Photos courtesy of Richard Travers, 81 North
Former antique dealers convert a historic Ulster County building on 81 North Main Street into a luxury hotel at the base of the Shawangunk Mountains.
No matter where you’re from, 81 North is the kind of place that feels like home. With suites decorated with beautiful artwork and delightful, vintage furniture, what was once a historic telephone building is now a sumptuous lodging for Ellenville visitors.
With views of the Shawangunk Mountains and cozy fireplaces, along with delicious restaurants and a bounty of outdoor adventures, guests will be amazed to discover what this small town inn has to offer.
Richard Travers and his partner, Cheryl, have always had a soft spot for Ellenville. Long-time Accord residents, the pair found themselves passing through the Ulster County village often. The Hudson Valley is chock-full of historic estates and beautiful buildings from bygone eras. One of them in particular, the 1929 Ellenville Telephone Building, caught Travers’ eye immediately.
Over a meal one day, Travers casually mentioned his interest in the building to his friend Eric Cafero, owner of Tony and Nick’s Italian Restaurant in Allendale. In a bizarre twist of fate, Cafero – who is also a real estate agent – happened to be representing the building in question.
Soon enough, in 2016, the couple sold their Accord home and finally bought the Ellenville abode they’d been eying forever.
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The Travers refurbished the property’s edifice with the intention of opening up an antique store downstairs and listing the three upstairs apartments on Airbnb. At first, everything was going according to plan. Grace’s Antiques made its debut, entirely stocked with tchotchkes and artworks from the Travers’ personal collection. Then came COVID-19.
Dealing in antiques proved particularly challenging in the midst of a pandemic. With customers handling items all day, keeping merchandise clean and the shop COVID-safe was nearly impossible. That’s when the Travers’ decided to combine their passions for antiquity and hospitality, and landed on the concept for 81 North as a destination.
With the advent of the inn, The Ellenville Telephone Building has been reborn as a luxury, boutique hotel in every sense of the word. The three apartments offered to patrons are furnished entirely with items once for sale at Grace’s, as well as antiquities and artworks that adorned the couple’s former estate.
When you walk into the place, you are essentially walking into the Travers’ home. Hospitality is, without question, the name of the game for the pair.
“It’s kind of like an extension of the 30 acre estate that we had in Accord,” Richard Travers says. “We entertained our friends, now we entertain guests. So this is just an extension of that. Simply with people that we haven’t met yet.”
The Travers’ take pride in the fact that 81 North is the first boutique inn established in Ellenville since the town’s first building was erected back in 1789.
“Ellenville is under an economic resurgence, and we’re happy to be a part of that,” he adds. “We’re enjoying being a luxury inn in the area, and we’re enjoying the contact with people.”
Currently, only two apartments are available for reservation. By June 2021, both a third apartment and a communal gathering room – a library/living area equipped with a bar – are expected to be completed.
The third apartment will feature two-and-a-half bathrooms, two bedrooms, and a 500 sq ft patio, making it the perfect option for families and groups.
As for the existing suites, the first is a one-bedroom with maroon and gold accents, along with a stunning view of the Shawangunk Ridge. The second apartment, also a one-bed, one-bath, is rich in sky blue and forest green hues. It boasts artwork depicting local scenes in the Rondout Valley coupled with period pieces. All suites come complete with a kitchen suitable for self-prepared meals, a bidet, and self-controlled heating and cooling.
When it comes to exploring what Ellenville has to offer, 81 North is perfectly situated. The Inn is within walking distance from all of the village’s restaurants, as well as the Shadowland Theatre and a plethora of local shops. The duo are big fans of Ellenville’s street eats program, implemented during the warmer months. On weekends, Canal Street closes down, live music plays, and all the local restaurants take their dining tables outdoors.
The larger Ellenville area boasts outdoor activities galore for casual hikers and adrenaline junkies alike. In the ’70s and ’80s, the small town made a name for itself in the hang gliding world. Now, the area is home to three major hang gliding schools and is considered one of the best instruction sites east of the Mississippi.
On most weekends, gliders can be seen flying over the Shawangunk Ridge. Biking, mountain climbing, and camping are just a few of the abundance of excursions one can partake in when visiting.
“As a lover of the outdoors,” Richard says, “you cannot beat the offerings in the Shawangunk Mountains. They’re unbelievable. There’s the Mohonk Preserve, there’s Minnewaska, there’s Sam’s Point. That’s not to take away from the Catskills, of course, but the Shawangunks are very unique.”
For the Hudson Valley couple, a perfect day in Ellenville begins with a hike. Then, the pair will grab a bite at a local breakfast spot. Next, an afternoon in the Shawangunks is spent biking or climbing. In the evening, dinner is enjoyed outdoors whenever possible.
While there’s no shortage of open-air fun in the Ellenville area, 81 North caters to homebodies, too. With a kitchen in every suite, beautiful, cozy interiors, and stunning views of the Hudson Valley landscape, staying inside and relaxing is an equally enjoyable alternative to a day spent in the mountains. In short, the inn is for everyone.
“If you’ve got cabin fever where you’re living,” Richard says, “you can escape here. If you want to stay inside, you can. We’re set up in such a way that you have complete control over your environment.”
81 North Main St, Ellenville