By Jeff & Stephanie Sylva
The wide plank floors, sturdy overhead beams and huge stone hearth, immediately apparent upon entering the lobby, evoke a convincing sense of history. The legacy of The Beekman Arms is historically compelling. It was in 1704, at the intersection of the King’s Highway (today’s Route 9) and the Sepasco Trail in Ryne Beck (the original spelling), New York, that William Traphagen established his tavern. The Traphagen Tavern became The Beekman Arms in 1766 when the inn was added in front of and over the original sturdy timber and stone building.
For more than two and a half centuries The Beekman Arms has been continuously serving as the center of hospitality for travelers, Rhinebeck locals, and an impressive list of statesmen, dignitaries, and notable guests, making “The Beek” (as many locals fondly call it) America’s oldest inn.
The Inn was active during the Revolutionary War, as the 4th Regiment of the Continental Army drilled on its front lawn in preparation for the war in 1775. George Washington, Benedict Arnold, Alexander Hamilton, and others ate, drank, and slept here. It is believed that while a candidate for Governor of New York and whose campaign was headquartered in Rhinebeck, Aaron Burr quarreled with Alexander Hamilton in The Beekman Arms’ tap room—a quarrel that eventually would lead to a drastic outcome. William Jennings Bryan delivered one of his eloquent orations from a second-story window to a huge crowd gathered on the front lawn.
A well-known Hyde Park neighbor, Franklin D. Roosevelt, was also a frequent guest. He concluded each of his campaigns for both governor and president (four times) with a speech from The Inn’s front porch. The Inn’s guest list includes names like Bill and Hillary Clinton, Walter Cronkite, Oprah Winfrey, Norman Mailer, Neil Armstrong, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicholson, Paul Newman, and numerous other notable names.
The Beekman Arms is a classic country inn set in the center of Rhinebeck. All of the guestrooms have been completely renovated maintaining the historical ambiance with contemporary comforts including private bath, air conditioning, flat-screen TV, as well as fireplaces in a selection of rooms. Guest rooms, which vary greatly, are located in the main inn building as well as several guest houses. The 13 rooms on the upper floors of the original inn date from 1766.
Accommodations also include 57 rooms of The Delamater Inn and its courtyard buildings and guesthouses on its campus-style property. The Delamater, built in 1844, was designed by one of America’s first architects, Alexander Jackson Davis, and is one of the finest remaining examples of American Carpenter Gothic. The Beekman Arms and Delamater Inn is a member of The Historic Hotels of America. Info: beekmandelamaterinn.com.
HISTORIC DINING VENUE
Since 1766 Rhinebeck residents and visitors have gathered, talked, eaten, and drunk, at The Tavern at the Beekman Arms. The CIA-trained culinary team crafts an outstanding menu of delectable offerings with a focus on utilizing locally-sourced provisions and wines. The Inn’s signature dishes are the Dutch Pot Pie with farm fresh turkey, roasted root vegetables, and a tasty cheddar biscuit in the middle, and the Yankee Pot Roast with red wine braised beef, potato puree and baby vegetables. Patrons can choose to dine in the historic 200-year-old Tap Room with its original wide planked floors and authentic decor, the glass-enclosed garden greenhouse, or on the patio in warmer weather. Lunch, dinner, and Sunday brunch are offered, as well as a complimentary buffet breakfast for hotel guests only.
WHAT TO DO
Explore the village’s wide variety of cafes, bistros, and taverns and a number of interesting boutique shops. Antique stores are ubiquitous, including the Beekman Arms’ own Antique Market with over 30 dealers housed in a classic 2-story barn located behind the Inn. On Friday nights join other thrill seekers and be led down to the basement of The Beekman Arms to experience the telling of some true, and chilling, anecdotes about America’s oldest operating inn. Ghost Stories recounts the tales of some of the people—and spirits—that that have occupied the Inn for over 250 years.
Since Rhinebeck sits in the center of the National Historic Landmark District, you can visit nine Hudson River Estates, including Vanderbilt Mansion, Franklin D. Roosevelt Home and Library, Eleanor Roosevelt National Historic Site, Mills Mansion, Olana, Wilderstein, Clermont, Montgomery Place, and Locust Grove.
Get out and stretch your legs with a scenic stroll over the Hudson River at the Walkway Over the Hudson in nearby Poughkeepsie, NY. This 1.28-mile linear park sits 212 feet above the river and boasts scenic views of the Catskills to the north and the Hudson Highlands to the south. Closer to Rhinebeck is the 120-acre park, Poets’ Walk Park, offering relaxed walking paths in a beautiful landscape interspersed with benches, ornamental pavilions and sweeping Hudson River views. The park’s name is a tribute to the 19th-century writers such as Washington Irving who were attracted to and inspired by the beauty of this Romantic landscape. Located in Rhinebeck is the Ferncliff Forest Game Refuge and Forest Preserve. The 200-acre old-growth forest has 4 miles of trails and an 80-foot fire tower, which—once you have climbed its 109 steps—offers sweeping views of the Hudson River, Catskill Mountains, and the surrounding area. Rhinebeck is about a two-hour drive from New York City and is also accessible via Amtrak. Info: enjoyrhinebeck.com.
A fascinating Rhinebeck attraction is Cole Palen’s Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome. A “Living Museum of Antique Aircraft,” the Aerodrome features over 50 antique aircraft and over 40 vintage vehicles from 1900-1940. A unique feature of the Aerodrome is the aerial demonstrations conducted on weekends from mid-June through mid-October. The History of Flight Airshow is presented on Saturdays and the World War I Airshow is on Sundays. For an even more thrilling experience take a ride in a 1929 D-25 Open Cockpit Biplane. Info: oldrhinebeck.org.