdoor, seasonal: Indoor, year-round and climate-controlled
What makes it special: A spectacular space with a grand history and thoroughly modern amenities, the Opera House supports and promotes the arts in the community, so income from special-event rentals ensures ongoing programming and the continued restoration of the building.
Southwood, Germantown, NY
If the special event of your dreams involves moving whole-hog into an historic estate for the weekend (or longer), then Southwood is the place. It offers all the comfort and elegance of country estates in the Gilded Age without the pretension or formality. One of the Livingston manors, the house is remarkably intact and beautifully maintained. You get all the privacy you need and room enough to expand (without prying eyes from an event in the next room). That includes the mansion, built in 1837, and three rental houses on the 86-acre property with views of the Hudson River and Catskill mountains. Collectively, the houses sleep 25. The bonus? Adorable farm animals and a heated pool.
Capacity: Up to 150 guests outdoors
In-house Catering: No
Indoor/outdoor, or both, and seasonal: Events allowed in tents outdoors from May to October
What makes it unique: For a destination wedding or event, there’s something to occupy everyone in your party, which is essential, and lots of lovely spaces for all the components of your event.
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Let’s Party, But Where? A Guide to Venues, Part 1: NW CT
The backdrop of natural beauty in the Rural Intelligence region has been luring brides and grooms to say their “I Do’s” here for years. But really, why shouldn’t any event — birthdays, anniversaries, corporate gatherings — get to enjoy the fabulous venues (and yes, frequently the views) that make a special gathering so memorable? In our series looking at one-of-a-kind venues in the region, we begin with Litchfield County, and its facilities that range from a rarified, exclusive inn to a compound that offers a summer camp-like experience.
By Elizabeth Hartley
South Farms, Routes 63 and 109, Morris, CT
Owned by the Paletsky family who’s been farming here for four generations, this beautifully restored, updated and enormous barn complex (20,000-square feet!) perfectly captures farm culture from the 1940s. Ben Paletsky keeps the place going by offering a bit of everything for sale — beef, pork, hay, produce, and high-end events for those seeking a true farm setting. Ben devotes 5,000 square feet to The White Barn (for dinners) and the Stone Barn (for performances and ceremonies).
Capacity: The White Barn: 200 for a sit-down dinner
The Stone Barn: 150 for a ceremony or performance
In-house catering: No, but they can recommend excellent local companies. South Farms does an in-house beverage service featuring local beer as part of CT Craft Brews (Ben grows hops), as well as locally made wines and spirits.
Indoor/outdoor and/or seasonal: The White Barn is open year-round.
What makes it unique or special: “The great staff here is always crafting something new for our events,” Paletsky says, citing how they turned a 25-foot tree into an enormous chandelier for a wedding in the Stone Barn. Questions from customers range from, “Where can I keep my horse after the ceremony?” and “How are the acoustics for a zydeco band?” to “Where can we have a croquet match during cocktail hour?” The Paletskys continue to expand the farm’s offerings, recently completing the conversion of a nearby antique schoolhouse into a yoga and healing retreat.
Photo: Winter Caplanson
Hopkins Vineyard, New Preston, CT (Warren)
On Lake Waramaug, Mayflower descendants Judy and Bill Hopkins turned their dairy farm into a vineyard in 1979, and haven’t looked back. They grow 11 varieties of grapes that yield white, red and sparkling wines. Groups of 15 or less don’t need reservations for the tasting room (open year-round). The Hayloft Wine Bar, with views of the lake, hosts 30 for parties and small events year-round, says daughter Hilary Hopkins Criollo. An event tent set up in the vineyard, with surrounding flower gardens and stone walls, is available from May to October. The vineyard provides cheese plates for purchase with wine tastings, but otherwise doesn’t cater, although they can recommend local companies.
Capacity: Event Tent, May to October: 250 for a sit-down dinner
Hayloft Wine Bar: 30 for a party or event; 50 for wine tastings.
In-house catering: No
Indoor-outdoor/Seasonal: Hayloft available year-round; other spaces seasonal
What makes it unique or special: Table service with a view of Lake Waramaug in the Hayloft Wine Bar, and the tent in the vineyard surrounded by stone walls and lovely gardens. There’s also a firepit for evening parties.
Bellamy-Ferriday House & Gardens, Bethlehem, CT
This exquisite home, barn and historic gardens, administered by Connecticut Landmarks, embody the dramatically different passions of two extraordinary people: Bethlehem pastor Joseph Bellamy, a renowned leader of the Great Awakening, the emotional religious revival of the 1740s, who built the house in stages starting from 1754 to 1767, and New Yorkers Henry and Eliza Ferriday, who acquired the estate as a summer residence in 1912. Eliza and her daughter, Caroline, designed a formal garden of roses, peonies and lilacs, and made other landscape improvements that continue to attract garden enthusiasts among the many visitors to the property. The estate is available for private events, but because it’s a landmark, event hosts need to carry their own liability insurance and festivities must end by 10:30 pm. Lilac season from mid-May to mid-June is especially lovely and fragrant.
Capacity: 150 for parties
In-house catering: No
Seasonal: May to October
What makes it unique: Bellamy-Ferriday captures aristocratic New England at its best. Its historic landmarked status, lovely rooms full of antique furniture, exquisite gardens and location on the town green can’t be beat.
