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The Smiley Family
Mohonk Mountain House
New Paltz, New York

Perpetuating a Grande Dame of the Victorian Era

Nina and Bert Smiley

The two-mile drive up a long, winding mountain road to Mohonk Mountain House gives little indication of what awaits at the end of the journey. A majestic Victorian castle suddenly appears, surrounded by thousands of acres of wilderness, and its benign presence beckons visitors who are about to take a step back in time.

In 1869, twin brothers Albert and Alfred Smiley purchased a small clapboard tavern and 280 acres of land on a mountaintop in New Paltz, New York. They were inspired by the beauty of Shawangunk Ridge, a mountainous glacial ridge rising above the half-mile-long, deep blue Lake Mohonk. Albert foresaw a peaceful retreat, a tribute to nature, where all could live in harmony. This picturesque area is in the Hudson River Valley, about 90 miles from New York City.

Construction on this structure, which is one of the last great 19th century mountain resorts, spanned the years from 1879 to 1910. The stewardship of the Smiley family, including members who founded Mohonk Mountain House and those who continue to maintain it, received recognition on December 9, 1986, when Mohonk was officially named a National Historic Landmark. The distinction is unique in that it encompasses not only the Mountain House, but 83 other Mohonk buildings of historic significance, 128 summerhouses (gazebos) and the surrounding 7,800 acres of developed and undeveloped land.

"We're proud of what we've done," said Albert K. Smiley, current owner and great-grandnephew of Mohonk's founder, Albert Smiley. "For four generations we've been able to offer a retreat to our visitors in this beautiful setting and retain that vision of environmental preservation."


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