Mohonk Mountain House
Much as one sees Lake Mohonk today, Alfred H. Smiley saw it in 1869 when he visited the Shawangunks on a picnic outing. He and his twin brother Albert envisioned a peaceful retreat where people could enjoy the beauty of nature in a truly spectacular setting. Albert purchased the property from John F. Stokes and the brothers eventually turned the ten-room inn and tavern into the grand house it is today, with gracious accommodations for up to 500 guests.
People from all walks of life have been attracted to Mohonk, including naturalist John Burroughs, religious leaders Abdul Baha Abbas, Rabbi Louis Finkelstein, and Reverend Ralph W. Sockman, industrialist Andrew Carnegie and four Presidents: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, Rutherford B. Hayes, and Chester A. Arthur. Stewardship, reflection, and renewal have been hallmarks of Mohonk Mountain House since its earliest days. At the turn of the 19th century, the Smiley family hosted the Lake Mohonk Conference of Friends of the Indian and the Lake Mohonk Conference on International Arbitration.
Daniel and Effie Smiley guided Mohonk into the 20th century. The stewardship of the Smiley family, including members who founded Mohonk Mountain House and those who continue to maintain it, received exceptional recognition on December 9, 1986, when Mohonk was officially named a National Historic Landmark. This distinction encompassed not only the Mountain House, but also 83 other Mohonk buildings of historic significance and the surrounding 7,800 acres of developed and undeveloped land. In 1994, the Smiley family and Mountain House staff received an award from the United Nations Environment Programme in honor of "125 years of stewardship" on the occasion of the 125th anniversary of Mohonk Mountain House.
Through its buildings and roads, its land, and its spirit, Mohonk exemplifies America’s history and culture. Mohonk has since managed to maintain its 19th century character into the 21st century. Still run by the Smiley family, Mohonk Mountain House is an unspoiled resort, offering classical music concerts and Afternoon Tea and Cookies. The walking trails are off-limits to motor vehicles, and signs along the entrance road read "Slowly and Quietly, Please." Apt advice for such a scenic retreat.
Guest Historian Series
Read more about the history of Mohonk Mountain House, as told by Historic Hotels of America 2014 and 2015 Historian of the Year Stanley Turkel. Excerpt is taken from his latest book Built to Last: 100+ Year-Old Hotels East of the Mississippi (AuthorHouse 2013).