Photos courtesy Winvian.
Winvian, Morris, CT
This resort on 113 acres with a Colonial-era home at its center is as unconventional as it is luxurious. The main home, built in 1775 by physician Seth Bird, was acquired in 1948 by Winthrop and Vivian Smith, who named it “Win-Vian,” a sweet combination of their names. After Winthrop died, Vivian married Charles McVay, captain of the USS Indianapolis and author of the book, In Harm’s Way. In addition to five-star dining and superb meeting and event spaces, Winvian offers 18 luxurious cottages, each conceived around a different theme. Even the boldest among them, a restored 1968 Sikorsky helicopter, a treehouse sited 35 feet above ground, and a cottage built around a glorious white oak tree, offer the best in creature comforts. There’s a full-service spa and a variety of spaces for meeting and events both inside and out.
In-House catering: Yes
What makes it special or unique: Attention to detail on every front: Exceptional accommodations, beautiful event spaces and first-rate dining in a rustic-chic setting.
Club Getaway, Kent, CT
If you ever wanted to go to summer camp as an adult, here’s the place — and you can bring your family and friends with you. Located on 300 acres on the shores of Lake Leonard, Club Getaway offers rustic but comfortable cabins and family-style dining — a fun and relaxed setting for casual events, and there’s no dirth of activities even if the weather doesn’t cooperate. “We try to make dreams come true,” says general manager Leslie Fink, who says the club has hosted high school proms, weddings, and family and school reunions. There are golf carts for older guests and counselors for kids (so adults can, indeed, play).
Capacity: 280 overnight guests, higher for day-long events
In-house catering: Yes, guests must use their caterer
Indoor-outdoor: Yes, both
What makes it unique: The range of recreational activities and organized and individual sports, both on and off the water, is staggering. Club Getaway also offers something most venues simply cannot: a literal time warp that catapults you back to summer camp and childhood.
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The Olde Rhinebeck Inn Offers A Two-For-One Innkeeper Deal
Photo courtesy of the Olde Rhinebeck Inn.
By Lisa Green
When she started reading, Jonna Paolella couldn’t have cared less about Amelia Bedelia or Pippi Longstocking. She was obsessed with Country Inns and Back Roads, by Norman T. Simpson.
“I’ve known since age seven that I wanted to be an innkeeper,” she says.
There aren’t many kids who dream of a career at such a tender age — and then go on to fulfill that dream. But Paolella did, by establishing the Olde Rhinebeck Inn in Dutchess County. At the time, she was the youngest innkeeper in America.
That motivation didn’t come out of thin air. Her mother had turned their home in Park Slope (Brooklyn) into a bed and breakfast. Paolella’s favorite book, which included bits about historic lodgings in the Hudson Valley, led her to Rhinebeck 18 years ago, when she opened the bed and breakfast in a house that dates back to 1738. (You can feel its age in its unplumbed walls, listing floors and steep stairway, but the amenities are about as modern as you can get.)
Dining room, photo courtesy of the Olde Rhinebeck Inn.
Paolella clearly loves the innkeeper life. You can tell it by the conversation she keeps. Talking a mile a minute, she tells guests about the history of the house, its many additions, and changes she’s brought to it over the years, interspersed with her musings about Airbnb’s effects on the hospitality industry and which of the restaurants at the nearby CIA are the best.
But as anyone who’s ever stayed at a B&B has observed, this innkeeping thing is rough, basically a 24/7 proposition with little, if any, time off. You really have to be devoted to the business to be so tied into it.
And that’s a bit of a problem for Paolella, who suffers from wanderlust just about as much as many of her guests. And besides that, getting away is essential to avoid burnout in an industry where innkeepers hang on an average of 5 to 7 years. She knew what she was getting into, but she also knew that sharing the responsibilities didn’t make her seem incapable of handling the business.
Innkeepers Cindy Curnan and Jonna Paolella.
Enter Cindy Curnan, who had owned The Gables in Rhinebeck, but sold it to move to Hawaii. She’s a wanderluster, too, but she was ready to return to where she grew up. She was looking to open another Hudson Valley B&B, and initial plans were to do it with Paolella backing her. But when a discussion about the financial and time commitments involved turned into a seven-hour conversation (with both of their husbands included), the result was a partnership of the Olde Rhinebeck Inn.
There is a Byzantine web of connections between Curnan, the house and Paolella. Curnan actually lived there as a teenager; her mother owned the house — not as an inn but antiques store, for a while — and she lived across the road from the inn when Paolella moved in. Neighbors kept telling Paolella that she needed to meet Curnan; they both owned inns and were so much alike.
The original stairway is extremely steep with narrow treads. “Best to scale it sort of sideways,” Curnan advises.
“I saw activity going on and just walked over to introduce myself,” says Curnan. A BFF was born.
The women have crafted out the ideal job sharing arrangement and — what do you know — a balanced life, by the sharing the duties. So now Paolella can take a lengthy vacation (or, at this point, take the time she needs to help her aging mother) and Curnan will not miss enjoying the perks of being a first-time grandmother. They can finally experience all the culture, restaurants and historic properties they prescribe for their guests. And they can spend some quality time with their husbands.
