Passion Points: Escape
Vibe: Lavish, Italianate villa, romantic
At a Glance: Opulent but incredibly tasteful, Glenmere is a favorite romantic retreat on the western side of the Hudson thanks to its beautifully decorated rooms, spacious spa and acclaimed restaurant.
Review: As you wind along the quiet backroads of Chester, New York, in the lower Hudson Valley, past open fields, stone cottages, and a barn with an American flag painted on its corrugated tin roof, the last thing you expect to see is an Italianate villa atop a hill. Glowing ochre in the afternoon light, Glenmere seems almost like an apparition as you curve up the driveway to a small marble fountain with clipped boxwood. Then a butler in tails steps forth, greets you by name and ushers you in, and the enchantment of this intimate new hotel takes hold.
General managers Alan Stenberg and Dr. Daniel De Simone (who co-own the property with Alison and Peter Klein) had the same feeling of utter surprise when they discovered Glenmere several years ago. Once a grand folly commissioned by a Gilded Age titan named Robert Goelet, who had made a fortune in New York real estate, the villa had lovely bones, but had fallen into disrepair. It had been designed in 1911 by prestigious architectural firm Carrère and Hastings (also known for the Frick and the New York Public Library) as a private 35-room home centered on an open cortile, with grounds overseen by the late great landscape architect Beatrix Farrand.
“We fell in love with the property,” says Stenberg. “And we envisioned it transformed into a wonderful country retreat.” A little over three years and $30 million dollars later, the house had been completely redone. For a couple with no background in the hotel business (De Simone is a doctor and Stenberg owned a PR firm), they really manage to get it right. Designer Scott Snyder successfully preserved the historic feel of the house, retaining beautiful doors, original moldings, wrought iron railings and hardware, but imbued the whole place with a modern sensibility. Interiors are pitch perfect. Each of the nineteen rooms and suites is individually decorated and all have a great combination of comfort and style. The Vanderbilt junior suite, for instance, has a fireplace in the bedroom and another in the spacious marble bathroom, which is also equipped with a steam shower and a huge soaking tub. Marvelous details abound: custom Loro Piana curtains and Casa del Bianca linens, comfortable reading chairs with well-positioned lights, iPod docking stations, and heated floors in the bathroom.
For a small property, there is a nice variety of dining options. My husband and I loved Frog’s End, a tavern modeled on one of Fitzgerald’s haunts on the Cote d’Azur, which specializes in elevated comfort food (the burger has a brioche bun, the fries a dusting of Asiago.) The Supper Room is absolutely gorgeous, with shimmering handpainted eglomise panels and comfortable banquette seating. Many ingredients are locally sourced, including the meats and much of the produce. I particularly enjoyed the wild mushrooms sautéed with garlic and shallots, and a savory crème brulee with caramelized onions and Gruyere.
The best thing for me was how personal Glenmere feels. The staff is very eager to please, the walls display a serious modern art collection from the Klein Museum in Germany (including works by Robert Motherwell, Robert Rauschenberg, Helen Frankenthaler, Polly Apfelbaum, Charlie Hewitt, Paula Scher, Donald Sultan, Howard Hodgkin and Robert Peterson), and the general managers make a real effort to put their guests at ease. The final touch: a hand-written note and two bottles of water are placed in your car as you leave.
Getting There: Glenmere is 50 miles northwest of Manhattan (about an hour’s drive).
Who It’s Right For: Those looking for a relaxing weekend getaway in the country. The property encompasses 150 acres, and you probably won’t find yourself leaving the grounds during your visit. The resort has a pool, two Har-Tru tennis courts and a championship croquet court. There’s also a gorgeous spa.
Who It’s Wrong For: Families (no children under eighteen are allowed). Those looking for a scene or cultural activities. The atmosphere is quiet and dignified.
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