In the Hudson Valley, a New Hotel Embraces a Spirit of Rejuvenation
A team of decorated hospitality veterans joins forces to breathe new life into an abandoned brick manufactory. For the co-founders of Salt Hotels and their creative collaborators, the project is abundant in symbolism.
David Bowd has seen some shit in his day. Over the course of an impressive career, the British-born hospitality veteran traversed through the upper echelons of travel and nightlife, coming up under some of the industry’s most revered names. He’s worked for both Ian Schrager and André Balazs, shepherding the guest programming at exclusive properties such as The Mercer, Chateau Marmont, and Chiltern Firehouse, before branching off to start the boutique hotel group Salt Hotels with his life and business partner, Kevin O’Shea.
When Bowd and O’Shea opened their own shop, the vision was simple: provide the same level of service accustomed to the highest end of the market without the pretense. First came two bungalow-style stays in Provincetown, Massachusetts, with pastoral charms reminiscent of a friend’s well-appointed beach house. Then, in 2015, came a years-long project in New Jersey’s faded Americana hamlet of Asbury Park, where they teamed up with architect Anda Andrei, Schrager’s design lead for nearly half a century, to launch The Asbury and upscale sister property, Asbury Ocean Club, which became a seminal moment in the town’s comeback story.
Then COVID-19 hit.
“I didn’t think we’d make it,” Bowd says. Like the hospitality industry writ large, Salt Hotels went into survival mode. The phones started ringing with cancellations, the properties were temporarily shuttered, much of the staff was furloughed sans the chefs, who were kept on to cook soup-kitchen-style meals for their ill-fated colleagues. The relationship with the Asbury properties corroded and ultimately ended, and the Salt Hotels dream was very much in jeopardy.
The coronavirus era triggered a once-in-a-generation wave of loss, shared agony, and introspection for everyone. Small businesses have been hit hard, particularly restaurants, hotels, bars, and other service-oriented ventures. Salt Hotels teetered on the edge of the abyss, but survived. Despite the pandemic’s longtail, it has emerged with a rejuvenated spirit and newfangled perspective.
At the newly opened Hutton Brickyards, a spirit of renewal is omnipresent. “Life changed everything over the past 18 months. We calmed down a little bit; it doesn’t have to be so precious and manic and crazy all the time. Let’s enjoy it more. We stopped taking everything so seriously, and everything started to flow. We’re having a lot more fun,” Bowd says.
Established in the late 1800s and maintaining relevance for more than a century, the Hutton Brick Works Company was instrumental in building New York City into the global powerhouse it is today, supplying the core material that served as the foundation of the Empire State Building, the Museum of Natural History, the original Yankee Stadium, and other important landmarks.
Tucked away on the edge of the Hudson River, in Kingston, about two hours north of Manhattan, the industrial complex fell into disrepair as globalization decimated the northeastern manufacturing sector. The architecture of the factory buildings and kiln sheds began to erode as nature reclaimed the site as its own. Time withered away at a solitary Lidgerwood gantry crane on the riverbank. The ruins now serve as sculptures forming a connection between past and present.
The brickyard sat empty for decades, until real estate developer Karl Slovin purchased the property in 2012, testing it out as an event space and pop-up glamping venue. He was later introduced to Bowd and O’Shea and invited them to scout the grounds. “Nothing was here but overgrown buildings falling apart and covered in graffiti,” Bowd says. “But this view—this access to the river—doesn’t really happen. We’ve been looking in upstate New York forever. Every project we come really close, and it doesn’t happen in the end.”
It was worth the wait. In collaboration with Kristina Dousharm Architecture, O’Shea got to work designing the interiors of the 31 Shaker-style cabins, imbuing them with organic simplicity (natural wood, floor-to-ceiling windows) and cool touches such as Crosley record players and vinyl collections curated by notable locals such as actress Lina Bradford (room 8). A flag scrawled with the word “thirsty” is the ticket to a bottled negroni or canned wine, delivered cheerfully via golf cart, during happy hour to those who hang it outside their door.
“The mark of a good project is the intangible pieces that make you walk away with a really good feeling even though you can’t pinpoint why,” O’Shea says. “Think back to memorable experiences we’ve all had, they’re often moments in time. You can’t remember the lighting or music, smell or taste—it’s atmospheric things that make an impression.”