“There’s a real benefit to be had to sharing the resources and burdens of this business,” Paolella says. “I had another property, a vacation rental, and I knew it was just too much for one person. Our arrangement allows us to have a better quality of life, better marriages. The nice thing is, we have a schedule, but we have flexibility and the built-in trust that we can be away and the place won’t fall apart. And Cindy is a clone of me, so we really work well together.”
The Spirited Dove room. Photo courtesy of the Olde Rhinebeck Inn.
Indeed. They practically finish each other’s sentences. They’re a lovely portrait of women’s friendship, too. Recently, while Curnan took a few weeks off, Paolella surprised her by creating a loft bedroom above the dining room so Curnan would have a place to stay when she’s on duty (Paolella and her husband live at the inn).
And what a welcoming destination they’ve created. Spacious rooms filled with antiques, but updated with fancy showers and flat screen tv’s so embedded in the old walls you barely even notice them. There’s an “amenity plate” of homemade cookies, fruit and chocolates to greet guests in their room, and a pond to reflect upon from the porch. A gourmet breakfast is included, of course, with organic milk and eggs (courtesy of their own hormone-free hens) and, best of all, the lively chatter between innkeepers and guests. The inn is just three-and-a-half miles from Rhinebeck’s main street and close to Hyde Park (and many other historic properties), Walkway Over the Hudson, the Dutchess County fairgrounds, and Bard and Vassar colleges.
“They say you shouldn’t go into business with your friends,” Paolella says, “and we do have a business agreement. But it works for us.”
Which brings comfort all around, to innkeepers and guests alike.
Olde Rhinebeck Inn
340 Wurtemburg Rd., Rhinebeck, NY
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Hotel Tivoli And Its Restaurant Bring An Artistic Vision To Town
By Jamie Larson
Since its opening a little over a year ago, Hotel Tivoli has been adding a rich vibrancy to the happening, yet slightly hidden, scene growing in its namesake village, Tivoli, New York. The walls lined with art created by the hotel’s notable owners Brice and Helen Marden, the high-style furniture and the beautiful bones of the historic building merge to create an atmosphere as unique as the village and the Mardens themselves.
Yet, despite the abundance of image and form on display throughout the ground floor dining and bar room, it’s never overwhelming. The ability to treat guests to such a complex visual experience, while also fostering the feeling of comfort and ease, represents the Mardens’ balance of vision with expertise.
“It’s the flavor and taste of the owners,” says assistant general manager Janett Pabon. “There’s a sense of generosity. It’s almost like stepping into their home. There’s a sense of care that’s been put in.”
Brice and Helen Marden are superstars of the modern art world. While the subject and styles of their work varies, Brice Marden’s minimalist work focusing on elegant, purposeful lines has cemented his place in the arena. Their success has allowed the couple, who have one of their homes in Tivoli, to create a hotel and restaurant that is suited to their specific tastes. They also own the Golden Rock Inn on the Caribbean island of Nevis and have a home on the island of Hydra, Greece. It’s nice to know that those with the ability to be anywhere in the world still appreciate the beauty and idyllic charm of Tivoli and the surrounds. That’s probably why, despite its sophistication, Hotel Tivoli still feels so rooted to the region.
That connectivity resonates most clearly in the food served by Chef Devon Gilroy at The Corner. With a rigorous dedication to seasonality, the restaurant serves dishes that remind us of the beauty of the region. While these self-imposed rules create challenges during the winter, the kitchen embraces them, turning out stellar dishes: Arctic char crudo with beets and cress; hand-cut pappardelle with fennel and pork sausage, garlic, chilis and cured tomatoes; Kinderhook Farm lamb rack and merguez with parsnip and blood orange.
“We face some challenges with seasonality but we’ve stuck to our high standard of quality,” Pabon says. “In the city you can go to the market and meet the farmers. Here you can be at the farm. That’s really what the Hudson Valley is about. When things come in season we get really excited.”
Also, like everything else in the Hotel, the food is a work of art, presented elegantly on unique ceramics by Tivoli Tile Works. It’s thoughtful design details like these that begin to accumulate during a visit or stay here, and contribute to that transported feeling.
Pabon says every aspect of the hotel was created with intentionality and a focus on comfort. Nowhere is that more clear than the serene rooms which, again, feel true to the history of the building while embracing bold yet unobtrusive design elements.
“The whole intent was to be open for the community. This place has always been a cornerstone,” Pabon says. “We’re really happy to be here and to share it with people.”
One subtle aspect to the Hotel — that you may not notice at first but feels truly significant once you do — is that while there are countless artworks throughout the establishment, there are no labels, no titles, no names. The art is to be experienced individually as elements of the hotel rather than specimens in a gallery. Hanging tagless, the pieces shrug off all context other than what the guest brings to them and encourage a more personal and ephemeral experience.
“We want you to just enjoy the art and have a moment. This is a place for you to contemplate,” Pabon says. “You can sit down and have a conversation and be heard. It’s about simplicity and ease, the aesthetic of a fine line.”
The trend of boutique hotels has exploded in the region over the past couple of years. People want to stay someplace that resonates with the reasons they’ve come here in the first place — but they also have come to expect a high level of comfort and unique style. Striking that balance between being familiar enough to be comfortable and original enough to be exciting is no easy feat. What’s so interesting about Hotel Tivoli is how sharply the owners have honed that edge. It’s a testament to the Mardens’ vision that they’ve been able to pull off something so original, yet approachable, with such confidence.
