Peace among the brickyards: a utopia of upstate New York
“I’m really sorry we’re a little late,” said Suzie, a receptionist, running to apologize. We stood on a pristine lawn outside Edgewood Terrace, a historic mansion in Kingston, New York, which now serves as the reception for his new hotel. Our car was gone, taken by a valet, and we were waiting for a golf cart to take us through the hotel grounds to our accommodation. We were drinking tiny cans of sparkling rose. I assured him that we were very happy.
“Are you sure? You don’t need anything? Want another cocktail? I can get you another cocktail. She looked at our bags as if considering slipping in another can.
It was the third weekend in May and the second open weekend for Hutton Brickyards, an upstate utopia two hours north of New York by train or car and just over 10 miles away. south of Woodstock (yes, that Woodstock), where the Hudson Valley meets the Catskills. They were pushing each other a bit, understaffed like most hotels are these days (Covid-19 unemployment benefits have reduced hiring for service jobs statewide).
But Oscar soon arrived, filled his cart with our things, and led us down a winding, wooded path, describing the history and pointing to unfinished corners for future activities: beekeeping, apiary, archery, a hall. outdoor sport. We turned a corner. My friend Lily and I let out a unanimous “wow” and Oscar smiled. They had designed for this answer
In front of us stood “the ruins” in all their majesty: a decaying brick wall detached from the ghost of a past building, its wrought iron gate and windows opening onto a sprawling lawn, tall old trees and the sea. Hudson River, glistening in the sun. It stoked our nostalgia for America’s industrial past, our urban thirst for unspoiled nature, and, after a long drive, our need to take a nap.
It was once the largest brick-making industrial region in the world, and the Hutton Company Brick Works one of its most successful producers. Hutton bricks are fired in some of New York’s most iconic landmarks, from Yankee Stadium to the Empire State Building to who knows, maybe my brownstone apartment in Brooklyn. The company was actively producing bricks from 1865 to 1980.
Real estate developer Karl Slovin bought the 73-acre property eight years ago, initially using it as an event space for weddings and concerts. Just before the pandemic, he partnered with Salt Hotels, the young, hip hotel group founded by David Bowd and Kevin O’Shea, respectively former COO of André Balazs Properties and former head of corporate design at Morgans Hotel Group. Together, they planned a hotel that was eerily aligned with post-pandemic hospitality: 31 socially distant 300-square-foot independent cabins dotted along the waterfront, an open-air restaurant, lodges, walking trails and more. cycling and spa.
Oscar parked outside our tiny cabin, next to a row of other identical, paneled, Shaker-inspired prefab huts. Inside was a crisp, compact luxury hotel room with a king-size bed and a trendy subway tiled bathroom. The back wall was all glass, leading to a private porch overlooking the Hudson.
For the late city-dweller hipster, six immaculately organized records sat next to a brand new retro record player (Neil Young, Devendra Banhart and the sine qua non Fleetwood Mac’s Rumors). There was, deliberately, no television. Oscar unloaded, showed us a woven flag that said “thirsty” and helped us secure it outside our door for a visit from the free drinks cart at 5pm.
We unpacked, took naps, read on the porch. Lily did yoga, I wrote in my journal. We looked at each other, sitting in our urban, confused anxiety. Now what?
The thirsty cart arrived. A friendly bartender gave us two more cans, this time margaritas. We poured them over ice and went outside to explore the property.
The industrial remains of Hutton litter the property, spooky, awe-inspiring and nostalgic. The paths are made of bricks bearing the inscription “Hutton”. Walk to the riverside and piles of leftover bricks fill the hollow between the grass and the water – thousands seemingly lie below the surface.
We walked past the restaurant and through the empty open-air event pavilion, past a couple planning their wedding in 2022. We passed the abandoned brickyard itself, three huge dilapidated kiln sheds surrounded by danger signs and a giant, picturesque, rusty crane that once loaded barges with the bricks that built New York City. We sat in two chairs at the edge of the property, looking out over the river. A train crawled along the opposite coast, roaring, the motor whirring like a toy. A sailboat passed and its occupants waved. A van on a nearby public beach came out of the water, pulling a jet ski onto the mainland.
