If you’re a lover of finely detailed and rather dramatic nineteenth century landscape art, like myself, then you might have, at one time or another appreciated the works of the Hudson River School art movement. Their aesthetic vision was influenced by Romanticism but also focused on three themes of the America in the nineteenth century: discovery, exploration, and settlement.
Filled with power and energy, works like A View of the Two Lakes and Mountain House, Catskill Mountains, Morning, 1844 (pictured below), by Thomas Cole (1801-1848), typically depicted the Hudson River Valley and the surrounding area, including the Catskill, Adirondack, and White Mountains. Cole is generally acknowledged as the founder of the Hudson River School as he hiked west high into the eastern Catskill Mountains of New York to paint the first landscapes of the area. These were displayed in William Colman’s New York City bookstore window, before the artist was discovered.
Members the New York arts community were drawn to the paintings, noticing his skill in brushwork and emotive, powerful themes. According to the New York Post, two paintings were purchase by a Mr A. Seton who loaned the works to the American Academy of Fine Arts exhibition in 1826. This put the young artist’s works at front and centre within New York’s social elite; setting a solid foundation for his career. His works would influenced his peers and later a new group of painters, including several female. Susie M. Barstow (1836-1923), an avid mountain climber, painted the mountain scenery of the Catskills and the White Mountains. In recent times her works were included in the 2010 survey exhibition Remember the Ladies: Women of the Hudson River School at the Thomas Cole National Historic Site in Catskill, New York.
As well as exploring the art and the historic towns, today the Catskills region is a hugely popular hiking and recreation area. To explore the mountain peaks, deep forests and villages nestled among the rolling hills has become one of North America’s most enchanting pass times; and in more remote parts, can today still offer a very wild wilderness experience. Imagine therefore our excitement upon learning of the recent opening of Farmhouse Catskills, a 75 room, 3-suite meticulously renovated home, repurposed as a hotel, deep in the Catskill Mountains. Inviting explorative guests to slip into a sylvan haven set among the woods of Callicoon Center, New York. Farmhouse Catskills is worthy restoration project born of a generous mission statement: ‘to bring the glory of the Catskills to a new generation’.
Embodying the values of a traditional country inn, Farmhouse Catskills has been designed to serve as a hub for socialising and as a gathering spot for the community. Spaces include a paddock-to-plate inspired restaurant, a richly textured black-limestone bar complete with 12 plush velvet stools; and an inviting terrace and garden with fire pits that gaze upon richly textured forest views.
The design concept is inspired by tones of the encircling countryside and the the original structure has been respectfully restored with sympathetic renovations having taken place. A soft colour palette of grays and greens frame interiors; filled with predominantly with natural materials: wood casework, white oak floorboard, oil-rubbed bronze light fixtures, as well as textured rugs and a mix of warmly coloured velvet sofas and arm chairs. An eclectic collection of modernist furniture recalls the 1950s golden era of the Catskills; a time when the region became an intrinsic part of mid-century Americana thanks to its popularity as a vacation resort.
Ranging from 65 to 165 square feet, the hotel’s 75 guest rooms and suites mirror the open flow and forms found in the public spaces. Bookended by oak floors and reclaimed timber accents, the rooms showcase more mid-century furniture items alongside artisan custom-made pieces. King beds, luxurious bathrooms and signature lighting is a feature, presenting a comforting warmth and refreshing contemporary charm.
Located at the heart of the property, The Farmhouse Café & Bistro describes itself as a celebration of Upstate New York’s impressive natural bounty. We couldn’t help but notice however chef Jodi Cummings’ (former owner of Caffè Macchiato, Newburgh, NY) keen inclusion of premium Spanish ingredients that broaden the menu. Their use is include in starters like: Charcuterie Espana – serrano jamón, xistora, manchego cheese, quince, olives; pan con tomate – Spanish-style grilled bread with tomato; and patatas bravas – Spanish-style fried potato with pimento sauce – each quality offerings designed to share with friends. Other starters include: a chicken liver pate with housemate blackberry jam; burrata and roasted grape salad with basil, balsamic and honey; plus an iceberg wedge salad with crumbled blue cheese, pancetta and buttermilk dressing – a simple summer classic that we feel is highly underrated and seriously moorish.
In terms of larger plates that make use of seasonal local ingredients it’s hard to pass on the Beaverkill (local hatchery) trout en papillote with lemon, olive oil, poached leeks and carrot; and there’s a 225g grilled hanger steak with béarnaise sauce, creamed spinach and shoestring fries – a new world American standard that sings the praises of New York State’s robust cattle industry. Making fine pairing, the drinks list features wine from neighbouring vineyards, beer sourced from local microbreweries plus traditional farmhouse ciders.
Breakfast offerings include a changing daily, fresh omelet with venison sausage; toasted cinnamon waffles; granola with fruit and yoghurt and the in-house hero: Catskill salmon plate, comprising a smoked salmon toasted sesame bagel with dill-chive cream cheese, pickled red onions, capers, two eggs and fresh greens. Such a meal can be enjoyed on thee expansive ipe wood-decked terrace – just the spot for soaking up the morning sun during the warmer months. Upon dusk the hotel’s bar offers an altogether more intimate atmosphere with its decadent black-limestone counter and generously creative cocktail list elevating the moods of visiting guests.
Farmhouse Catskills’ restoration of the heritage-marked home respects building’s history, yet designer contemporary touches present it with a fresh visual identity and strong emotional presence. Many of the spaces take advantage of the open-plan concept, incorporating oversized windows that flood the guest areas with natural sunlight, also showcasing the hotel’s spectacular natural surroundings. The use of organic, natural materials such as ipe wood and reclaimed shiplap creates a link between indoors and out. And the inclusion of a range of glass, tile, and polished concrete textures adds a contemporary edge.
Neighbouring the farmhouse, the estate’s architectural pinnacle – a hand-hewn British hay-press barn dating back to 1869. Originally built in Indiana, the barn was transported to Sullivan County and painstakingly reconstructed piece-by-piece to create the hotel’s social space for events, exhibitions, collaborations, and retreats.
Set amid rolling hills, mountains, forests, rivers, and lakes, Farmhouse Catskills is a gateway to a natural wonderland with hiking, kayaking, golf, horse-riding, fishing, biking, running, and skiing, all on the doorstep. Considered the heart of the Catskills, the surrounding villages including Jeffersonville, Youngsville, Livingston Manor, Bethel Woods, and Roscoe, are characterised by antique stores, microbreweries, gin and whiskey distilleries, art galleries, and eclectic boutiques. The nearby Callicoon Theatre – the oldest continuous operating theatre in Sullivan County – offers a varied film program and hosts the Catskills International Film Festival. Closer to home, the hotel has a private bass-stocked fishing pond, swimming pool and a concept store showcasing the wares of local designers and producers.