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Blantyre Opens The Door To Be Manor-Born For The Moment
By Lisa Green
They took the private sign down.
“We want the local community to experience Blantyre,” says Christopher Brooks, the new general manager, who served as its chef for 12 years. After a hospitality stint in Nantucket, he’s back at the exquisite Scottish-inspired country manor. Owner Ann Fitzpatrick Smith and Brooks are making the rarified atmosphere more accessible to those of us who might never have given it a thought. Now it’s more likely to be a consideration.
Built in 1902, the majestic Tudor-style estate is elegant and romantic. And they may have taken away the private sign, but there is a hushed mien of privacy inside and outside the property; it’s almost as if this exquisitely decorated and outfitted mansion — the first Relais & Chateau property in the United States — is your personal country estate. From the moment you enter — a staff person at the front door waiting to greet you — the Blantyre experience begins.
The holidays are a particularly inviting time to take that in. Lunches and dinners (set up in the dining room, as if you’re in someone’s home) are open to the public, as is a traditional Sunday brunch featuring “Gilded Age cocktails.” An afternoon tea served Monday through Saturday is as formal as a traditional tea service should be.
The main house, which was modeled after a Scottish property with towers, turrets and gargoyles, was furnished in the English style, which has been enhanced with the furniture and objects that Blantyre’s owner has collected over the years. During the holidays, the manor is sumptuously decorated (all those fireplace mantels call for garlands) and a host of Santa Claus figures populate the rooms.
You don’t need to book an overnight stay to enjoy any of these services — but you might want to, since one-night stays are now available. It’s a kind of “every wish is your command” place. You want to walk the grounds in the summer? A packet of insect repellant is handed to you. You have compliments for the chef? He’s brought out to meet you. You’d like to listen to pianist Karen Tchougourian tickling the ivories while you eat? A dinner setting is arranged in the music room. Your room is prepared with a cheese tray and champagne, the new James Taylor CD, bath salts specially ordered from elizabethW Artisanal Scents. In the winter, there’s nothing quite like soaking in the hot tub in the Potting Shed spa as you look out onto a pristine white landscape.
Christopher Brooks, general manager at Blantyre.
Blantyre is also open to holiday gatherings. Groups can arrange to have their own wine tastings, conducted by the sommeliers and wine director, with a private tour of the wine cellar, which holds more than 10,000 bottles.
“Our guests are our treasures,” says Brown. Whether you’re a tourist or a local, once you’ve entered the Blantyre universe, that becomes imminently clear.
167 Blantyre Road, Lenox, MA
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The Milliner Guesthouse And Inn: Hudson In Four Rooms
Photos by Shannon Greer.
By Jamie Larson
One of the most enjoyable things about the ongoing small business renaissance in Hudson is its vast diversity of style. Each shop, guesthouse, restaurant and cultural center is a reflection of the unique style, and often caprice, of the individuals involved.
The Hudson Milliner, one of the city’s newest guesthouses, is a perfect example. At 415 Warren Street, the building, right in the center of it all, is both a beautiful expression of the honed taste and professional eyes of artist-owners Charlotta Janssen and Shannon Greer, and the strong historic aesthetics of Hudson itself.
“People come to Hudson to create exactly what they want,” says Janssen, who owns two funky Brooklyn restaurants—Chez Oskar and Lola BKLYN. “That’s what we did. We wanted to make spaces that really work, for us and our guests.”
From 2010 to 2013, Janssen and Greer toiled over every detail of a massive renovation. As a painter, Janssen fell in love with the exposed brick and old beams they uncovered after gutting both upper floors, marveling at the surviving 19th-century hardware. Greer, a photographer who also uses the rooms as sets for shoots, fixated on the natural light that pours into the spaces, formerly apartments and offices. The downstairs, now a handsome furniture store by Chris Lehrecke, was a millinery, hence the name and those of the suites: The Top Hat, Bowler, Fedora and Cloche.
“I looked at the design like a photographer, how I would shoot there,” Greer says. “Finding the right furniture is important and I’m always thinking in terms of lighting. But we also wanted to preserve the idea of Hudson. We wanted to keep the sense of place.”
It just feels like Hudson in the Milliner. The couple made bold design choices that at times border on the whimsical, but nothing is over the top. The exposed structural elements bring the feel of the small city into the room; the Hudson-sourced antiques provide guests with a personalized experience and the industrial elements and use of white add a slightly modern feel. That all may sound busy, but it’s not. Every space has been meticulously thought out and fits together like a strange, elegant puzzle.
“We tried to imagine what we would like in a bed and breakfast,” Janssen says. “We designed it for ourselves and wanted everything to be unique. Anyone coming up to Hudson wants space and sun and to be alone with their lover or family and feel comfortable.”
They said they hate the idea of going to a hotel where every room is the same, every lamp and every mirror bought by the dozen. Janssen and Greer painstakingly selected and fought over every design element. For what you get, plus location, the rates are a steal at $250 to $300 a night. But we’ll keep that between us.
