As a concept in the Hudson Valley, it calls to mind long drives down tree-lined backroads, afternoons spent hiking along semi-trodden trails, and evenings colored with local wine (or beer or cider) under the twinkling night sky. It’s a word that’s integral to the core of the Hudson Valley, a place which is in itself an escape from metropolis and an oasis for slower, centered living. Often a fanciful dream amid the hustle and bustle of quotidian checklists, it holds a lasting allure during weekends and vacations when anything seems possible.
Nowhere in the Hudson Valley does escape seem more firmly rooted than in the Catskills. A flighty ideal by nature, escape finds a home in the verdant forests of the Catskills region, where creeks roam free and mountains touch the clouds. It’s precisely in this neck of the woods that Glen Falls House takes root. Took root? Either way, the hotel has been in the Hudson Valley, and in Round Top in particular, for a very long time.
In fact, the property on which Glen Falls House sits dates back to 1881 when it served as a farmstead. The first incarnation of the hotel came to life 60 years later when the Sulger family constructed one on the grounds. Its current iteration, however, is new for 2018 and all thanks to the vision of owners Greg Brier and Jonathan Picco.
Prior to purchasing Glen Falls House in May 2017, Brier and Picco had separately successful histories. Brier, a music and hospitality entrepreneur, boasts 25 years of nightlife experience and founded Good Room, one of Brooklyn’s top nightclubs. He also designed and developed venues like the Aspen in Colorado and the Aspen Social in New York.
Picco, meanwhile, grew up on the East Coast and spent many a winter on the slopes at Hunter and Windham Mountains. After switching gears from a publishing career at Cambridge University Press, he fell in love with hospitality while working at The Surf Lodge in Montauk. Shortly afterward, he partnered with Brier to open a resort of his own.
When Brier and Picco took ownership in Glen Falls House, the property was in decline. So they made a plan, one that was largely reductive in nature, in order unpeel layer after layer of dated designs from the 70s and 80s in order to restore the hotel to its former glory. To do so, they connected with Richie Sulger, the man whose family ran the resort from 1939 to 2007. Sulger supported the revamp and went so far as to donate his personal collection of historic documents, knickknacks, and photos for use in what is now the hotel’s Cabinet of Curiosities, a miniature exhibit that contains hundreds of mementos for public viewing.
As for the renovation itself, it was a blink and you’ll miss it sort of deal from the public perspective. For the owners, however, it was 90 days of nonstop demolition and construction from December 2017 to March 2018. The overhaul was intensive, to be sure, but it allowed the duo to host a soft opening right on schedule in June 2018. Since then, the hotel has been an ever-evolving passion project in Greene County.
“It’s been hard work, a very long journey in a short amount of time, but we’ve been blown away by the kindness and generosity of the local community in Round Top, Cairo, Catskill, and Hudson,” the duo remarks. “It has truly taken a village of neighbors, contractors, farmers, friends, and family all lending a hand and some elbow grease to help us pull this project up by its bootstraps.”
Nowadays, Glen Falls House is a secluded escape that invites visitors to unwind, disconnect, and be themselves. More than just a home away from home, it’s a space of creativity, discovery, and relationships. As guests check in for the night or the weekend, they have the unique opportunity to delve headfirst into their Hudson Valley surroundings as much or as little as they might like. Sure, they can trek along nearby trails to rippling waterfalls or connect with other guests at the tiki bar. They can also quietly toast s’mores behind the tavern and lose themselves in the sounds of live music during the evenings. A choose-your-own-adventure experience, every stay at Glen Falls House is entirely individualistic and never the same thing twice.
To this point, the hotel offers so much to do that it’s genuinely impossible to accomplish it all during one overnight, or even two. It all starts with the stay, which could happen at one of the 18 guest rooms in the Main House, the 13 cozy rooms in the Cottages, or the 12 rooms in the two Hilltop Motels, the latter which are ideal for families and larger groups. Inside each retreat, the vibe is contemporary, minimalist, and 100-percent Catskills.
From there, it’s onto hiking on the 47-acre property, swimming by the falls, and staying awake into the wee hours to roast s’mores and watch the stars. There is a pool, complete with a tiki bar, as well as board and lawn games galore. For guests who do venture from the grounds, Hunter and Windham Mountains are a short drive away for skiing, snowboarding, ziplining, and more.
Thanks to Brier’s interest in music, there’s also a surprisingly strong concert scene for such a quiet corner of the Catskills. Operating as a sister spot to Brooklyn’s Good Room, Glen Falls House lures top-tier artists like The Nude Party, Casey Hopkins, Wreckless Eric, and Billy Caldwell, to name only a few. The concerts go down inside the Tavern, a former horse barn built in 1941 that now serves as a cozy watering hole with bar essentials like a pool table, darts, and a stage for live music.
And did we mention the food?
Cuisine at Glen Falls House takes center stage at Trotwood, the onsite restaurant that is open to the public and prioritizes comfort food with Hudson Valley flair. Chef Gaby Hakman leads the kitchen, drawing on her past experiences overseeing the food programs at The Majestic in Virginia and Andiamo Brick Oven Pizza in Florida.
“Memorable food is essential in a local restaurant and, with this opportunity, I want to use the setting of Glen Falls House as a background for an authentic and very flavorful dining experience,” she says. To do so, she sources ingredients from the hotel’s in-house organic and biodynamic garden program and from Bulich Creekside Farm in Leeds, Black Horse Farms in Athens, and Story Farms in Catskill. For the restaurant’s secret Mediterranean spice blend, she purchases directly from Sahadi’s in Brooklyn.
Using local, seasonal produce, she crafts ever-changing brunch and dinner menus that are just as approachable as they are innovative. Starting with small places, she leans into snackable bites like spicy tomato and rosemary chickpea fries and smoked trout dip served with saltine crackers. On the main menu, she puts farm-to-table twists on classic comfort foods with chicken pot pies in gruyere thyme crusts and roasted pork shoulder with salsa verde. Baked mac and cheese is a beloved side dish, as are the crispy smashed potatoes with horseradish cream and dill.
During brunchtime, which goes down on both Saturdays and Sundays, Hakman lets diners choose between sweet and savory with housemade granola with local yogurt, chicken and waffles with tabasco honey butter, and local smoked salmon on everything bagels. When paired with a Bloody Mary or, better yet, a Smoky Sunrise cocktail, they’re just the way to luxuriate during a lazy Sunday morning.
And that’s just the beginning. Looking ahead, Hakman plans to extend the hotel’s partnership with its garden manager Leslie Bish to develop Glen Falls House’s medicinal herbal tincture and its apothecary retail and guest amenity program. Throughout the season, the hotel will welcome a number of guest chefs for pop-up programs as well.
On the events side of the spectrum, Glen Falls House is open for weddings and workshops, with music programs set to heat up the warm weather months in the Hudson Valley. All the while, Brier and Picco will continue to devote time, love, and care to keep their hotel in shining condition.
“I don’t feel like we’re ever done,” Picco admits. “We’re always on the move with exploring new ideas for the space, constantly striving to communicate our passion for it and redefine the space through our lens. Once you say something is ‘done’ I think, at least for the author, it feels dead.”
Here’s to writing new chapters in the Hudson Valley.
Glen Falls House
230 Winter Clove Rd, Round Top