The 1890 Travel Blogger: Mohonk Mountain House

(There were no travel bloggers in 1890. There were no blogs. No Web. But there were more and more people in America ready to do some traveling and looking for places to go. So if there was such a thing as a travel blog in the last decade of the 19th century, this is what I think it might have looked like.)

4. Mohonk Mountain House

Mohonk Mountain HouseWhat Messrs. Alfred and Albert Smiley promise visitors to their Victorian castle in the Shawangunk Mountains of New York is stewardship, reflection and renewal. Located on the half-mile long Lake Mohonk, this model Christian resort is a place for the busy city dweller and his family to experience nature.

Mr. Alfred Smiley, who was a Quaker school teacher, bought what was then a run down tavern situated on 300 acres of scenic beauty 21 years ago. The Smileys opened the resort that same year, 1869, playing host to a group of guests from Philadelphia. They have since improved and expanded the Mohonk Mountain House and have added a bowling alley, a spacious dining room and even a telegraph office.

SummerhouseWhile bowling is one recreational activity available to Mohonk guests, the resort is more importantly a celebration of the natural environment. Guests can enjoy fishing and boating in the lake or just sit in one of the summerhouses (covered benches) situated along the carriage roads and take in the scenic beauty of this mountain setting.

The Mohonk Mountain House provides an ideal respite for businessmen in the city who can get away for a week or two. It is only a few hours train ride from New York City to Palz Point where visitors can take a 90 minute carriage ride up the mountain to the resort. For those who can’t leave their businesses for that long they’ll find Mohonk to be an ideal place to send their wives and children for the summer as it is close enough to commute on weekends. Women visitors are especially likely to enjoy having all their meals served in the Smileys’ dining room.

Lake MohonkAnd at the Mohonk Mountain House you can be assured that the highest moral standards are maintained. Alcohol is prohibited, as is gambling and dancing. No carriages are allowed to arrive or depart on the Sabbath. There is a 10-minute prayer service daily as well as a non-denominational Sunday service.

Guests at this oasis in the Catskills have included Presidents Chester Arthur and Rutherford Hayes as well as former First Lady Julia Grant. Mr. Albert Smiley is well known for his civic mindedness and for the past seven years has been hosting the Lake Mohonk Conference of Friends of the Indians, a group he brings together to discuss how to improve the living standards of Native Americans.

A stay at the Mohonk Mountain House may seem a bit pricey to some at $25-$35 per week for a double room but all meals are included in that price. And the Smileys have been known to make financial accommodations for guests interested in a longer stay.

(See also The 1890 Travel Blogger posts about Atlantic City, ”
Wonderland,” and the Grand Tour of America.)

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7 Responses to The 1890 Travel Blogger: Mohonk Mountain House

  1. Wow no alcohol, gambling or dancing and a daily prayer service? My how vacationing had changed since 1869!! Lol


  2. There really is just no comparison to the grand old hotels. I spent a lot of time at Lake Hotel when I worked in Yellowstone. I would have loved to see the hotel that used to be near the rim of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, but alas it burned down long ago.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ken Dowell says:

      I stayed at Mohonk this year. That’s where I got the pix. It is still a grand old hotel and still serves 3 meals a day in its giant dining room. A great place to visit though not very conveniently located if you’re in Idaho.


      • Glad to hear that you stayed here, Ken. I was so impressed with the blog (what fun) and that the place still exists that I zapped this over to my husband. Love these retro-blogs and I keep sharing them on Facebook!


  3. No dancing, alcohol and prayer service oh dear! Thank God time has changed.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Fascinating information, Ken. Shawangunk Mountains are a day trip from Ithaca, I’ve always wanted to visit them and Lake Mohonk.

    Liked by 1 person

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