For Janssen and Greer, the journey to open the Milliner was a circuitous one that started not as a business venture but a search for a country home in the area where Greer spent some of his school-age years. “We had this whole romantic notion of living in a barn,” she says, her arms wrapped around Greer’s shoulders. “But we are too urban.”
“We fell in love with Hudson,” Greer remembers of their 2010 property search. “It’s everything we liked about the country but you still have that urban feel. There’s music, art and amazing farm-to-table food.”
If, while staying at the Milliner, you feel like cooking in to take advantage of the beautifully retro kitchens, or hosting some friends for dinner, The Farm Box will deliver a fully stocked supply of locally grown goods ready for cooking right to your suite. Call it farm-to-table room service.
Janssen and Greer now live about half the week in NYC and the other half in their place off the back of the Milliner. With renovations complete, the two are now settling in. Janssen will be showing her paintings in October at the R Wells Gallery at 725 Warren; Greer is trying to shoot more and more of his work in Hudson. The couple has made a home for themselves at the Milliner and they’d be happy to have you as their guest.
“It is too big to be just our place but we fell in love with it,” says Janssen. “Now everyone can love it, too.”
The Hudson Milliner Guesthouse and Inn
415 Warren Street, Hudson, NY
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A Vintage Modern Bed and Breakfast in Williamstown
By Amy Krzanik
When a top-notch innkeeper rhapsodizes about a bed-and-breakfast other than his own, you pay attention. Ira Goldspiel, a design aficionado who runs the Inn at Kent Falls, stayed at The Guest House at Field Farm in Williamstown and he raved about experiencing authentic 1940s modernist architecture and decor in a bucolic Berkshires setting. Owned by the Trustees of Reservations, the oldest land trust in the United States, the inn was originally designed and built right after World War II as a house for Lawrence Bloedel, the onetime Williams College librarian, and his wife, Eleanor Palmedo Bloedel, who would become important art collectors and bequeath their collection to the Williams College and Whitney museums. (The Whitney received more than sixty works, including important canvases by Milton Avery, William Baziotes, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Fairfield Porter.)
“They had talked with Frank Lloyd Wright about drawing up plans for the house, but as they disagreed on several points, they went back to [a favored architect], Edwin Goodell, with whom they had worked previously,” says innkeeper Ole Retlev. The International Style house (which looks like something you might find in a Sao Paulo suburb) was turned into a bed and breakfast twenty years ago, and Retlev is vigilant about maintaining its integrity. “When we redid the kitchen floor, we used real linoleum,” he says, pointing out an Eames chair and Vladimir Kagan sofa that are original to the house as well as the bookshelves that Mr. Bloedel built himself. “All the colors of the walls are original.”
The Guest House at Field Farm attracts people who are looking for something other than a traditional bed and breakfast and has an established summer clientele drawn to the Berkshires by Tanglewood, Jacob’s Pillow, Williamstown Theatre Festival, and MASS MoCA.
The six -room Field Farm is also home to an award-winning architectural “Folly” (below) designed in 1966 by Ulrich Franzen, a shingled pastiche that references Victorian architecture, silos, and propellers. It is open by appointment only from June through October. The Guest House itself will be open only through the end of November, but the rest of the 316-acre property, which is a mini sculpture park (with pieces lent back to the property by Williams) is open free all year long for hikes, picnics, and cross country skiing. As the inn has no gift shop, Retlev sends guests for a short walk up the road. “I send everyone who comes here to visit Cricket Creek Farm before they leave,” says Retlev. “So everyone stocks up on the most wonderful cheese, bread, and other goods before driving home.”
The Guest House at Field Farm
554 Sloan Road
Now - October 31: Open seven days a week
November 1 - 30: Fridays - Monday
Closed after that until April 2014
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The Barlow: A Hotel For Hudson (Finally!)
By Jamie Larson
The small city of Hudson leaves visitors wanting for little. Warren Street’s center is lined with world-class art and antique galleries, restaurants that rival Manhattan’s (or at this point, Brooklyn’s) best, bars, spas, niche boutiques, and eclectic theaters a block or two away. All that plus a richness of historic architecture and sweeping waterfront view of the Hudson River, with the Catskills beyond, makes the city almost a hallucination of urbanity plopped in the middle of the countryside. The complete package—almost.
As the city has grown into the vibrant metropolitan destination it is today, one big problem remained. There just weren’t enough places to stay. All there was when it came to itinerant bedding was a number of elegant bed and breakfasts, which filled up incredibly quickly, and an old motel and hotel whose best days were so far behind them that they are often not spoken of in polite conversation. Many years into Hudson’s resurgence, and there still wasn’t a hotel that catered to its needs and sensibility.
Until now. The Barlow Hotel, which opened this past June, has come to the rescue, and it’s about time. Situated right in the heart of Hudson’s business district at 542 Warren Street, the 16-room Barlow offers visitors all the creature comforts, style, and privacy expected of a modern boutique hotel, while incorporating the character and feel of this unique river city.
Owners Russell Gibson and Duncan Calhoun bought a home in Hudson back in 1992 after Calhoun stumbled onto it when he got lost trying to find a yard sale, and five years ago they opened their own B & B next door, the Croff House. They obviously cottoned to the hospitality trade; their experience in it and and love of the town combined to create a hotel that fits so snugly into the local tableau that one might think it has always been there.
