The wind whistled through the newly installed windows on the third floor of The Beacon Hotel last Wednesday afternoon under clouds threatening snow. Down on the first floor, newly hired staff buzzed busily around The Beacon Hotel Restaurant, hustling to get ready for their first dinner service, set to start Friday evening at 5 pm. It will be the first time the hotel has been renovated and open to the public in decades.
This massive project is another feather in the cap of Beacon development visionaries like the Sauers, the McAlpines, and so many others. Business owners in this city have a long tradition of renting once-shoddy storefronts and building them out: Beacon Bread Company (remodeled a dilapidated diner), Beacon Dental (outfitted offices in questionable neighborhood), Giannetta Salon & Spa, and so many more. They breathe fresh air into the city by transforming once-forgotten buildings and giving them new life for the people of the Hudson Valley - and a longer life for the history books.
Most people around town know this hotel as the location of SRO (single-room occupancy) apartments on the East End of Main Street, contributing to a kind of "no-man's land" feeling of limited business activity in the area. That has gradually decreased as businesses and real estate pioneers have moved in and renovated buildings throughout Beacon.
Originally built in the 1870s, this hotel is no stranger to entrepreneurial visionaries. Warren S. Dibble bought the property in 1877, creating 75 rooms; amenities included a horse stable. Across the street he built a roller rink, which he turned into The Dibble Opera House, as illustrated in the book Historic Beacon. "Some of the most famous actors of the nineteenth century entertained Matteawan's elite and Mr. Dibble's hotel guests," according to Celebrating Our Centennial, Beacon at 100, the historical reference book published by the Beacon Historical Society. In fact, rumor has it that there is a secret passageway under Main Street connecting the hotel to the theater, so that actors could quickly get from one place to the other. The Beacon Theatre that stands today is currently being renovated into luxury apartments. The entertainment scene has changed considerably since the heyday of the theater and Mount Beacon's Incline Railway. (The railway carried 3.5 million people to the top of Mount Beacon during its years of operation, according to Celebrating Our Centennial.)
Local Entrepreneurs Bring Back The Beacon Hotel and Restaurant
Enter the new owners: Alla Kormilitsyna, a renovator of townhouses in New York City, and Greg and Evey Trautman, veteran renovators of restaurants around the corner from their previous home in Prospect Heights in Brooklyn (Olmsted and Plan B). They, with another partner, purchased the hotel from the estate of Ritchie Rogers after he passed in 2014. For Greg and Evey, who have since moved to Beacon, having a comfortable restaurant around the corner is important: "We loved having a local restaurant near where we lived and contributing to the community." After moving to Beacon, they got the itch to dive into restaurant renovation again. "We loved the history of Beacon and the fact that the hotel was the oldest running hotel in Beacon, dating back to the Dibble House. With Alla's construction knowledge and get-it-done spirit, we knew we [would be] able to reinvent the space to bring back its glory."
CO-OWNER EVEY TRAUTMAN SITS IN THE NEWLY LIT BOOTH OF THE BEACON HOTEL RESTAURANT, ONE OF MANY PROJECTS HEADED FOR A SWIFT FINISH DAYS BEFORE THE RESTAURANT'S GRAND OPENING.
PHOTO CREDITS: KATIE HELLMUTH MARTIN
The Food - Get To The Food Part!
Right - so, as you know, eating in Beacon is getting more delicious by the month. (We track it here in ALBB's Restaurant Guide). Those who were missing the creative culinary creations of Matt Hutchins, former co-owner and original executive chef of The Hop, can order from his carefully crafted menu once again. His dishes delighted critics from the neighborhood to The New York Times, while his commitment to feeding the cravings of community strengthened his relationship with the people of Beacon: "I love to play with food, but more importantly I love how it can bring people together," he says.
Matt studied in Berkeley, CA, "where 'California-Mediterranean' is a thing," he says, and attended the Culinary Institute of America. He calls his culinary style partially “Hudson Valley-Mediterranean.” Having grown up in North Florida, Matt says those roots deeply influence him as well. In Florida, he says, "many cultures come into play, from Mexican to Caribbean, Deep South to Cajun. I have been passionate about locality in food sourcing, and nose-to-tail cooking, for I strive to utilize every part of an animal I can to honor that animal’s life (and death)."
From the menu, you can expect to see dishes that will change with the seasons. This season, look for Pork Belly and Scallops, Beet Tartare, and Cuttlefish and Clams. For your main dish, look for the Grilled Duck Breast, Beef Tenderloin, Chestnut Lasagne, among others. And save room, of course, for the Peanut Butter Pie and New York Apple Beignets.
The Decor - What Will It Look Like?
