One of the grandest hotel/restaurants of the Hudson River Valley is located in the river town of Athens, directly across from Hudson, New York. Continuing a legacy that began in the 1883 when it first opened its doors, the Athens Hotel acts as the perfect companion to the Shakespeare-on-the-Hudson estates, located only 2 miles away and offering an 11-room "River House" and an 11-room "River Lodge" on over 90 bucolic acres of Hudson River. The Athens hotel itself accommodates up to 18 guests. This architectural treasure has had a complete renovation since being damaged by floodwaters from Tropical Storm Irene during the summer of 2011.
Owen Lipstein, the owner of the Stewart House at The Athens Hotel, has presided over this nuanced, imaginative and critically acclaimed restoration, literally from the inside out. The nine spacious and fully complete guest rooms pay appropriate respect to the Stewart House's historically important past. At the same time, it now features state-of-the-art heating, cooling and electric. The bathrooms are remarkable, featuring marble tile showers, custom baths and heated towel warmers. These rooms have been carefully styled for the ultimate getaway boasting large and airy suites, perfect for snuggling up and enjoying the view of the Hudson River.
Many guests, have asked us about the significance of the backward S in our logo. The backward "S" appears on a large iron plate on the Stewart House's southeast entrance, presumably added as the finishing touch in 1883. We think the backward "S" occurred either becausethe person who molded the iron made an old fashioned mistakethat was ultimatelyacknowledged but judged, presumably by Hardy Stewart himself, not be important enough to correct, or the backward "S" was intended as a particularly prescient style fashion statement, or the person who did the mold was dyslexic, and to him or her, the world often appeared in reverse.
Our logo also encompasses our sister property: Shakespeare on the Hudson.
The Stewart House holds a proud history. Though, as evident in some of the pictures shown here, it’s endured a few bumps in the road. We are proud to have finally returned this great building to its former glory. Even if it has been waiting 130 years.
A robust young, Hardy Stewart built the original 3-story Victorian Stewart House on the banks of the Hudson River in the banner year of 1883. That year boasted another bellwether event that took place on a river, albeit fictional, "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" was published in February of 1883. The Stewart House became Hardy’s private mansion and The Premier Boutique Hotel on the Hudson. It was the unchallenged centerpiece of the thriving village of Athens, New York. The success of the building coincided with the momentum of the village itself, as Athens had been bestowed with a rich and decorous history (it placed second when the capital of New York was being selected) and had, seemingly without effort, found unequaled opportunities in industry. The surrounding area and virtual front door of Athens was the Hudson River itself, the ideal place, graced with no salt in the water and a wide expanse of river, to harvest winter ice for New York City and even for parts of Europe. And there was also this: Athens was also gifted with rich sand and clay -- about as local as you can get, brought to us from the glacier that formed this valley. Terrific material, as it turned out for making the soon- to -be famous Athens bricks. Bricks that were used to build towns and cities far and wide, including the very bumptious city of New York. Slowly and then all at once, Athens became the epicenter for the largest brick-making region in the world. It thrived for about three and a half centuries.
And so again, everything changed, slowly in some cases, all at once in others. On a particularly humid afternoon, someone lazily thought of electric refrigeration. Then, seemingly overnight, brick was replaced by cement. The rest… was not silence.
The Stewart House had a succession of owners. Some were able to maintain the romance, infrastructure and integrity of the building. Some were not. One can reasonably assume that is due in part to the salient fact that the industries, along with the people who ran them had, ineluctably, departed for places that seemed to hold more promise.
The current owner Owen Lipstein has owned the hotel for 14 years. In 2011, Hurricane Irene slammed Athens, New York and along with it, the Stewart House. Hit hard was the Stewart House River Garden, which had been built by Lipstein, master carpenter Mike Barber and builder Robbie Fenster during that halcyon, relentlessly beautiful Indian summer of 2004. A large pavilion design, inspired by the SW corner of the Stewart House, had been constructed from recycled brick. The Garden was so overwhelmed with 6 feet of water that for a couple of days it was described by a journalist as a “ kind of…estuary of Hudson River.” The lovely weddings, special events, and the blissful outdoor dining on the Stewart House River Garden were all going to take a required hiatus.
The Stewart House building itself sustained the most damage –it would require a major renovation just to re-open its doors. But Lipstein, with some in trepidation, did more, much more than that. He gutted the “entire building-from inside out” as he put it. And with that, he re-imagined a modern Stewart House, steeped in history, but ever so ready for a changing future. To wit: out came the 1880’s with its’ horse hair plaster, to be replaced with state of the art spray-on polyurethane foam. The aging heating system was not only removed from the basement, but also placed up on the second floor, plucking it forever from the ravages of climate change, or even some good old-fashioned bad luck. And there was more, the brick chimneys, now visible, had to be re-pointed. The entire building was intricately re-wired by Stonecreek Electric. Bathrooms were completely redone by a master mason. And, the rooms themselves were reconfigured, with an eye to the river view and a penchant for the grand scale, like the building itself. With respect to the Stewart House’s abundant past, we now think it safe to wager that the present and future is finally commensurate with the wonder and imagination that Stewart evidenced when he built his hotel in 1883.