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Troutbeck Reimagined

Troutbeck Reimagined

by Joseph Montebello

Once you make the turn onto Leedsvlle Road in Amenia you won’t want to leave again. You are entering the rarefied world of Troutbeck.

Surrounded by 5,000 acres of wilderness, the Inn and Conference Center is now the epitome of luxury, having recently been purchased by D.R. Horne & Company. The real estate development company provides strategic land planning, asset management and development services, with particular expertise in projects of natural, cultural or historical significance.

Anthony Champalimaud, a partner in the firm, has been spearheading the renovation and restoration of this historic property. “We acquired Troutbeck last summer,” explains Champalimaud. “It had been operating as an inn and conference center since 2007 but had been closed for the past 10 years. A friend suggested I have a look at it, knowing my interest in historic places and being in the hospitality business. There is no property like this between here and the Hudson River. But what really enticed us was the story.”

And what a story. The property was originally settled by the Benton family in the mid-18th century. Myron Benton, the last of the clan to live there, christened the ancestral home of his father and grandfather "Troutbeck" because of its perpetual spring with trout were so tame they would come up to your hand. Myron was a romantic nature lover and lived close to the land. He made Troutbeck a center of interest to such luminaries as John Burroughs, Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson. In fact, the last letter Thoreau wrote was to Benton.

Joel Spingarn and his wife Amy took over the property in 1904. He was one of the first Jewish professors at Columbia, founded the publishing house Harcourt Brace & Company and was one of the founders of the NAACP. It was Spingarn who established the Spingarn Medal, the highest award given by the organization. Martin Luther King was one of its recipients and there is a thank you letter framed and displayed at Troutbeck.

“This is an extraordinarily dignified place,” says Champalimaud. “But we want it to be used the way it was originally intended—as a meeting place, to enjoy the company of others, have a fine meal, exchange ideas. We don’t want it to be burdened by its history, which is why we have not made it into a museum. Spingarn’s library is the only room where the history of the house is prominent.”

Champalimaud and his partner purchased the property in November. There are a series of soft openings scheduled between now and October when completion is expected. Of the 37 rooms in the main building 17 are completed. There are an additional 16 rooms in the Century Lodge at the entrance to the property.

In addition to the guest rooms and public areas, here will be a spacious swimming pool replete with a deck and dining area, two tennis courts and enticing footpaths on which explore the property.

Much of the renovation has been a family affair. Champalimaud’s mother, Alexandra, world-renowned interior designer and president of Champalimaud Design, has decorated the rooms. This is the sixth project on which mother and son have worked together.

“We tried to create a bit of a mix,” Champalimaud says. “We wanted it to feel as if the house has been in the family for generations and we simply added to what was already there. In the public rooms, wherever possible, we refinished all the moldings but retained their patina and did the same with many of the floors. We did not want to erase what had come before.”

Because many of the rooms retain their original moldings and floors as well, the décor has been created to complement what was already there. The color scheme for the majority of the guest rooms follows a neutral palette (every so often there is an orange wall to give an element of surprise.) Three of the guest rooms in the main building have sleeping porches and there are rooms that are connected so that they can accommodate a family or group.

Lighting fixtures designed by Alexandra and manufactured by RT Facts in Kent grace most of the guest rooms and public rooms. The beds are custom-designed and all the linens are from Frette. The bathrooms have been upgraded with top-of-the-line fixtures and the floors have radiant heat. There is Wi-Fi throughout the property as well as cable for those who feel the need for it. Bruce Schnitzer, Alexandra’s husband, has done much of the landscape design.

In addition to the restaurant and bar areas, there is a spectacular ballroom with its own bar and a spacious dance floor. It can accommodate 225 people—ideal for a wedding, anniversary or birthday celebration.

“We have tried to create an oasis outside of the city, where people can come to relax, enjoy fine food, explore amazing landscapes, but we also want to attract people who don’t work in offices. Many of us are nomadic and people are moving away from urban centers; an entire creative process has been priced out of New York City.

“Yes, Troutbeck is perfect for romantic getaways and weddings but we want to encourage people to use it throughout the week,” he continued. “This space has many fundamental advantages. Troutbeck is six minutes from the Wassaic train station where 13 times a day there is a train to take you effortlessly into the city.”

The restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Room service will not be available until the fall. For more information visit www.troutbeck.com

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