“The historical marker says it is a place of refuge. That’s what I try to provide for everyone.”
Take Refuge at this Historic Inn
by Anne Pyburn Craig photos by Matt Petricone
PEOPLE WHO ARE FORTUNATE ENOUGH TO FIND THEMSELVES GUESTS AT CAPTAIN SCHOONMAKER’S B&B IN HIGH FALLS KNOW THEY’VE COME TO A SPECIAL PLACE.
So does owner/hostess Robyn Smith, who remembers crying on her first walk-through of the historic property.
“I really wanted to return to the Hudson Valley,” she remembers. “I’d started a theatre in Ellenville, and I dreamed of coming back to be more involved.” That theatre, the historic Shadowland, was brought back and nurtured by Smith and her Manhattan theatre troupe, who spent five years burnishing and building it, after which they donated the theatre to the community. (She’s still on the board of directors; the Shadowland just celebrated its 30th anniversary as a vital and beloved community resource.)
It’s a special place: ten landscaped and wooded acres, with two seasonal waterfalls, and a rushing mountain trout stream.
Smith had made her professional acting debut on the English stage at the age of ten and spent years off-Broadway, which led her to the Shadowland purchase. She conquered the other coast as a creative exec at Sony, working on Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy, among other projects. She married actress Ann Margret’s son and raised a child.
But the bright lights of LA didn’t dim the remembered sparkle of the Hudson Valley, and she always wanted to come back. Things converged: her son went off to college and Captain Schoonmaker’s came up for sale. “My mother owned a B&B in Oxford, and my grandmother owned one in Wales, so I was familiar with innkeeping,” she says. “And I knew the inn from the 1980s.”
It’s a special place, worthy of Smith’s many talents: ten landscaped and wooded acres, with two seasonal waterfalls, a rushing mountain trout stream, and the remains of a stone gristmill. Depending on the season, guests are welcome to sit by a cozy fire, fish in the trout stream, take a dip under the waterfall, or just relax in the hammock. The stone Captain’s Quarters dates to 1760 and was a place of refuge during the Revolutionary War.
It’s still a refuge. “I can’t think of a single bad thing to say about Captain Schoonmaker’s B&B and its delightful innkeeper, Robyn,” raves a visitor in a typical review on TripAdvisor. “The property is like something you’d imagine in a fantasy novel: rich with rolling streams and creeks, beautifully landscaped grounds, and flowering trees. The only thing missing are actual hobbits.”
“People fall in love here,” says Smith. “We offer a full breakfast served in the dining room, and people love to sit at the long pine table and chat with strangers...
When they finish their breakfast they have made new friends. It’s like Breakfast Theatre . . . every time it’s a performance.”
Smith’s role in that performance is one she was born to play, and her favorite part of the whole gig is the constantly shifting supporting cast. “The guests are wonderful,” she says. “I’ve made really good friends with a lot of interesting people from all around the world.
“Winter is tough here. Heating a big stone house isn’t cheap. But every year we get through it and the spring comes and you forget about the cold . . . we’re thriving, so it’s great. My business philosophy is to make sure my guests have a warm and comforting time while they are here. The inn makes it easy. Everyone feels very peaceful here. They get what they seek. The historical marker says it is a place of refuge; that’s what I try to provide for everyone.”
She’s looking forward to hosting more memorable moments. “We’re planning to expand our wedding business and to offer a historic portrayal of Captain Schoonmaker, who was a Revolutionary War hero. We’ve done a few catering events with great success. I have a small dedicated staff who help me tremendously.” And meanwhile, she’s thriving personally.
“I love looking out at the garden and hearing the waterfall. Every day is filled with something completely different, such as testing new recipes or finding a great place for produce. I’m writing a play. I’m living my dream.”
Captain Schoonmaker’s Bed and Breakfast was just awarded the TripAdvisor 2015 Certificate of Excellence and has an Award for Excellence with booking.com.
Captain Schoonmaker’s Bed & Breakfast
913 Route 213. High Falls