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Best Fall Vacations in the Hudson Valley: The Roxbury Motel
Hudson Valley Magazine
September 1, 2011
By Polly Sparling
And now for something completely different.”
Television junkies will recall this catchphrase from Monty Python’s Flying Circus, the British comedy show that aired in the late 1960s-early 1970s. The sentence provides an apropos description of the Roxbury Motel, a western Catskills hostelry whose lavish guest rooms are inspired by cartoons, movies, and TV shows popular during the same time period. Because without a doubt, the Roxbury is — most decidedly — different.
Located in the northeastern corner of Delaware County, the village of Roxbury is about an hour-and-a-half drive from downtown Poughkeepsie. Travelers follow Route 28 across Ulster County, winding through the towns of Mt. Tremper, Phoenicia, and Shandaken. (During the fall, the drive itself is an event, with thousands of mountainside trees presenting a kaleidoscope of autumn color.) A quiet town, Roxbury was the birthplace of two famous men: 19th-century naturalist and writer John Burroughs, and railroad magnate Jay Gould, both of whom still have a presence there (see sidebar).
Lime-green guest room doors welcome you to the 27-room hotel, and hint at the fact that this is not your run-of-the-mill motor inn. The main site includes a circa-1860s house; a 1960s-era motel addition; and a 2007 expansion built by the current owners, Greg Henderson and Joseph Massa, who bought the place in 2003. A separate addition — “built from the ground up” and completed just last year, says Henderson — is directly across the street.
My husband Reed and I spent a night in the “Amadeus’ Bride” suite, inspired by the film Amadeus, a biopic about Mozart. Upon opening the door, we were left speechless. Painted entirely in an eye-catching shade of royal blue, the main room of the two-bedroom suite is adorned with more than a dozen mirrors edged in gold-leaf trim. A huge crystal chandelier hangs from the mile-high ceiling, gold medallions grace each wall, and an alabaster bust (back-lit with a soft red light) is mounted at the top of a spiral staircase. The opulent theme extends into the bedrooms (one on the ground level, the other at the top of the stairs) and two bathrooms, which feature glittering gold tile, flocked wallpaper, hand-painted murals, and other haute embellishments. But while it might look like an 18th-century palace, our suite had all the modern amenities one would expect (and then some): freshly cut flowers in the main room, two-person soaking bathtub; three flat-screen TVs with DVD players (the hotel has more than 500 DVDs available to borrow); and a mini-kitchen area stocked with bottled water, snacks, and a choice of wine (for an additional fee).
During our stay, Henderson and Massa took us for a tour of a few of the other theme-decorated rooms. Based on the Star Trek series and movies, “The Final Frontier” suite has a custom-built console around the wall-mounted TV (resembling the view from the Enterprise’s windshield), and a fiber-optic shooting star light show on the 20-foot-high ceiling. “The Noir Boudoir,” an homage to The Addams Family, sports a caribou head in the sitting area, a blood-red bedroom, and a pair of “Cousin It” table lamps (which have got to be seen to be believed). “Genie’s Bottle” has a bathroom that is painted pink and gold, and is perfectly round (just like the bottom of a bottle would be). Rooms are inspired by The Flintstones, The Jetsons, the Austin Powers movies, Gunsmoke and other shows — one more over-the-top than the next.
Who conjures up these off-the-wall decorating schemes? Massa says Henderson “comes up with all the crazy ideas.” “My brother and I watched Gilligan’s Island in reruns every day after school,” Henderson admits. “It was like our little escape into magic.” And locating the accessories — a miniature suit of armor, say, or a faux Faberge egg? “There is no way this could have happened without the Internet,” says Henderson. “We have wallpaper from Berlin, bathtubs from Italy, headboards from South Africa — there’s stuff from all over the world.”
To their credit, Henderson and Massa have executed this delirious décor with style and (yes) good taste, not affectation. “We are constantly struggling to keep things elegant, and not go too far over into the kitsch factor,” says Henderson (who, like Massa, has roots working in theater). “For me, ‘kitsch’ conjures up levels of cheesiness that we try to stay away from.”
From this vantage point, at least, they’ve succeeded. The rooms are fun, but also sophisticated, tasteful, and comfortable. It’s obvious that a major amount of thought, work, and cash went into creating each unique space. (The “Genie’s Bottle” bathroom alone took six months to build and decorate.) From the pleasant-smelling bath soap to the delicious coffee (available all day long), no detail has been overlooked. For a relaxing getaway with a pop-culture twist, the Roxbury is hard to beat.
Rates: $99-$125 for studio rooms, $280-$345 for two-bedroom theme suites, depending on the season.
where to eat:
• Public Lounge, Roxbury. Next door to the hotel, this restaurant/bar offers a limited menu of dinner items — along with pizza and quesadillas — in a city-chic setting. Their key lime pie is to die for.
what to do:
• Jay Gould Memorial Reformed Church/Kirkside Park, Roxbury. Built by Gould’s children in his honor, this impressive stone church includes three stained-glass windows made by Tiffany. Nearby Kirkside Park encompasses 11 acres once owned by Gould’s daughter Helen; it includes a graceful landscape with a small stream, stone bridges and terraces, and rustic furniture.
• John Burroughs Memorial State Historic Site, N. Blenheim. This site includes Woodchuck Lodge, the naturalist’s summer home in the early 20th century, as well as his grave. Fall Foliage tip: Take the short walk out to Burroughs’s Boyhood Rock, where he is buried. The 180-degree view of the mountains from this elevated spot is one of the best we’ve found in the Catskills.
Click here to view the full story on the Hudson Valley Magazine Website.