“The B & B was really the catalyst for us to do the hotel,” Gibson says from behind his desk in the high-ceilinged lobby, a fireplace to his right, and a huge yet understated painting of the Hudson River by local artist Tony Thompson behind him. “We knew people wanted a hotel but needed the right building and location. And here we are.”
Calhoun and Gibson have taken efforts to retain the historic details of the repurposed Barlow-Osborn Building, built in 1927, including its elegant staircase with Art Deco lines. The rooms are well decorated with queen- or king-sized beds, flat-screen televisions with Direct TV service, gas fireplaces in every room, coffeemakers, refrigerators, safes, and chic bathrooms with some of the highest-end showerheads you’re likely to find in a fifty-mile radius. “What we’ve tried to do is combine the architecture and the charm of the city with the technology today’s traveler demands and the comforts they don’t get at home.” Gibson says. “Though we’re contemporary, you don’t forget you’re in Hudson.”
As comfortable as the hotel is, Gibson and Calhoun hope guests will see it as an extension of the town itself. “We’re a European-style boutique hotel,” Gibson elaborates. “We want you to experience the entire hotel and we also want you to go outside the hotel and experience Hudson.” To that end, The Barlow has partnered with dozens of local businesses to create the “Privilege Partner” program for its guests. When a guest shows their electronic room key at any of the participating shops, restaurants or spas, all within walking distance, they receive a discount.
“Duncan and I went up and down Warren Street talking with merchants and city government,” Gibson says. “The business community was very pleased we opened the hotel and the city has been very supportive along the way.”
And there’s still more to come. Some renovations are still underway, including a future gym and conference room. “We’ve noticed that the demographic of the Hudson visitor has changed as Hudson begins to be more publicized,” Gibson says. “There’s more expectation that service be of a higher quality.”
“Our weekend home morphed into our full-time home and into a new life,” says Calhoun. “We’ve watched that same pattern happen to more and more people.” Gibson and Calhoun both say they wouldn’t be surprised if some hotel guest that very night ends up being their neighbor in the near future.
The Barlow: A Hudson Hotel
542 Warren Street
Hudson, NY 12534
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The Better B&B: Stonover Farm in Lenox
Photographs by Kevin Sprague
By Shawn Hartley Hancock
“Our guests, basically, enter through the kitchen,” says Tom Werman, owner and proprietor of Stonover Farm, the luxury B&B a mere two miles from Tanglewood that he runs with his wife, Suky. “We like it that way,” he says. He’s hinting, of course, at the famous omelets he makes for guests on the inn’s impressive Aga cooker, as well as to the relaxed environment the couple works hard to provide. The farm provides its guests with “nature” in just the right amounts — broad fields for hiking, lovely mountain views, and even a waterfall that flows into a picturesque duck pond full of placid swimmers.
But back to those breakfasts. Every guest is served their choice, and Tom doesn’t take offense if it’s not one of his omelets — he’s not sharing his secret to their special goodness, anyway, although we suspect the Aga plays a role.
The Wermans aren’t the type to rest on their laurels, either (they rarely rest at all!), and this spring, after 11 summers, they recognized their rooms could use a new look. “It was time for new fabrics on the beds and throughout the rooms,” Suky says. In May, each of the farm’s suites received a fabric makeover with the help of Annie Selke of the Berkshires-based Pine Cone Hill, makers of colorful home-decorating fabrics and other home-décor products, who teamed with the Wermans to use her signature fabrics in all their guest suites.
Fabric is on the radar at Stonover — even an art exhibit (opening July 19, with a gala fundraiser for IS183) in the Stonover barn has a textile theme. (The show features 11 artists working in textiles, fiber and wearable art, including Melissa Lillie, a designer at Pine Cone Hill, whose abstract paintings have inspired Selke to replicate Lillie’s designs on gossamer fabric scarves.) Suky, who is on the IS183 board of directors, has curated the show, which will run through Labor Day weekend.
In 2002, when the Wermans left Los Angeles to open a luxury inn in the Berkshires, you might say they turned the page on a new chapter of their lives, but it’s more accurate to say they started a whole new book. Tom had been a successful music executive, producing 60 albums over the years for “hair” bands and heavy metal stars like Motley Crue, Boston, and Twisted Sister. After the music industry transformed dramatically, Tom knew big changes were ahead. “We had an active social life in L.A., and hosted lots of parties,” he says, “so this life, as innkeepers, doesn’t seem all that different from what we’d been doing for 24 years.”
“We wanted to come back east, too,” Tom says. “I’m from Massachusetts originally, and Suky is from Westchester. We were looking for a property where we could run a high-end B&B — the kind of place where every convenience is provided and every need is accommodated.” Tom checked out seven different towns but couldn’t find what the couple envisioned. “I was getting depressed, then I saw the barn here at Stonover and the for-sale sign.” That was in 2001.
The mansion at Stonover, once the Gilded Age gentleman farm of the Parsons, an old Lenox family, is a half-timber Victorian structure built in the 1890’s. By the time the Wermans arrived, the great house, outbuildings, and enormous barn all needed substantial repairs, and the surrounding ten acres were generally neglected, devoid even of flower beds.
