Where to Stay in the Catskills: Nehapwa, Tannersville
This resplendent refuge caught our eye as one of this year’s coolest Catskills hotels
Photograph by John Foreman (“Big Old Houses”)
Nestled in the northeastern Catskills, about 75 minutes by car from Poughkeepsie, is the village of Tannersville. Like other towns in the region, it has had its share of ups and downs over the years. As the name implies — and thanks to thousands of hemlock trees, which supplied the tannin used to soften the hides — Tannersville was the epicenter of the area’s booming tanning industry in the early 1800s. The industry died off mid-century, but Tannersville was able to reinvent itself as a resort town. Anxious to escape the stifling heat of the city, well-heeled New Yorkers headed to the mountains by train (the rail line arrived in the 1880s), where they built clusters of elaborate summer homes in private “parks.”
Perhaps the best-known of these enclaves is Onteora Park, which was the gathering place for artists, actors, and writers; Mark Twain is known to have stayed there. One of the most picturesque of the park’s dwellings is Nehapwa, an Arts and Crafts-style manse built in 1892 by architect George Agnew Reid for the heir to an iron-works fortune. Constructed of fieldstone and wood, with a steeply pitched gabled roof, a wraparound porch, and balconies off each of the upstairs rooms, Nehapwa (the name comes from the Iroquois words meaning “to find again”) is today a delightful bed and breakfast run by partners Jeff Summer and Tom Uberuaga.
We visited this mountain oasis on a chilly, wet day in late spring. The affable Uberuaga greeted us at the front door, ushered us inside, and immediately offered us a glass of wine, which we sipped in front of one of the two massive stone fireplaces that bookend the gigantic main room. This unique space is quietly breathtaking: The dark wooden floors and ceiling beams are counterbalanced by a wall of windows overlooking the mountains; the simple but elegant furnishings are a mix of antiques and modern finds, and include Summer’s extensive collection of Hudson River School paintings. An elaborate wrought-iron chandelier descends dramatically from the second floor ceiling through an upstairs gallery, which offers views of the space from above.
Like the main downstairs area, each of Nehapwa’s four guest rooms is tastefully decorated with antiques and artwork; our comfy sleigh bed provided the kind of dead-to-the-world sleep that one looks forward to on a getaway. And although the nasty weather precluded us from making the most of it, we had no trouble imagining an afternoon spent admiring the site’s extensive gardens and grounds from our room’s private balcony.
Nehapwa, which as been open for just a year, attracts mostly New York City residents who hear about the place through word of mouth. Most visitors are primarily interested in hiking, although “the towns themselves are becoming destinations,” Uberuaga says. “Windham is a cute little town, and Tannersville is becoming a great little town. You can take day trips to Woodstock and Saugerties; some people even go towards Cooperstown. I think that’s part of the appeal: People say, ‘Let’s go for a quick hike, then drive around and see what else there is to see.’ ”
Using Nehapwa as a jumping-off point for exploring the Catskills is one reason to book a room there ($275 per night) — but Uberuaga says his clients often have a very different activity in mind. “This is a great place to relax and rejuvenate. I’ve watched people sitting on the lounge chairs, with a magazine falling out of their hands — they’ve fallen asleep in the middle of the day. Who really gets the chance to do that anymore?”