Once there were two rocking chairs. And then there were three.
As I wrote in another Flickr set in Nov 2010, Mohonk Mountain House is one of those places that typically evoke one of two distinct reactions when you mention it to someone: (a) they’ve never heard of it, and wonder what civilized place could have such a strange name, or (b) they squeal with delight that someone else knows about this special place, and proceed to tell you how many generations of their family members have been visiting it since … well, since long, long ago.
Assuming that you fall into the first category, here are the basics: Mohonk is a sprawling, century-old hotel/resort located near New Paltz, NY — about 90 miles north of New York City, just west of the Hudson River. It was opened in 1870 by Quaker twin brothers, Albert and Alfred Smiley, and the main buildings — some wooden, some stone — were built over the period of 1879 through 1910. As a Wikipedia points out, it sits on the edge of a small lake (Lake Mohonk, what else?) that’s a mere half-mile long, and 60 feet deep; but it’s big enough to support a modest amount of fishing, swimming, boating, and (in days past) ice-skating. Visitors can also hike, climb nearby mountains, play tennis, ride horses, and various other activities.
Or … you can just relax. There are quiet corners everywhere, dozens (maybe hundreds) of rocking chairs, lots of warm, toasty fireplaces, and dozens of little wooden cupolas scattered around the lake where you can read a book, chat with a friend, or just stare off into space and think about nothing at all. There’s no noise from nearby traffic — it’s at the top of a smallish mountain, on 2,200 acres that adjoin another 6,400 acres of the Mohonk Preserve. There’s no loud music, there are no televisions in the guest rooms, no cars or motorboats or jet-skis or sources of noise.
Various notables have visited Mohonk over the years, including industrialist John D. Rockefeller, naturalist John Burroughs, industrialist Andrew Carnegie, and American presidents Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, Rutherford B. Hayes, and Chester A. Arthur. It’s probably worth mentioning that Mohonk was also the setting of a really weird 1994 feature film, The Road to Wellville, starring Anthony Hopkins and Matthew Broderick.
As for the thousands of other undistinguished guests and visitors: it’s amazing how long many of us have been coming here, and it’s intriguing to see how many multi-generational families come here for holidays (Easter, Memorial Day, Memorial Day, and Thanksgiving seem to be the main ones) as well as family reunions and other special events (two weddings took place during this visit on Labor Day weekend). My wife first discovered Mohonk in the mid-1970s on a visit with her mother, while I was away somewhere working ’round-the-clock on some ill-fated computer project. We first brought our children here in 1983, and have typically returned once or twice a year since then … and after nearly 30 years, it’s amazing to see how little has changed.
But there have been a few changes. Notwithstanding the Quaker heritage of the original Smiley brothers, who decreed that there would be no drinking or card-playing when they first opened their establishment, there is now a small cocktail lounge tucked away in a corner room. Meals used to be a somewhat mediocre event, served in a huge dining room that was built somewhere around 1902; now the cuisine has improved considerably, and it’s also possible to order room service meals. And, wonder of wonders, there is now free WiFi service throughout the hotel, including the guest rooms … but there are still no televisions in the guest rooms.
It’s hard to capture all of this in a series of photographs, even though I have a Flickr collection with roughly half a dozen different sets of family-related photos that I’ve taken here since the mid-1980s. This time, I took a few panorama shots with a new camera that magically creates such things with almost no effort; and took a few HDR shots of things that looked interesting. But mostly, it’s just a collection of familiar sights and scenes …
If the photos look sufficiently intriguing, take a look at the Wikipedia article, or visit the Mohonk website. Who knows — maybe we’ll see you there on our next visit…