Beautiful. Industrial. Like you'll want to settle in and stay all night. The team was inspired by Beacon's history and mandated that the atmosphere reflect it. They tapped local architect Aryeh Siegel, well-known for creating the uplifting look of Main Street Beacon through his work on several buildings including The Roundhouse, the Beacon Lofts, pieces of the galleries in Dia: Beacon, and other residential and business projects.
As for the interior direction, the team approached Clodagh Design, a design firm based in New York City, yet calls Beacon home. "When owners Alla and Greg selected our studio to capture the spirit of Beacon in their Beacon Hotel Bar and Restaurant, we jumped on the opportunity with huge enthusiasm," Clodagh says. "My love affair with Beacon started over 14 years ago after purchasing property in Beacon in 2003 with my husband Daniel Aubry, Beacon artist and realtor. The wonderfully tight community and necklace of fabulous restaurants and music venues makes it a great place for a quiet night dining or out on the town, with each establishment offering different experiences."
In keeping with the instinct to tie the look to Beacon's past and manufacturing history, Clodagh designed using a reclaimed and industrial theme. The tables were crafted by After the Barn, using joists found in the original hotel, and several decorative objects were sourced from the Beacon Flea and local antiques shops. Effort was made to join the space in the front - the storefront windows are bi-fold and will be open in the spring and summer months - with the garage door in the back of the restaurant, to encourage a breeze all the way through the restaurant. Add to that a double fireplace between the back patio and inside party room, to supply cozy ambiance inside and out.
BEFORE AND AFTER PHOTOS OF THE RESTAURANT AS EVERYONE PREPARED DAYS BEFORE THE OPENING.
PHOTO CREDITS: ALL BY KATIE HELLMUTH MARTIN, EXCEPT THE LOWER RIGHT WITH DINERS (PHOTO CREDIT: KIMBERLY COCCAGNIA)
Behind the Scenes of a Restaurant and Hotel Renovation and Build
If you're a longtime reader of A Little Beacon Blog, you know that we live for behind-the-scene stories. We want to see the prep work and learn how people got to be doing what they are doing. Co-owner Alla met with me days before the opening to answer a few questions for this article. "Come!" she said. "Let's meet in the bathroom. It's quiet." Every single aspect of this restaurant is brand-new, so it's not like a management office is ready yet, and there were people literally in every corner - bartenders arranging bottles of wine and spirits, electricians in closets I didn't even notice until I saw their flashlights moving, her partner Greg outside ripping off the white plastic coating from the new front doors, and Matt and the kitchen staff breaking down large boxes once they were unpacked.
The space for the hotel was completely gutted to become what visitors see today. The upstairs hotel rooms, accessible only by stairs winding through the towers (the ultimate walk-up!), remain under construction. Phase 1 is slated to open with 12 rooms, one of which, "Hikers Haven," will offer bunk beds and is aimed at being a comfortable resting spot for locals and day-trippers who want an inspiring night on the town.
ROOM WITH VIEWS.
LEFT: THE START TO THE TOTAL RENOVATION OF WHAT WILL SOON BE A HOTEL ROOM OVERLOOKING MAIN STREET.
RIGHT: VIEW OF MOUNT BEACON AND THE BEACON THEATRE FROM MAIN STREET-FACING ROOMS IN THE HOTEL'S TOWERS.
PHOTO CREDIT: KATIE HELLMUTH MARTIN
Says Alla, a master renovator of townhouses: "The facade was restored to the original state, and extreme measures were taken to structurally reinforce the building. We did create an entirely new facade of the first-floor restaurant, with the bi-fold windows in the front that will be open during the spring and summer."
When asked about the unexpected challenges of restoring this building, Alla mentioned several: "Site-work to take care of the storm water, running electrical and gas lines. The sprinkler and fire alarm system were very difficult. The Ansul system, which carries the smoke from the stovetop out of the kitchen, was very difficult to run out of the kitchen to the rooftop. You can see the Ansul running up the back brick wall of the patio."
If you've driven past any of these renovation projects (another hotel and spa is currently under construction on the West End of town, near the clothing boutique Nella's Bellas), you will see that they involve a lot of people, and if everything is going smoothly, the site always has something going on. We asked Alla what it's like having a renovation project as your full-time job: "It is all-consuming and takes over your life. Given the complexity of the project, you are on-call 24/7. There is constant managing of construction workers, buying supplies, and creating your timeline to open. Essentially, this is three projects in one: the construction of the hotel rooms, the restaurant, and the creation of the business."
The restaurant will be open for dinner only on most days (check their website for updates), and at some point soon will include a Sunday brunch. We wish everyone involved the best moving forward, and we look forward to cozying into one of the tables to order culinary happiness.