Steeped in American history, luxuriant forests and relaxed lifestyle, there’s something innately romantic about New York’s Hudson River Valley. Olde Rhinebeck Inn embodies all of its charms in one enchanting place.
History of Olde Rhinebeck Inn
This lovely country inn was once a farmhouse, built around 1738 by a German emigrant tenant farmer about three miles from the village of Rhinebeck, one of the earliest settlements in America. He and his wife raised 10 children here, adding on more rooms as the family grew. Remarkably, the home stayed in the same family for 239 years spanning 12 generations. They all rest in the cemetery of the Lutheran church just down the road.
Current owner Jonna Paolella bought it in 1998 when she was just 27, making her the youngest innkeeper in the country at that time, a career she wanted since she was 7. “I got bit by the lodging bug early in life,” she said. “I always loved staying in hotels.”
Jonna put her degree in hotel and hospitality management to good use. Together she and friend Cindy Curnan offer guests a warm and fuzzy stay at the Olde Rhinebeck Inn Bed & Breakfast. Cindy has a history here too: her parents purchased the property in 1977, then sold it to the city folks from whom Jonna bought it. Even more history: Cindy’s grandparents served as cook and houseman for First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt at her Hyde Park home. More on that later.
The innkeepers are full of stories about the house and area—past and present—and it’s delightful to chat with them.
Tucked in the woods off a country road in Dutchess County, the four-bedroom inn sits on three acres of woodland, an idyllic setting with a spring-fed pond, pesticide-free flower and vegetable gardens and quiet stone patio. You might find a gaggle of geese wandering around or ducks floating on the water or chickens happily roaming free.
Furnished with Early American antiques and authentic Buttermilk Blue paint on woodwork, the house takes you back to the days of the American Revolution. At any minute, you expect a young Ben Franklin to burst through the back door.
Rooms at Olde Rhinebeck Inn
Each of the guest rooms is decorated with found treasures and great attention to historic detail. They all include up-to-date amenities like cable TV, WiFi, air conditioning, fridge stocked with drinks, coffee and tea service, and even a home-made tick spray!
Bathrooms come with hairdryers, fluffy robes and eco-friendly toiletries. Our suite’s bathroom was complete with a claw-foot soaking tub and separate double-headed shower.
Deer Hill Suite on the main floor features a private porch.
Ryefield Suite features this fantastic canopy king bed and an adjoining room with a single bed.
The Spirted Dove is the only room that’s not a suite. It features a Jacuzzi tub and small balcony overlooking the pond.
Breakfast at Old Rhinebeck Inn
Breakfast is served on a long table made from planks of a barn belonging to tough-guy movie star James Cagney.
Breakfast fare could be anything from hot egg dishes from their own chickens’ eggs to chilled Swiss alpine oatmeal. All come with homemade baked goodies and local fruits. I loved the oatmeal, so I asked for the recipe.
Soak ½ cup of dry rolled oats in apple cider in fridge overnight. Add grated apple, brown sugar to taste, fresh lemon juice and a little milk. Top with a dollop of Greek yogurt and nuts, berries and/or dried fruit. One serving.
Places to visit near Olde Rhinebeck Inn
Rhinebeck is a charming little town near the Hudson River about five minutes from the Inn in upper Dutchess County. It’s amazingly cosmopolitan for its size: plenty of very good restaurants, unique boutiques, visual and performing arts and an indie movie theater. It’s also home to the Amtrak commuter train station for access to New York City and upstate New York.
The Great Estates
History comes alive at The Great Estates, homes of prominent people in America’s past. In Hyde Park, the 32nd U.S. President Franklin D Roosevelt’s home and library (the country’s first presidential library) delve deep into his presidency and personal life during a tumultuous time in the 20th century with self-guided tours, interactive displays and films. As the only president to be elected four times, his term lasted from 1933 until his death in 1945. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt’s private cottage is filled with mementos and photos from her illustrious life, much of it apart from Franklin. It’s the only historic site for an American First Lady.
The fabulous country palace of The Vanderbilts offers a glimpse into how America’s richest family lived during the Gilded Age (1876-1917) when America became an industrial, financial and political world power. In Staatsburgh, the Mills estate is an example of that era and shows how wealthy Americans imitated the opulent lifestyle of European aristocracy. Other historic homes from other eras are in Germantown, Poughkeepsie, Beacon and Rhinebeck, all within a short distance of each other along the Hudson River. Access all with The Great Estates Pass.
Also in Hyde Park is the Culinary Institute of America, one of the reasons there are so many great restaurants in the area. We took a tour of the campus, then stayed for an excellent dinner at their French restaurant Bocuse, one of nine eateries operated and staffed by the school.
You’ll definitely want to stroll on the Walkway Over the Hudson, the world’s longest elevated pedestrian bridge in Poughkeepsie. Initially built as a railroad bridge, it was transformed into a pedestrian park in 2009. We walked nearly to the middle until threatening skies forced us to turn back. The views of the Hudson River and surrounding neighborhoods are truly incredible.
Besides the CIA, we loved the Artist’s Palate in Poughkeepsie for dinner (a thoughtfully creative menu with seasonal dishes in a contemporary setting with rotating artists’ works) and Hyde Park Brewing Company for lunch in Hyde Park (way beyond normal pub fare; many dishes incorporate their beer).
Olde Rhinebeck Inn, 340 Wurtembvrg Road, Rhinebeck, NY 12572; 845-871-1745; www.rhinebeckinn.com
Claudia Carbone is an award-winning travel writer based in Denver. Read about other hotels she’s visited in Sleepin’ Around.