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Scribner's Catskill Lodge

Upstate New York's cozy mountain escape reopens after extensive upgrades

by David Graver
on 14 November 2016

Forever on a quest to discover escapes within arm's reach of New York City, we found ourselves at the recently reopened Scribner's Catskill Lodge in Hunter, New York. The hotel itself isn't new (its bones were constructed back in 1966) and during its decades of operation, the facility accrued a storied history all while falling into disrepair. That is, until it was purchased by first-time hotelier Marc Chodock and hospitality veteran Glennon Travis. The two called upon Studio Tack design firm and the result is a mid-century-inspired, 38-room mountain lodge with substantial amenities to keep even the antsiest set of guests occupied. Set atop a hillside with a clear view of the Hunter Mountain ski slopes, Scribner's represents another stage forward for the Catskills and neighboring Hudson Valley. It's an all-season destination that embraces the region's beauty. You can get there without a car, and bring your pet along for it all—even to the impressive on-site restaurant.

Despite the influx of New Yorkers seeking time outdoors, the Catskills region doesn't have much along the lines of Scribner's: design-forward, resort-like destinations. Chodock found value in its versatility though. "The Catskills have a rich history of people kind of coming up for all different seasons," he explains to CH. "During the summer we have hikers. For fall, it's the foliage. Winter, obviously, it's the skiing. And with the springtime, the snow melts and people go out fly fishing. There's a richness of outdoor activities and the landscape offers such beauty. You match that with the quaintness of the towns in the area and it just had this great vibrance." In addition, he had observed a movement of artists and makers to the Catskills—something alluding to the mountains' inspirational force.

Before committing to the Scribner's property, Chodock and his team saw at least a dozen properties over the course of six or seven months. Scribner's drew him in for a few reasons. "First, we were looking for something that basically fit this size—38 rooms is large enough for a group, but it's not too big so that we are chasing people to fill rooms all the time." Beyond matching their financial model, "It made sense for the activities and location that we wanted. We are less than a mile from Hunter mountain. It allows this to be a full-year experience facility." Finally, there were the intangibles. "The style and architecture of it was amazing. The history of it we loved. The bones, as well. It was a well-built building." When walking through it today, one does feel as if it fits the Catskills perfectly, from its mountain decor inflections to the way it nestles into the landscape.

When Chodock took over the property last year, he began to operate it as it was, but knew renovations would be underway. "We ended up seeing the property best this way—living in it, understanding what definitely needed to happen especially through the winter months." Studio Tack came by way of an acquaintance, one of the owners of Neuehouse. "They were a cohesive team. They understood the link between design and branding and how it is one image that you must put out there." No brief was presented. Chodock hired them, in a way, without understanding the depth of their impact upon the structure. Resulting pine, a white-washing of some existing walls and black lacquered accent finishing define the interiors. Everything else comes down to the details (including the books in the rooms and library, selected by Chodock's wife Lisa). "We knew what we didn't know: which was how any of the design world worked," Chodock admits. In partnering with the team behind Barcelona's Casa Bonay and product line Public Supply they elevated the space, from a grand entryway through the rooms and shared spaces.

"For the first phase of renovation, we are 85 to 90% done. We are really close," Chodock continues. Further qualifying that he makes clear that from a public space perspective there is still much to be done, but all of the rooms are complete. Beyond the indoor and outdoor pool, due down the line, there are far more nuances the Scribner's team wants to incorporate into the lounge areas and lobby—not to mention the lands and a second home they own on the premises. Regarding the rooms, there will be tweaks. Our room, a two-floor king suite, came complete with a large balcony, plenty of couches and a propane fireplace. "There were a lot of wood-burning fireplaces originally. There were a few reasons for all the propane ones we have now. In the common areas, it was done for atmosphere. When we discussed it for the rooms, it was done for this reason as well, but it was a nice amenity for all the rooms that don't have mountain facing windows." Chodock also notes that it was both ecologically friendlier and more economically reasonable. The fireplace produced a substantial amount of heat that filled our spacious room. The bed was comfortable. The bathroom was sparse but carried collaborative products. The old walls let sound through during the concert programming one floor below but it ended at a reasonable hour.

As much of the materials on site as possible were sourced locally. "Our goal is for people to embrace local." The chairs, sofas and tables were all produced in the region. Some of the art on the walls was producing by local textile artist The Catskill Kiwi. All of the signature pine is sourced from a local lumber yard. Regarding the restaurant, known as Prospect, from the beer menu (which incorporates Arrowood Farm) to the ingredients, they're striving to source within a certain radius around the hotel. "It will far exceed the standards of your expectations, regarding the food and atmosphere," Chodock adds. The team was brought up from Manhattan and whether its a heart brunch or steak dinner, the menu is quite refined.

For anyone familiar with Scribner's old backstory—which includes an old swinger's "grotto" on the lower level where couples used to swim and mingle—this isn't what one should expect anymore. "Look, we love it," Chodock says regarding the history. "It's fun and funky and different. This place had a point in time. We hope to give it another. It's not going to be that. We make this quite clear." Instead, one will find a lot of city folk looking for quiet or a connection with the outside world, pets in tow, and perhaps children.

Scribner's Catskill Lodge is now open. Reservations begin at $145 per night. Scribner's is located at 13 Scribner Hollow Rd, Hunter, NY 12442.

Images by David Graver

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