The One-of-a-Kind Kingston Hotel Tucked Inside a Historic Bank
The multi-venue Hotel Kinsley reawakens longstanding spaces in Ulster County with dreamy touches and the delectable Restaurant Kinsley.
Photos by Nicole Franzen
Checking into Hotel Kinsley won’t break the bank per se, but it does require “breaking into” a bank; walk into the hotel lobby and you’ll find the guest services desk tucked inside an enormous vault.
A new venture from principal partners Charles Blaichman and Taavo Somer, Hotel Kinsley (old English for “king’s field”) isn’t so much a boutique accommodation as it is a neighborhood-wide hospitality project. Blaichman, a Woodstock-based developer who has spent much of his career in New York City real estate, had always admired the historic buildings in Kingston. He was a frequent customer of Freeman’s, the hip and hidden Lower East Side restaurant owned by Somer. When a mutual friend realized they were both upstate (Somer is a Rhinebeck resident), Blaichman decided to approach Somer with his idea.
Excited by the plethora of beautiful buildings for sale in Uptown Kingston, the partners came up with the idea for a multi-site venue that puts the city of Kingston center stage. Once finished, the larger project will feature four lodging venues, three restaurants, and a retail space at various locations between Pearl Street and John Street, though some dining ventures will be standalone operations.
The first of these properties, the hotel’s flagship location at 301 Wall Street, opened in June. The stoic building stands at the corner of Wall Street and John Street and is also home to the on-site dining venture, Restaurant Kinsley — open to the public.
Dating back to the 1860s, 301 Wall Street has seen a complete renovation from its time as a bank (and, at one point, a Tonner Doll factory). Seven standard rooms contain king size beds, one superior king offers a couch and sitting area, a double queen sleeps four, and the master king suite lets visitors spread out across 370 sq ft overlooking one of the most vibrant intersections in the city.
Blaichman and Somer set out to create an experience that blends sophisticated amenities in a casual atmosphere. The aforementioned master king suite features a sprawling, luxurious bathroom. Heated tile floors warm guests’ feet in the winter, though a walk-in rainfall shower is the true centerpiece. Frette linen robes and quilts from Hawkins New York offer more detailed indulgences. Altogether, it makes for an elegant, not opulent, stay, or a kind of loosened-tie indulgence.
Of course, those looking to truly pamper themselves can book a 90-minute session at the infrared sauna or, with advance notice, arrange for a massage treatment with a selection of local therapists.
As for design, Studio Robert McKinley’s vision the hotel’s interior design is something of a rose-tinted trip back to ‘60s modernism. Plaid fabric chairs accent headboards with two-tone paneling. Smeg mini-fridges contribute to the retro feel, their gourmet contents ranging from Vermont smoked cheddar to local products like Bjorn Qorn and Keegan Ales Old Capital.
While the hotel’s four locations adhere to McKinley’s overarching aesthetic, the design spotlights each property’s individual features. The vault at 301 Wall St, for instance, is but one in the building; a mobile vault on the second floor has been transformed into what Assistant General Manager Jack Manley describes as “the safest linen closet in America.”
On the ground floor, Restaurant Kinsley occupies the former lobby of the bank. Vaulted ceilings seem to rise even higher thanks to magnificent natural lighting. Banana plants serve as both decoration and dividers between velvet, rust-colored booths. A bookshelf housing an eclectic library lines the perimeter of the room, adding a splash of color and conversation starters. Above the kitchen hangs an impressionistic painting of upstate life, while on the adjacent wall an enormous print of George Harrison from his All Things Must Pass album hovers over the fireplace.
“I think that hotels spark the imagination about travel and escape,” explains Somer. “It is always exciting to get away from your daily life, even if for a short time that’s very romantic. As a hotel restaurant, that feeling of escape or romance is extended to both our hotel guests that are visiting the area as well as the community around us.”
Zak Pelaccio and Kevin Pomplun of Fish & Game renown consulted in the development of the menu at Restaurant Kinsley, but the kitchen operates under the careful eye of Executive Chef Gabriel Ross, who comes from venerable New York City institutions like 5 Ninth and Savoy. At first pass, Restaurant Kinsley’s menu seems promising, if not all that innovative. But the high level of execution on many dishes that don’t necessarily pop off the page — pappardelle, green curry, roasted chicken — reinvigorates diners’ perception of each dish by delivering a TKO to their taste buds. The strip steak, topped with chicories and poached figs, served with a side of bearnaise, keeps pace with the best steakhouses in the area, and leaves the memory of rubber-shoe filets sputtering under the broiler.
On Saturdays and Sundays, brunch takes a slightly more metropolitan slant with items like whipped avocado, smoked salmon, and buttermilk pancakes.
A mezzanine houses a lounge area available for private meetings or dinners, while directly below on the ground floor, a seven-person bar makes for an intimate pre-dinner drink. Cocktails here blend classic with creative, martinis (with DIY fixings on the side) appearing alongside spiked matcha and The Lost Weekend: mezcal, Pineau des Charentes (an aperitif made with cognac), peach, ginger, lime, and seltzer.
Restaurant Kinsley may be the most formal of the partners’ culinary projects, but it’s certainly not their final endeavor. Several more properties are expected to be online in the coming months:
41 Pearl Street, a stately brownstone with a gorgeous master staircase, will feature 13 guest rooms with built-in fireplaces. Just one block away will be LoLa, a wood-fired pizzeria and cocktail bar with a casual atmosphere. Next door, Fare and Main will be home to a gourmet market and cafe.
Down the street, 270 Fair Street will add another 13 rooms, as well as an outdoor deck. The ground floor will feature a women’s clothing and accessories shop.
Finally, 24 John Street, a modern cottage redesigned with Bohemian flair, will expand the hotel by another eight rooms.
Each new property will offer a unique experience for guests, but if you’re considering a staycation at Hotel Kinsley, we suggest taking Monday off; Hudson Valley residents receive 20 percent off any stay Sunday-Wednesday.