I recently spent a weekend at the Mohonk Mountain House, a surprise birthday/Christmas gift from my special friend, Barbara. It was an enchanting visit. Mohonk is located a few miles west of New Paltz, NY but to leave the thruway and eventually wend one’s way through the 8000 acres of the Mohonk Preserve onto the resort’s property is to leave the 21st century behind.
The Smiley brothers began the resort by acquiring a twenty room tavern on the lake in 1879. What you see today was created largely from the founding until about 1910. The Smileys were Quakers, and Quaker values such as moderation and restraint are imbued in the property and its employees. The simplest example: as one drives along the 3.4 miles road from the gatehouse to the resort the usual speed limit road signs declare only “Slowly and quietly.” The property has also benefited by the continuation of Smiley family management. Think about that: one hundred and thirty-six years of family management.
The resort was built at one end of Lake Mohonk, a land-locked lake about .4 miles long which supports boating, swimming, fishing, and sit-in-your-rocking-chair viewing.
Within the buildings all is gracious and pleasant. Expect and see no plastic, fiberglass, chrome, shag rugs, or TV sets in the lobby playing the weather channel. In fact, see no TV sets in the rooms but, but … a working fireplace, and employees who come by each morning to see if one needs more firewood.
Enjoy a little balcony off the room, built of turn-of-the-(19th to 20th)-century iron grill work. In the hallways are wall to wall muted carpets, soft beige walls framed by aged chestnut mill work, lined with pictures of old, serious white-bearded gentlemen and their long-skirted ladies, and small, intimate side rooms for quiet conversation.
But, among those sepias of ancients we were excited to come across a friend’s modern picture. A fellow Leas resident, Helen Vukasin, co-founded Mohonk Consultations in 1980 with Mr. & Mrs. Keith Smiley, and was chair of their board from 1995 to 2001. She’s now Board Manager Emerita (2011). Mohonk Consultations supports the tradition ( since 1883) of Mohonk “as a gathering place for those seeking solutions to global, national and local problems. The beauty of the natural surroundings, along with the Quaker tradition of peaceful inclusiveness, has provided a unique atmosphere for the useful exchange of ideas.” Much of international significance has sprung from these discussions. See here.
Beyond all this, however, there are the grounds that are so rewarding. Acres of gardens and miles of trails.
On a rainy afternoon we sat on the mammoth covered porch in rocking chairs (tea and cookies at 4:00) and enjoyed the mists and rain on the lake.
On another garden walk we encountered a restful koi pond.
In another shower……………
On a walk along a glacial cliff, in the distance one of their iconic and official logo Summerhouses.
Another tea-and-cookie-time scene.
Finally, a fall scene from along the cliff walk.
There is a gallery of additional images from the weekend. Please click here to see it.