By Daniel Geiger
With its scenic expanses of rolling mountains and forest and its quaint towns, the Catskills beckons visitors to get out and explore. Sites for end-of-season hiking and early-season skiing abound, and make a perfect spot for a weekend getaway north. But at the Stone House Bed & Breakfast, just west of Kingston in the town of Hurley, even the most adventurous and curious may find themselves content to spend time within its four walls.
One of the oldest houses in New York State and probably the oldest where you can book a room for the night, the Stone House exudes its rich and distinct history. Quick lesson: in 1609 Henry Hudson was the first European to sail up what is now known as the Hudson River on an expedition for the Dutch East India Company. The Dutch returned in 1626 to found New Amsterdam (New York to us). In 1661 they founded “Nieuw Dorp,” which is now known as Hurley, where you will find a warm welcome at the Stone House B&B. Nadia and Sam, the husband and wife proprietors of The Stone House, have taken great care to preserve the historical elements of their inn, and enjoy sharing stories with its diverse guests as they make their brief retreat to the north to escape the city’s chaos.
In the main living room, guests are greeted by the large hood of a chimney – an example of the way Dutch settlers who built the home (and many other historic properties in the area) constructed their fireplaces. The utility of the structure is unmistakable. The open fireplace, or “Jambless,” as it’s called, allowed a wider fire pit to be built, providing more space for several vessels to be heated than a conventional fireplace allowed. Four such fireplaces exist in the house, each decorated with intricate wooden moldings and adorned with a skirt of hanging fabric. Because the design also had the tendency to allow prodigious amounts of smoke and soot to waft into the living space, the fireplaces can no longer be used. Some no longer even connect to a chimney.
The way that Nadia and Sam have lovingly preserved and restored the property’s anachronisms is what gives the inn its distinct character. In the atmosphere of the past, which the Stone House cultivates so well, it’s easy to imagine settlers crouched over boiling pots preparing food. Of course, part of the fun is that not all of the history is as prominently on display. The deceivingly spacious house is full of nooks with interesting details, and each of its rooms (all named after Dutch Baroque artist, Johannes Vermeerhas) has its own furniture and accoutrements.
Nadia, who has done her homework on the property’s past and is happy to show guests through the space, pointed out the house’s thick wooden structural beams and wide-plank floors. The house’s original walls end only a few feet from the floor, a remnant of the past when the upstairs area was a space with low ceilings used mainly to keep grain and other stores so that it would be out of reach for rodents and other pests.
Downstairs, tucked away in the rear of the house is an old brick oven for making bread. Outside, in the inn’s pleasant backyard, the oven is visible, its bulbous stone shape protruding from the rest of the house’s facade, which like many structures of its time, is made from field stone.
Nadia and Sam don’t neglect their duties as innkeepers. They serve artfully prepared home cooked breakfasts, including locally made preserves, artisanal multigrain breads, fluffy yeast risen waffles and custard. After a hearty meal, guests may want to hit the trail. The areas around the inn offer ample opportunities for walks and trails through the woodlands in front of the Esopus Creek, which runs down from the Catskills and into the Hudson. There are two miles of paved trails to the northeast and seven miles of woodland walking/cycling trails to the southeast, leading to High Falls which offers places to eat and shop. Within a half hour’s drive is the Mohonk Mountain House in New Paltz, an essential visit for its well manicured hiking paths and grounds. For winter activities, the ski destination Hunter Mountain is also close.