Completely aimlessly, we wandered through the restaurant, the heart of the property: a massive, cavernous outdoor space with a multitude of radiators, a spacious living room, and chic partitions filled with piles of Hutton bricks. The menu was small and deeply local, designed by chef Dan Silverman of renowned New York City Balthazar and Minetta Tavern. It was mostly cooked outdoors, in wood-fired ovens and on grills.
We drank Austrian Grüner Veltliner and shared crunchy green beans with cinnamon yogurt dressing, grilled shishito peppers with lime zest, perfectly cooked rainbow trout on a cedar plank and a big pile of juicy wood-roasted chicken from the nearby Snowdance farm. Dessert, a cheese board with fresh sourdough and local honey and something bright red poached rhubarb strawberry, was devoured at sunset.
We were put to bed by 10, bathrobes, in a cloud of pillows. By the time I woke up (with a parfait, a muffin, and a coffee canteen at the front door) calm had overtaken me. I was . . . relaxed. It was a summer camp without social pressure, I realized. It was a retreat without a yoga program. It was a detox, but with cocktails and fries. Salt Hotels had created the life that city dwellers had idealized during the pandemic. Over the past year, thousands of New Yorkers had moved to this region to demote, work remotely, and escape; for those of us who stayed, it was a taste of the fantasy.
As I walked back to the cabin after a massage, the air was filled with down from the local aspen, a seasonal quirk that floated to the ground like a flurry of snow, accumulating on the grass and on the restaurant floor. , crawling into our cabins and sticking to our clothes.
I met the marketing and programming manager Dina Kazan at the restaurant. She was fanning her face to avoid lint, laughing that you can’t control everything, especially nature, and they’ve certainly learned a lot about the property over the past few weeks. She apologized, but I loved it. This gave the camp a magical and ethereal quality, like Shakespeare’s fairyland.
Kazan moved last year. “With the pandemic, I kinda unplugged, and I thought you know what? I was moving so fast in the city. You don’t even know if you’re happy or not because you’re going 24/7, ”she told me. “I was stepping over really nasty stuff to get on the subway. Nothing recorded.
Like most of the staff she now lives in Kingston and loves it. She now plans to have local specialists come to the hotel, for yoga and pilates classes, kayaking trips and bird shows, in an effort to integrate into the city. “When all the restrictions are lifted and we’re allowed to be at full capacity, I want to see us have a wedding there, have a full house here in the lodge, have full staff, music everywhere, food everywhere, ”she said. . “This is the dream.”
That afternoon we explored Kingston, a city that clearly had two sides. Much of it looked like an upstate town abandoned by the loss of industry, while two neighborhoods, Rondout and Stockade, were decidedly chic, gentrified by New Yorkers fleeing the city over the past decade. . Vintage clothing and antiques were marked at Manhattan prices, sometimes higher. Some of the new shops and bars lacked soul, which could be found in cracks and corners: a mystical wellness shop, a modest bakery. We dined at Canard Enchaine, a local French institution in its 22nd year. Sitting on the sidewalk, around snails, mussels and roast duck, conversation flowed naturally between the tables, three staff and the owner, JJ. We weren’t trying hard to mingle. It’s just that nice a city. I rarely come home from vacation remembering so many names.
That night Lily and I walked across the lawn outside our cabin with a small electric lantern that had been left like this for a while. Wood and cardboard had been installed in the foyer, staged to be lit in a moment like this. We sat in Adirondack chairs with our feet on the brick ledge, listening to the guests at the nearby foyer.
“Could you live here? ” I asked. “How would you feel if you ended your lease and bought a house on the Hudson and that was your life?” It was attractive, to be sure. But it was a question that seemed to me to have been conceived by Hutton: how is it for an imaginary future?
I decided that this much more permanent calm would probably end for me in a series of panic attacks. But a few weekends a year at a luxury cabin playing lawn games in the upstate, chatting with Suzie, Dina, Otto and JJ? Maybe this is a down payment that I could receive.
Lilah Raptopoulos was the guest of Hutton Brickworks; cabins for two people start at $ 302 per night
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