Rivertown Lodge, Hudson
Two hours from NYC, a beautifully designed 27-room hotel awaits upstate
Opened last October in Hudson, New York, Rivertown Lodge doesn't look like much when you pull up (or walk the 20 minutes from the Amtrak train station). Formerly a 1920s movie theater later converted into a motel in 1958, the new 27-room hotel on Warren Street—a few doors down from Grazin'—preserves a discreet exterior that matches the block. And inside is a relaxed grandeur that instantaneously embraces those who walk in. Rivertown is Kim Bucci and Ray Pirkle's first hotel, and their fresh design perspective and reverence for authenticity pervades the two floors.
Hudson has attracted its fair share of artists, artisans, architects, farmers, antique hunters and more, but the temporary lodgings largely fall to Airbnb or bed and breakfasts. "B&Bs, I'm not really attracted to them; I think they're too intimate. But I still like a social dynamic, so Airbnb doesn't really do it for me," Pirkle tells CH during an in-person visit last weekend. "That was our thinking behind the whole thing: homey but not intrusive."
The two partners worked with Brooklyn-based Workstead, and Rivertown also marks the design studio's first head-to-toe hotel project (though they've done The Wythe's rooftop bar and lobby). "We saw the same thing: we wanted craftsmanship and to use as many local makers as possible. It was very important to us that everything be very well-made. No laminates, no plastics, etc," says Pirkle. Hudson-based Sawkille Co stools and reupholstered vintage chairs (found on eBay) mix with luxurious, painstakingly handmade M. Crow and Company pieces as well as custom furniture from Workstead.
Pirkle was a hotel consultant in New York for about 15 years, working with hoteliers like Ian Schrager, Serge Becker, Jonathan Morr, and knew what he wanted to create. "I'm not interested in hotels that are nightclubs, it's just not my thing," he says. "I think a hotel should be a retreat, and it should be about the people who stay there, and creating a really wide berth for them to have as much fun as they can have. The idea of a nightclub with a bunch of rooms on it just doesn't appeal to me."
"Our goal isn't to be a Surf Lodge, or anything like that. Our goal is to be an oasis, a place where you get away, there's no stress, you don't worry about anything—if you need anything, we take care of you. It's a very simple thought, but it's very rare. And it surprises us that it's rare; but it is. I've worked for a lot of people, where the people who stay in the hotel are kind of the last consideration. [For them] it's more about the show and glamour of it, and for us, it's about the people staying with us and providing an experience. We hope."
Having only been in operation for five months (this will be their first summer dealing with the NYC-based weekender crowds), Rivertown Lodge is still being developed, as Pirkle says, pointing to the empty blank wall behind the long front desk. They're planning a "big art piece" for that spot, one that would potentially change yearly. Illustrations by Gordon Harrison Hull and photographs by former Hole band member Melissa Auf der Maur (who owns the performance space Basilica Hudson, located right next to the train station) fit the overall muted, minimalist furnishings of the rooms.
In the standard-sized rooms, guests will find no closets or bureaus (there's a rod to hang jackets). All one needs in life is a bed, a comfy armchair, a Bluetooth Marshall speaker, and a shelf to place keys and wallet. The visual message is: leave all your stuff behind at home and lose yourself here. Some of the rooms on the second floor (including ours) run along a screened-in patio in lieu of a carpeted hallway. We loved leaving the front window and door open to let fresh, dewy Hudson air and sunlight in—though at night, cigarette smoke drifted in from the parking lot. The hardwood floors uniquely continue into the bathroom; no tile here, except in the shower. The bulk-sized amenities are made by musically inspired botanical perfumery 2 Note (whose store is a 15-minute walk from the hotel). Also worth pointing out are the fabric fire exit signs, screen-printed by a friend, and the extremely spotty Wi-Fi.
Outside of the rooms, there's a beautiful mid-century style communal kitchen (serving piping hot Tandem coffee from Maine in handmade ceramic mugs) and in the adjacent room, a quiet bar that serves natural wines, locally brewed craft beer and a limited menu of small plates from Jean Adamson of Brooklyn restaurant Vinegar Hill House. (Pickled vegetables, artichoke pie and a roasted half chicken with fennel and radicchio make a filling dinner.) And true to Pirkle and Bucci's vision, it's the antithesis to those uncomfortable, too-shiny hotel bars where one has to shout to be heard; it's intimate and filled with a lot of Rivertown friends and family. Wake up early the next morning, grab breakfast at the must-stop Bonfiglio & Bread (we ended up purchasing a few loaves of the quinoa multigrain to take back) literally right across the street, and cruise around on one of the hotel's retro Papillionaire bicycles before checking out. Regardless of how well you know the property and all of Warren Street by the time you leave, there's a sense that you'll be coming back to Rivertown very soon.
"This town has such a storied history of prostitution and vice and destitution and being prosperous—it's gone through everything," says Pirkle, who'll you most likely spot working in the hotel, as he's there "every minute every day" with Bucci. "We feel very much a part of what's happening and that's important to us. We didn't want to be aliens landing and ruining the town. There's a sense of community and that's what I was hoping to find."
Room start at $199 a night for the single double room (with cozy built-in beds), $219 for single queens and cap off at $450 for suites. Reservations can be made online at Rivertown Lodge; note that rooms are available to book up to only 90 days in advance. Flip through the slideshow on top to view more images.
Images by Nara Shin