Friday Cabins #57: 'Camptown' and the Boutique Outdoors Motel Revolution
This stylish retreat adds to the growing list of high-design, outdoorsy retreats popping up in New York's Catskill Mountains
Happy Friday folks! The end of another week has arrived, which means another Friday Cabins delivered to your inbox. Like clockwork (almost), we bring you a fresh newsletter every week, where we take a look at noteworthy cabin projects, explore the industry, and occasionally cover whatever we want. So join us!
The weather continues to be nutty here in New York City, and unlike southern Vermont or California, or the Northwest, or really most everywhere else, we have received not a flake of snow. So perhaps it’s just time to embrace the impending Spring and break out those shoulder season fits?
Today, we’re heading roughly 2.5 hours north of Manhattan to the Catskills Mountain Region to take a look at (another) newly opened outdoorsy retreat called Camptown. And while we admit this one is particularly choice, we can’t help but notice there’s been a whole lotta development in the Catskills as of late, and in fact, basically everywhere adjacent to nature… which begs the question, where is all this headed? And perhaps more poignantly, can it last?
So, take a break, take a look, then finish up work so you can get the H outta there!
⛺️ Camptown, USA
Once home to Carl’s Rip Van Winkle Motor Lodge just across the bridge of the same name, a 22-acre property in Leeds, NY has been reimagined, redesigned, and renovated into the Camptown hotel. The original motel, log cabins, and on-site lodge, built in the 1930s, now feature sleek contemporary decor mixed with a thoughtful curation of local art and custom furnishings.
The project was helmed by Ray Pirkle and Kim Bucci, owners of the neighboring Rivertown Lodge in Hudson, NY (the first project the duo completely designed under their new company, Ramschakle Studio). The renovation of Camptown took an estimated $7.1 million dollars to complete (!!!) and will feature the addition of a pool, lounge area, and a sauna come Fall 2023.
24 guest suites have been updated into cozy ‘Nook Rooms’ and spacious ‘King Suites’, featuring Shaker-style bed units with built-in storage, custom furniture, and local artwork. The original, modestly-sized log cabins on the property were renovated to be unique in character and design, some updated to reflect their original state and others clad in modern finishes. The cabins differ in amenities too, some outfitted with kitchenettes and living areas, while others are pared down for a simpler stay. They each have a porch though, so everyone can take in the surrounding hilly acres while enjoying a morning cup of coffee.
Although the property evokes the same rustic luxury of Seattle's equally vintage Captain Whidbey Inn, certain details are in sync with the design trends of today. The log cabins avoid the recent ‘blandinavian’ aesthetic to favor a palette of bold earth tones, including dark green and brown, to yellow and red, while the interiors feature influences of mid-century modern, contemporary curvilinear lines, and rustic simplicity characteristic of the evolution of the Modern Farmhouse style. In short–it's cozy and fun, but restrained enough to fall within "high-design". And it all looks really good.
🎆 Are we looking at a Boom and Bust, redux?
But Camptown isn't the first, and it looks like it won't be the last, design-minded, outdoorsy retreat to pop up in the Catskills in recent years. It joins the likes of Piaule, Inness, Getaway, Eastwind, AutoCamp, Woodstock Way, Wildflower Farms, Norsdale, and Callicoon Hills, just to name a few, all with an average nightly price tag starting at $250 and often cresting $500+. But quite literally among these new, shiny properties, are the defunct accommodations left over from the area's previous vacation boom in the 1920s to 1960s, when it was home to nearly 500 resorts. Are these neighboring, abandoned hotels an opportunity for further expansion, or a sign of what may eventually come—another boom and bust?
Especially after 2020, it's hard to imagine the culture losing interest in well, nature, again, but it's happened before. In recent times it could be tied to the beginning of the Digital Revolution in the late-70s, which resulted in the infamously greedy and cubicle-laden ‘God-is-a-Computer’ environment of the 80s and 90s. Today, an eerily similar wave of digital progression in the AI sector and an ever-impending recession might mean a weekend getaway at these very nice, but admittedly pricey outposts, might not make sense for consumers' interests and pockets. (Plus, let’s be real, there are only so many New Yorkers with cars.)
On the other hand, what if the pandemic actually re-wired humanity for good, and urban-dwellers will be booking designy weekend retreats in the Catskills for decades to come. Or remain motivated to save up for one, at the very least. It should also be noted, after the upper-class Catskills Borscht Belt era phased out in the early 1960s, who arrived but the hippies, drawn by cheap land and the remote lawlessness ideal for a free-spirited lifestyle. Of course said affordable land has all but disappeared thanks to the real estate gold rush of 2020 and 2021, but eventually these $100k-per-acre prices will have to subside (right?).
If the past is any indication of the future, maybe that's where the Catskills are ultimately headed in 10 or 20 years—back to those just happy to be outside. And another Woodstock? Let’s just pray it’s more ‘69 than ‘99…
Enjoy your weekend! ttys