This Hudson Valley gem is a perfect weekend base for exploring Saugerties and the surrounding region.
One of the most memorable parts of any stay at the Diamond Mill Hotel & Tavern in Saugerties (Ulster County), New York is the breathtaking view from your room. In fact, each of the 30 guest rooms of this boutique hotel overlooks the picturesque falls of the Esopus Creek, a tributary of the Hudson River. When you open the doors to your balcony or patio, you can hear the relaxing sounds of the rushing waters.
For 72 years, the Martin Cantine Paper Mill operated at this location until its closure in 1975. The building remained vacant for 30 years after that until it burned down several years ago. That's when Tom Struzzieri, a visionary entrepreneur and resident of the town, saw possibilities from the rubble. He purchased the land and built the Diamond Mills Hotel & Tavern, which includes a 7,000-square-foot meeting space that can accommodate up to 400 guests for conferences or receptions. With paned windows and red brick facing, the look of the two-story hotel is reminiscent of the old mill.
A weekend getaway at Diamond Mills is perfect for outdoor enthusiasts who want to explore Saugerties and the surrounding region, which offers abundant activities year-round -- including hiking, bicycling, rock-climbing and skiing. There are also four nearby locations on the creek to launch kayaks or canoes, and the town is only 20 minutes from Woodstock and other quaint towns in Ulster County.
The new hotel, which opened in December 2011, is a member of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World collection. The guest rooms are spacious, light and contemporary in décor, emphasizing natural materials and earth tones. Rooms and suites are comfortably appointed with plush bedding, flat-screen TVs, free wireless, in-room coffeemakers and minibars, and the bathrooms have radiant tile floors for the winter ski season.
Service is warm, friendly and unpretentious, staffed by young locals who are eager to share their favorite spots around town with guests. An inviting area that resembles a cozy living room is adjacent to the small reception desk. It's set up each morning with a complimentary continental breakfast (with freshly-baked pastries, mini-croissants and muffins from the Tavern, along with fruit, juices, coffee and tea) and with cheeses and wines in late afternoon.
The Tavern is a just few steps outside the hotel (there's no direct indoor passage between them) and serves lunch Wednesday through Friday, brunches on weekends and dinners every evening. The dramatic main dining room has a fireplace and 24-foot ceilings with windows that look out to the large outdoor terrace where you can dine al fresco with a view of the falls. Heating lamps are available for chilly nights.
Inside there are a number of intimate areas off the main dining room that are suitable for business lunches or celebratory family get-togethers. A welcoming bar area, which looks like it came straight out of the Prohibition Era, offers locally distilled spirits and craft brews in addition to a full wine and cocktail menu.
The contemporary, American menu created by Executive Chef Giuseppe Napoli, a graduate of the nearby campus of the Culinary Institute of America, showcases many locally sourced Hudson Valley products, including artisanal cheeses, fresh fruits and vegetables, farm-raised chickens and premium meats and seafood.
When we visited, the service still had a few glitches but they were happily offset by the beautiful outdoor ambiance. I ordered an interesting appetizer, flatbread with prosciutto, fig jam, Gorgonzola, drizzled with truffle oil and lemon Vino Cotto, that was smothered in arugula. I wished my server had warned me that my grilled branzino would be buried in an overdose of the same tasty seasonal green.
Like many river towns along the Hudson, Saugerties had a rough time economically for several years. But the historic town seems to have recovered. It is now dotted with one-of-a-kind art galleries, boutiques, antique and thrift shops and bookstores, as well as cafes, bars and restaurants that draw a steady stream of visitors on summer weekends. (Most are within walking distance of the hotel.) Town preservationists have done a highly credible job of saving the charming building exteriors, many of which date back to the 1800s.
One of the one of the pivotal forces in Saugerties' renewal has been Diamond Mill's Struzzieri, who heads up Horse Shows in The Sun (HITS), a locally based events management company that produces hunter/jumper horse shows. One impetus for building the hotel was to create additional bed capacity to augment that of the B&Bs that predominate in the area. His shows, which are some of the biggest in the country, bring an onslaught of visitors and 1,800 horses to Saugerties 12 weeks a year. Shows are planned for July, August and September this year, including a pony show for children. (Check the HITS website for dates and other details.)
Throughout this summer, you'll be able to sit down on one of 40 full-size wooden garden chairs (each painted by a local artist) that will line the streets of the historic village as part of its summer outdoor public arts display and auction called, Sittin' Around Saugerties. In prior years, the show, sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce, exhibited lighthouses and horses throughout the downtown area.
If You Go
The hotel is located at the end of Partition Street, one of Saugerties' two main shopping streets (the other is Main Street), adjacent to the Creek and is about two hours (100 miles) from New York City by car. If you opt to take the train from Manhattan, the hotel concierge can arrange transfers to and from the Amtrak station in Rhinecliff, about 30 minutes away. There is ample free parking at the hotel.
Diamond Mills Hotel & Tavern
25 South Partition Street
Saugerties, New York 12477-1330