Review: The Hudson Whaler Hotel Pays Homage to Upstate NY’s Surprising Nautical History
Three hours north of New York City, a whilom whaling town is fast becoming one of the most charming destinations in America
Prior to the pandemic, this New Yorker was very much of the mind that most places truly worth traveling to required a passport, and that everywhere else paled in comparison. This time last year, though, that passport could hardly get me across state lines, let alone into another country. It forced me to look at the area in which I reside (and have for virtually my entire life) through a new lens, resulting in some of my very favorite trips to date — one in particular a little more than a two-hour drive away.
Due to its proximity to both New York City and Albany, the town of Hudson, New York, has become an attractive weekend destination for residents of both the northern and southern parts of the state. The 50 some-odd local restaurants, 100 shops and just as many antique stores play no small part in the town’s draw, either. That said, while Hudson’s rise in popularity is — in the grand scheme of things — relatively recent, the place is steeped in an unexpectedly rich history.
Touted as being the very first city in the United States (or rather, the first to be incorporated after the American Revolution), Hudson was initially settled by a handful of whaleship-owning, seafaring Dutchmen hailing from the New England area, thus earning it an early reputation as a prominent whaling center. (Yes — a whaling center on the Hudson River.) By 1790, it was the 24th biggest city in the country, and seven years later, it would fall just one vote shy of becoming the capital of New York state. In the 19th century, the construction of a railroad made the harbor inaccessible to ships, and Hudson would transform into more of an industrial manufacturing hub before its eventual — and most recent — pivot to tourism and retail.
So, as far as origin stories and subsequent trajectories for small towns in Upstate New York go: unexpected. But it’s a history that’s alive in well at The Hudson Whaler, the new boutique hotel in town from area hoteliers Michael Glickman and Benjamin Rinzler.
“A coveted destination to many, Hudson is known as an artists’ enclave with plenty of cultural and outdoor experiences to keep visitors of all ages entertained,” Glickman says. “When developing The Hudson Whaler Hotel, we wanted to create a retreat that not only affords guests of a superlative stay, but also educates visitors of the town’s rich whaling past.”
With droves of New Yorkers decamping to towns like Hudson and Beacon — many of them permanently — amid the pandemic, I recently made the three-hour drive north to see what all the fuss is about, with The Whaler as my launchpad. Here’s what I learned.
Located on Warren Street next to an antique shop and across from a yoga studio, the building itself is pretty nondescript. Aside from a small brass whale fastened to the left of the door, there’s very little indication as to what it even is. It almost feels like a secret — one that you’re allowed in on, but only upon entry.
Like much of the surrounding area, The Whaler is full of history, and many of its details original. The lobby feels vaguely like the captain’s quarters on an especially large ship, its walls outfitted with a cartographical mural that charts the area along Hudson River all the way from Manhattan to Hudson. For seating, you’ve got your choice of plush blue chairs or handsome leather couches, and the vintage Italian chandeliers hanging overhead were sourced from an antique shop, Ida’s Eye, right on Warren Street. The carpeted hardwood staircase leading to the second floor is original, and the hallways stemming from the lobby are painted in a dark blue, jewel-box style, again reminiscent of the interior of a ship. All the rugged maritime vibes aside, The Hudson Whaler still manages to feel both new and exceedingly modern — a testament to the power of restoration.
“Our challenge was to seamlessly restore and blend all the gorgeous existing ornate woodwork of the staircase, banisters and trim details with our new custom woodwork, furniture and decor that is period correct, functional and comfortable,” Rinzler says.
The Hudson Whaler boasts just 16 rooms, all contemporary and nautically themed. Decorated in shades of white and blue with gold accents and a smattering of greenery, the suites feature fireplaces with custom whaling-vessel wallpaper, king-sized beds, deep soaking tubs and large front-facing windows, which allow for plenty of natural light. Much like the rest of the building, though, the beauty of the rooms is largely in the details.
From the Saratoga water in the refrigerators to the complimentary, handmade chocolate whales crafted by local chocolatier Vasilow’s Confectioner on the nightstands to the Hudson Valley-produced Lockwood products in the bathrooms, The Whaler leans into its local charm. As someone who both grew up in Upstate (Saratoga) and spent many of their childhood summers on New England beaches, these are the notes that make The Whaler feel comfortable, familiar and nostalgic.
The Surrounding Area
The downtown area is truly worthy of a trip in and of itself. Littered with antique shops, art galleries and a wave of noteworthy, locally owned restaurants, you’ll need more than a day to enjoy all of what Warren Street alone has to offer. Within a few blocks of The Whaler over the course of an afternoon, I was able to procure Malaysian-inspired crispy rice from a restaurant called Backbar, an iced coffee with lavender honey from Supernatural Coffee, a book from Spotty Dog Books and Ale, and a toy for my teething puppy back home at Love Thy Beast, as well as an antique flask and vintage Alexander Wang bomber jacket. Not too shabby.
That said, after just a few hours of exploration, I was ready to retreat back to the comfort of my room at The Hudson Whaler. I crawled back into the king-sized bed, ate my whale-shaped chocolate and read my new book — one that, coincidentally, involved a boat.
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