From the start, the Wermans were as committed to preserving what was beautiful and special about Stonover as they were to making their new life, and the inn, a success. They ran into the usual roadblocks during the permitting and renovation process, resulting in minor skirmishes with planning and zoning officials — the sort that can only resolve with trust and time. Tom recalls with humor the anachronistic “uses” for the farm that came with its title. “They allowed us one barber seat, the ability to sell preserves, and to take in clothing for alterations.”
The couple accomplished their renovation in record time — a mere eight months — opening four elegant, pet-friendly suites in the main house (each has a bedroom, living room, and elegant white marble and tile bathroom), and three more in the cottage and schoolhouse in 2002. Every suite has top-flight feather pillows, comfortable guest robes, and 14-inch-thick mattresses. “If we had a motto,” Tom says, “it would be: Why sacrifice convenience for charm?”
The soft tones and rich textures of the library, living room, and other public spaces of the mansion are a far cry from the garish colors that greeted the couple in 2001. “All the wood trim had been painted wine red,” Tom says. “It was heavy and depressing.” The couple lightened and brightened every space, even acid-washing the walls in the winter dining room to remove layers of old paint and wallpaper. The farm’s former creamery now serves as the summer dining room when weather doesn’t cooperate for breakfast on the patio. The thick brick walls that once kept milk cold have been given new life with cream-colored paint and a wall of French doors that face the duck pond.
There’s plenty of convenience at Stonover, too, the other leg of Tom’s motto, in the form of enormous flat-screen TVs, iPod docking stations, CD players, 250 movies, free landline phones, remote-control A/C with quiet condensers (located outside), and Wi-Fi all over the property. Finally, after a decade as committed innkeepers, Tom and Suky have dashed the notion that they’re lightweights who wouldn’t stick it out, or that they might turn Stonover, a 150-year-old icon of the Berkshires, into a Motel 6 with insensitive renovations, or ruin the peaceful neighborhood with wild rock-star parties.
The charming schoolhouse on the property pre-dates the farm (it was built in 1850), and still sports the school bell in its cupola. Heated floors, a luxurious marble bath, soaring ceilings, stellar views of the duck pond and exceptional privacy make this suite the most luxurious of all guest spaces at Stonover, and a special favorite of bridal couples. Meanwhile, the ice house found a new purpose, becoming part of the Werman’s own living quarters. “We have a 40-foot commute to work,” Tom chuckles, pointing to the entry of the inn, an addition designed by Pam Sandler of Stockbridge to bridge the ice house with the mansion. Even the chicken coop is now a 2-bedroom cottage with a fireplace, its own kitchen, and central air, making it perfect for families.
Given Tom’s longevity in the record industry, it’s not surprising that Linda Ronstadt was the first guest at the newly renovated Stonover Farm a dozen years ago. In fact, the Werman’s have hosted a higher-than-normal quotient of celebrities, thanks in part to Tom’s connections as well as the inn’s proximity to Tanglewood.
However, high-end innkeepers like Suky and Tom walk a fine line in promoting their property appropriately. While innkeepers want a steady stream of guests, travelers want to feel like they’ve “discovered” a place and can make it their own. Knowing this, Tom and Suky struggled through the early years, avoiding advertising and exploitive promotional tactics. “Then something happened,” Tom recalls. A rave review of Stonover appeared in Andrew Harper’s Hideaway, and later the inn won the publication’s Hideaway of the Year award. “Now,” Tom says, “our business is robust.”
While the enormous barn on the property no longer stores hay or shelters cows and horses, it does anchor the property as the quintessential party barn, and easily accommodates 200 for dinner. Tom and Suky hold a limited number of events here every year via special permit from the town of Lenox — most of them weddings. Fortunately, Tom says, “We’ve reached a point where the town is proud of us and thinks we’re doing a great job. We even hosted the high school prom.”
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Bascom: A Venerable and Democratic Lodge Celebrates A Diamond Jubilee
By Shawn Hartley Hancock
Visiting a stone lodge at the top of a mountain appeals to everyone, even the not-very-outdoorsy. The delicious smoke and crackle of a campfire, the bracing fresh air, or maybe just the absence of a TV and a break from the quotidian all seem to conjure happy memories and simpler times. Bascom Lodge, a quintessential mountain retreat, was designed by Pittsfield architect Joseph McArthur Vance in the rugged Craftsman-style, and built from red spruce and schist stone harvested from the mountain. It opened in 1937, one of many such lodges built by the Civilian Conservation Corp in state parks across the country during the 1930s, and is now celebrating its 75th anniversary with special activities all summer.
An army of young men ages 18 to 24 populated the CCC—- 100,000 in Massachusetts alone—improving the nation’s forests, parks, and recreational resources, building bridges and roads – basically setting a standard for park development—as one of President Roosevelt’s social programs designed to keep people working (and alive) during the Great Depression. The Corp also improved access to the summit with road improvements, and built hiking trails and lean-to shelters throughout the park.
