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May 28, 1993 - Image 89

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1993-05-28

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A. s a perfect antidote to the overheated, over -schectulecl dog
days of summer, ccyrisid_er the mo -untains: the whisper of a


cool -wind blowing through the trees, cedars straight as

church spires rising to the timberline, and air so pure and fresh that it

invigorates the body aria restores the soul.

The five great mountain house hotels described here have not only these refreshing at-
mospherics in abundance, they measure up history-wise as well. We wanted to find those
that cut a wide swath through Americana, not only of the "president-slept-here" variety, but
also in their roots, their regional flavor, their preservation efforts. Several have been des-
ignated National Historic Landmarks. And even one of the youngest—Timberline Lodge
on Oregon's highest peak, Mt Hood— comes with an all-American story, beginning with
its decidedly drab WPA origins to its present glamorous role as movie-set location. Read
on to find the mountain house that might turn out to be high on your list of places to visit
this summer.


In 1869, when Albert Smiley looked down from
Sky Top— the topmost crest of the Shawangunk (pronounced shon-gum) Mountains in
NewYork—the breathtaking vista that met his gaze, of cliffs and valley, woods and lake, so
moved him that he decided to erect a hotel. Today, the gigantic, 276-room Mohonk Moun-
tain House stands as a spectacular period piece, a tad weather-worn but every bit as mag-
nificent as in its Victorian heyday. Built along the stony shoulder of Mohonk Mountain, it
looks like a series of architectural afterthoughts; its jumble of tun -ets, spires, and stone tow-
ers reflecting up from the crystal blue waters of Lake Mohonk, like something straight out
of Walt Disney.
The resort now includes some 7,500 acres, none of them much different from what the
Smiley brothers first saw, or what the romantic landscape artists of the famed Hudson
River School painted in the mid-19th century.
While the fitness center is equipped with the standard machines, summer visitors will
find all the exercise they crave in the great outdoors, exploring tiny Lake Mohonk in ca-
noes, rowboats or paddle boats; playing golf on the nine-hole course; tiding horseback; or
playing croquet.
One of the most popular activities is hiking. There are more than 85 miles of hiking trails
and some 100 gazebos, or "summer houses"— rustic wooden platforms with split rail-
. ings, rough-hewn benches, and covered roofs— strategically placed to maximize both views
and contemplation. Some of the trails in this part of the "Gunks," as the Shawangunk Moun-
tains are sometimes called, have gained favor among serious rock jocks, who scale sheer
faces and maneuver around treacherous overhangs just for the thrill of it.
Mohonk Mountain is believed to be the oldest continuously run family resort in the coun-
try. Several years ago at the family's behest, current managers Nina and Albert K Smiley
left their careers in Washington D.C. (she, at the American Association for Retired People;
he, the justice department) to run Mohonk. Today, there's always a Smiley about— serv-
ing afternoon tea, guiding a historic house tour twice weekly in summer, leading the non-
denominational church service in the family parlor every morning.
Important people have come to Mohonk. The register bears the names of four presidents
(Taft, Hayes, Arthur, Cleveland), industrialist Andrew Carnegie, naturalist John But-toughs,
and political orator William Jennings Bryan, among others.
There are no cocktail lounges around here. Because the founding Smileys, identical twins
Alfred and Albert, were Quaker school teachers, liquor, cards, and dancing were taboo ear-
ly on. Since the ban against alcohol was lifted in 1969, wines and liquor have been available
in the dining room and through room service.
Another carryover from the days of old: the Mohonk refrains from placing a television in
each room, although sets may be rented.
Guest rooms, mostly done in period furnishings, range from those with humble basins

only and no baths to the luxurious tower rooms with original Victorian furnishings, fire-
places, and balconies. Each of the 22 circular tower rooms has a double bed and a twin, a
sitting area, a bath with a claw-foot porcelain tub and pedestal sink, and spectacular views.
Theme weekends are a specialty at Mohonk; the inn pioneered them in the 1870s. In-
deed, it was at Mohonk in 1977 that the original Mystery Weekend took place; authors like
Peter Straub, Ed McBain and William Caunitz return regularly for them. This summer,
an arts festival runs from early July through August, including daytime and evening per-
formances of jazz, classical music and theater. Also scheduled are days devoted to nature,
music, Victoriana, and stargazing. Four full-scale children's programs operate daily from
Memorial Day to Labor Day, for kids ages two to 17. The children are divided into five
age groups with activities ranging from pony rides for the two- to four-year-old set, to
scavenger hunts and animal tracking for older kids, and beach volley ball and day-long hikes
for teenagers. Kids eat all three meals with their parents and sign up for morning, afternoon,
and evening programs as they wish.
Mohonk is one of the country's few resorts on the American plan (three meals per
day). Jackets are required at dinner for men and boys over 12. In 1986, Mohonk Moun-
tain House was designated a National Historic Landmark; happily, it looks as though this
place will never change.
RESERVATION INFORMATION: Mohonk Mountain House, Lake Mohonk, New Paltz,
N.Y 12561, phone 914-255-4500. Regular guest rooms, double occupancy, $255-$310. Tow-
er rooms/suites, $365-$400. Rooms without baths, $198. All rates include three meals daily,
guided hikes, fitness classes, children's programs, boating, and tennis.


Facing the village green in picturesque Manchester, Vermont, the
Equinox is a many-shuttered, clapboard hotel, whose facade of fluted columns, green rock-
ing chairs, and potted red geraniums dwells comfortably among the town's historic court-
houses, church steeples, and marble sidewalks. Situated at the base of Mt Equinox, between
the Green and Taconic mountain ranges, this venerable resort hotel, like any true grand
dame, has a rich history.



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