With a pristine 73 acres of woodlands, a menagerie of outdoor activities await: archery, croquet, paddleboarding, kayaking, sunrise yoga, and biking along the newly minted Empire State Trail, a 750-mile path connecting Manhattan to the Canadian border that passes through the grounds, are merely a few. Quarry Waters, a 520-acre state park with a cultural research center and arboretum, will soon replace the deserted silos and cement factories adjacent to the hotel.
The bounty of the Hudson Valley at his fingertips, chef Dan Silverman harnesses the power of fire at the restaurant. The veteran of heralded culinary temples Balthazar and Minetta Tavern took a serendipitous path to Hutton Brickyards. Exhausted by the city grind, he bought a house in the Catskills as a weekend getaway a few months before the pandemic, then relocated there permanently during lockdown. After seeing a job listing on LinkedIn, Silverman reached out to Bowd, whom he worked for at the Standard Grill in 2011, to inquire about his new endeavor.
Running the culinary program at Hutton Brickyards dovetailed perfectly with Silverman’s desire to live among nature. His office is now the wood-burning stove in the open-format kitchen that shares space with the dining room under a rehabbed waterfront pavilion with no walls. Silverman’s pared-down menu, made up of 11 note-perfect dishes, is unfussy and elemental: roasted apricot and burrata, cedar plank steelhead trout, wood-roasted chicken with salsa verde and red cress, and a grass-fed burger that is the spiritual cousin to the one at Minetta are a few of the seasonal offerings.
“When he first moved up here, [Silverman] spent his days in the car, driving around and dropping into farms. ‘Hi, who are you? What are you doing here?’ All of the ingredients come from somebody local he met during that process,” O’Shea says. Adds Boyd: “Working with the most talented people like chef Dan and having a lot of fun—the passion has been rekindled in this project. This is what hospitality is about, but it’s also just perfect timing. This is exactly where we should be with our guests.”
It seems as if kismet is prevalent in every aspect of Hutton Brickyards. When a quirky Victorian-style manse with a carriage house and gazebo became available on a hill right above the property, the team knew they had to bring it into the fold. The owner since 2001, artist Hunt Slonem, restored the period details tracing back to the 1870s while painting the walls in a mashup of bright Crayola hues. It now functions as the welcome reception and when winter hits, the bar and restaurant will relocate inside.
The spa is run by longtime friend Christine Horovitz, who grew up near Kingston and met Bowd and O’Shea in Provincetown where she opened a beauty boutique called Kiss and Makeup, before moving to Portland to do visual merchandising for Levi’s. When she found out about the project, she jumped at the chance to return to her roots and apply her multidisciplinary skillset to the conceptualization of a proper upstate wellness experience.
“We’ve been working on these foundations with her, [asking the question] ‘what does a spa look like in our world?’” O’Shea says. Apparently the answer is wood barrel saunas with river views and hyper-local products such as the goat milk skincare label Beekman 1802 and the sustainably driven Cultivate Apothecary, which cultivates everything from botanicals to bramble fruit at its historic carpenter-gothic farm. “They grow all of these herbs and host dinners in the gardens. They are the most fantastic couple. We met them coming up here and they’ve been really supportive,” O’Shea says. “All the products at the spa have a story and a perspective. We’re not just picking random skincare lines because they look pretty in the shop.”
Even before the pandemic drove urban dwellers to the periphery areas surrounding New York City, Kingston was coming into its own. Hotel Kingsley arrived, restoring four heritage buildings from the 17th-19th centuries to their former glory with a contemporary design by Studio Robert McKinley and a destination restaurant that lured Manhattan foodies willing to make a day trip for a single meal. Brooklyn transplants debuted imaginative bakeries and barista bars. Emboldened by the new energy, residents have joined the fray with their own restaurant and shop concepts brimming with small-town authenticity. Reanimating the Hutton Brickyard site is another milestone in the town’s rebirth.
“This is a really special moment for Kingston—everybody has a story about this space and the generations of families who worked here. The other night, a woman I’ve been working with, a Design Within Reach contract rep who lives up the road, brought her family and her mother was super emotional. The grandfather worked the crane, and she used to walk over and bring her dad lunch and they would eat on the side of the river,” says O’Shea, who credits their developer partner, Slovin, for his dedication to the preservation of the site, including his rejection of a condo development that would have torn all the architectural relics down.
Bowd concurs. “It’s been a labor of love; we can sort of lead the history and story through the experience here, and also provide something really lovely.”