The main lodge is one large room, with a fireplace at one end, check-in at the other, and an enclosed porch at the back, facing the breathtaking south view. The lodge’s wings, angled like welcoming arms, house the kitchen and dining room on the left, and public facilities and guest rooms on the right. Remaining guest rooms are on the second floor, above the main lodge room. It is well-used by the visiting public, including the many tired, wet, and hungry thru-hikers traveling the Appalachian Trail, which passes a few feet from the front door. Others come just for the view, or to pay their respects at the Veterans War Memorial Tower a few hundred feet away.
Various groups ran the lodge over the years, but none took much responsibility for maintaining the actual building, and weather and hard use took its toll. Fortunately, Bascom Lodge got an extensive facelift beginning in 2009 when two multi-talented brothers from North Adams by way of New York City, took it over through an ingenious program run by the state. The Dudek brothers, Peter and John, and their third partner, Brad Parsons, have updated and upgraded its spaces, increased functionality, especially in the kitchen, and decorated it all in keeping with its Craftsman roots.
“The lodge had been boarded up for two years before we got the lease,” says Peter. “We had a ten-year plan to break even, but we’ve almost gotten there in half the time.” The brothers are calm, even sanguine, when they talk about their venture, probably because they’ve experienced everything by now and survived to tell the tale — burst pipes, road-closing snow storms, whacko guests — you name it. They’re in the hospitality industry with a capital H, in an extreme environment, and they know it.
While Mount Greylock State Park is open year-round, the lodge operates seasonally from June 1 to October (the actual closing date is driven by the weather). Peter, who runs the lodge’s programs and oversees its ongoing renovation projects, is a sculptor who teaches at the School of Visual Arts in New York City and the former director of the Storefront Artists Project in Pittsfield. He’s put together a series of programs and lectures (every Wednesday evening at 6 p.m.) that are free and open to the public.
He’s also designed a special 75th-anniversary weekend on July 13 and 14, with a full schedule of family-oriented programs, beginning with a Native American tepee raising and drumming to bless the mountain (noon to 4 p.m.); a fly-casting workshop (3 to 5 p.m., and repeated on Sunday); a children’s program highlighting bugs, bones, and birds; and an evening Jazz festival. The history of the lodge itself will be featured in the program on Wednesday, July 10, with author Lauren Stevens, and the legacy of the Civilian Conservation Corp will be explored on July 24. (See the full schedule of anniversary events and regular Wednesday programs at the lodge’s website.)
John Dudek, Peter’s brother and a private chef in New York City, has transformed the kitchen at the lodge, making the dining experience worthy of the view. Food is now one of the main draws, which means three meals a day, seven days a week through the season. At the same time, partner Parsons is responsible for the native alpine garden out front, as well as decorating the lodge, a process now complete except for two public bathrooms. The building can accommodate 34 overnight guests in four private rooms (simple but charming), four family rooms (with a queen bed for mom and dad, and bunk beds for the kids), and two large bunk rooms, each of which sleeps up to ten people. The rooms are simple and relatively small — more Laurence Rockefeller than Holiday Inn — but possess a rustic elegance typical of the Craftsman style. There’s Stickley furniture in every room and William Morris wallpaper above white-painted paneling. Simple white subway tile and 1930s-style marble patterned floors in the generously sized bathrooms sweep you back in time.
“It’s funny how much difference the right furniture makes,” Peter says, as he gazes around the main lodge room. “Not only does the lodge look better, but it changes people’s behavior. When we first took over the lodge, there would be thru-hikers sitting on the floor eating a three-day-old hamburger. Now, no one would think of doing that.”
The lodge continues to welcome thru-hikers, of course, along with wedding parties, Boy Scout troops, veterans groups, a steady stream of international travelers, and over the course of a season, thousands of day trippers looking to hike a bit and enjoy the view from 3,491 feet; a 360-degree visual feast of the neighboring Taconic, Hoosac, and Green Mountains, Berkshire Hills, and further out to the Catskills, Adirondacks, and White Mountains. Look down in any direction and you can easily identify local hamlets and landmarks, such as lakes Onota and Pontoosuc in Pittsfield. Granite “maps” located around the summit (there’s one just outside the west wing) help identify less-obvious landmarks. A stroll around the summit takes you past stones inscribed with passages from Hawthorne and Thoreau, too, whose words seem to have been written specifically about Mount Greylock. Indeed, the park is a natural wonder and the heart of the northern Berkshires, offering 70 miles of open field and forest hiking trails, 11-and-a half miles of Appalachian Trail, remnants of old farms, shelters and lean-tos, primitive camping, and other potential adventures.
In extreme environments, everything beautiful can easily become a hazard, making the everyday tasks associated with running a mountain lodge more complicated. John recalled the days last year following Hurricane Irene. Wind scarcely damaged a twig on the mountain, but torrential rain proved a problem. The park’s charming waterfalls gushed out onto the access road for days on end, making the drive up and down the mountain scary and treacherous. And as late as Memorial Day this year, there was still snow at the summit, which kept the roads closed until a just a few days of the official opening, robbing the brothers of the time they needed to get the lodge and restaurant open and ready for business.
The reward for being at nature’s mercy, however, is the opportunity to commune with nature in such a unique and glorious setting. John Bascom, one of the park’s earliest commissioners and the namesake of the lodge, expressed appreciation for the mountain best in his 1906 dedication of the park: “Greylock, our daily pleasure, our constant symbol, our ever-renewed inspiration, for all who have fellowship with Nature.”