Sims described to us the first settlers, rugged individuals who braved the mountains to come over from the Hudson Valley after the revolutionary war. He spoke of the German farmers, the cutting of the hemlock forests to make tanning acid and the ways in which later farmers would supplement their income by taking in visitors from New York City for the summer. This he called the “Silver Age” of boardinghouse hospitality. It is interesting to note that American fly fishing started on the rivers of the Catskills.
The “Golden Age” of the Catskills arrived after World War II and was represented by the large resort hotels, famous for their comedians and night life. This age existed from the end of the war into the 1970s, when air travel became inexpensive and New Yorkers had more options for accessible travel.
Sims and Kirsten have a mission to share the beauty of the region with their guests while helping to build the local economy. The restaurants at each of their hotels become a means of further sharing with guests the seasonal rhythms of this bucolic place – an admirable amount of the food on offer is grown on the properties or foraged. They continue to explore other ways of connecting guests to the region – Sims jokes that ice fishing is now eagerly anticipated by a number of guests.
Kirsten is a dynamo who has created the aesthetic of each inn, down to details like custom light fixtures. She has an interesting life story that has roots both in the Hudson Valley and in Germany. Her European aesthetic is very present throughout the inns. Simms and Kirsten have two very young children and it is clear that all of this is to create an amazing life for them in this beautiful landscape (although they are expected to start in the business washing pots).
Photograph of the dining room at The DeBruce by Ronald Cadiz.