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On the road to Sharon Springs, NY

Some of you may be thinking, On the road to where?

Others, who’ve read Josh Kilmer-Purcell’s memoir, The Bucolic Plague, may be nodding in recognition at the name of the small town in upstate New York where the book is set (truthfully, the Central Leatherstocking Region, or ‘Central New York,’ but much more “upstate” than Manhattanites usually mean when they refer to anything north of the Hudson!).

And, while I’m in the mood for full disclosure, I should mention that The Bucolic Plague is one of three memoirs penned by Mr. Kilmer-Purcell.  The others, I Am Not Myself These Days and Candy Everybody Wants are on my proverbial wish list!

When I reviewed The Bucolic Plague, back in August 2010, I said “This is the kind of memoir I love – real people having fun/quirky adventures and confronting obstacles that have the power to make or break them.”  I recommended it to my “old” Connecticut book group, who enjoyed it so much that they decided to take a spring-is-finally-here pilgrimage to Sharon Springs.  It took me about two blinks to say “I’ll meet you there!”

a room at the American Hotel

We drove up the second weekend of April – spring hadn’t quite sprung; I saw some snow on the ground as I drove Rte. 90 across the Berkshires.  In Sharon Springs, the sun was shining, and several people were willing the season along by raking and clearing flowerbeds of winter debris.  Despite the lack of colorful flowers, spring was in the air with a gorgeous sunny weekend and a spring was in our steps as we enjoyed a weekend away (without the 8 husbands and 23 kids among us!)

Sharon Springs was apparently the place to be in the 19th century, the natural springs were a draw for the well-to-do from Manhattan and further afield. When I-90 came in, the Rte. 20 corridor gradually became less-frequently used, and Sharon Springs (and other former resort towns) along the route saw a great decline.

"Don't go away mad, just go away"

So what caused Kilmer-Purcell and his partner, Brent Ridge, to stop in Sharon Springs on their way back to Manhattan on an autumn weekend of apple-picking?  Why did they fall in love with the village and decide to buy the Beekman Mansion?  The author talks about it in his memoir, and a big reason is the American Hotel and its proprietors, Garth Roberts and Doug Plummer … but I’m getting ahead of myself …

My Connecticut friends arrived at the hotel about a half hour before I did, and selected our rooms – the inn has nine guest rooms, and we took four of them. Stepping across the wide front porch, we entered the lobby, a small, tastefully decorated area.  The reception desk is a gorgeous piece of craftsmanship – new this season, it is oak (I think!) with inlays of birch and maple.  Garth later told me that it was made from trees they had cut down when they enlarged the parking lot of the inn; the trees were planked, aged, and make into this showpiece (no, I don’t have a photo to post!  Note to self: email the inn to ask for a photo).

Further back on the first floor is the bar (yes, we spent some time here), with a door to the back patio (not yet open for the season when we visited).  Our rooms were on the second floor; there’s a second-floor front porch open in-season.

The rooms are each comfortably furnished with antiques; the bathrooms are completely updated, with new fixtures and details like a make-up mirror and upscale toiletries.  Each room is decorated in a different style, with the unifying feature of and classic white bedspreads atop warm featherbeds – I slept so well, even in a twin bed!  We laughed at this take on a “privacy, please” door-hanger.

The Beekman Mansion

Lunch was across the street at the Black Cat Café, then we browsed a few shops on Main Street – Cobbler & Co. (packed with stuff, each room a different theme! The staircase up to the second floor looks like it’s been autographed by everyone who walks through the door), McGillycuddy’s Naturals (I picked up some olive oil soap and a yummy peppermint lip balm), The Finishing Touch (great prices on scarves and costume jewelry), and, of course, the Beekman 1802 Mercantile.

We then hopped in the car to do a drive-by of the Beekman Mansion, the homestead that Josh and Brent purchased and have returned to a working farm.  Maybe “drive-by” isn’t quite accurate; we did stop to take some pictures, but did respect the pleas for privacy.  The farm is open to the public only for special events; there were none scheduled this weekend, in fact, “The Fabulous Beekman Boys” were in Los Angeles promoting their television show which airs on Planet Green.

After taking a series of photos, we looked for other local sites to visit.  The fistful of tourist brochures we picked up indicated we were close (20 miles?) to the Howe Caverns, a series of underground caves.  Half of the group braved the 80-minute underground tour, the rest enjoyed spending time relaxing in rocking chairs on the porch; I was in the less adventurous group, content with chatting and soaking up the sun.

Back at the American Hotel, we changed for dinner, and met in the bar.  There we met George (that’s his back in the photo, really!), the American Hotel bartender (and also the village mortician), Michelle (the fun-loving realtor who sold the Beekman to Josh and Brent), and Austin Jetton (a Broadway musician turned chocolatier who creates Austintacious truffles). And, of course, the proprietors of the American Hotel, Garth and Doug, who are extremely gracious hosts (even when we got a bit obnoxious … and I’ll admit that when you get eight girlfriends away for the weekend, enjoying fine wine and dining, it can get a bit non-Emily-Post!)

Kyle - "waiter of the year!"

Dinner was A-MAZ-ING!  Seating began at the early-bird hour of 5:00; we opted for “late” dining at 7:00 (yes, this is still early, but not for Sharon Springs). After a delicious meal (really, check out the menus – we began with crisp ginger carrots, fresh bread with herbed butter … and FOUR HOURS LATER ended with maple cake and Beekman 1802 goats milk cheesecake).  Our server, Kyle, was entertaining, patient, and lots of fun; the assistants (Tina and Jenna) likewise treated us well.  Although we begged, pleaded, flirted, and did everything but burst through the kitchen door, we were unable to meet the chef, Lee Woolver – a man of mystery, with fantastic culinary skills.

After a very good night’s sleep, we were back in the dining room for brunch.  Doug greeted us with a well-placed inquiry about how we were feeling after the night before, and our server was careful not to crash the flatware.  Breakfast was also top-notch — blueberry pancakes, swiss and asparagus omelet, homemade granola …. yum!


Garth, 'the girls', and Doug (note his it's-Saturday-night kilt!)

My friends headed south to Cooperstown for the day, but I opted to head back to Boston, as the drive was a bit longer for me.  The weekend was a blast – who can argue with “eat, drink, and be merry!”??!  I’d like to come back with J for a weekend, perhaps in the fall during the Harvest Fest; we could take in the Baseball Hall of Fame and Cooperstown Brewing, then loop up to Sharon Springs.  I’m so glad my friends and I were able to explore the village that Josh Kilmer-Purcell shares in The Bucolic Plague, and hope to meet those Fabulous Beekman Boys on a return trip.

14 comments to On the road to Sharon Springs, NY

  • When we read The Bucolic Plague last summer it floored us. It was so good, we gushed about then and now. We have made a few trips out to New York, but never found the time to head to Sharon Springs. Although, we gushed about the book so much that a co-worker read the book, made the trip to the town and had a blast. Bought some Beekman soap and additional copies of the book for gifts.

    A great post that offers us a little glimpse at the fantastic enclave nestled there in New York

  • I remember going to Howe Caverns as a kid! I think it was on a trip to Lake George that also included a visit to Cooperstown, which I did not enjoy as a 7-year-old. I’d love to go back to the area–maybe for a weekend trip some summer . . .

  • What fun! I love the book-related road trip, and I completely adored this book.

  • That looks like the perfect weekend getaway to me. Glad you had a wonderful time!

  • What a fun way to spend the weekend! I really want to read the book – I’m sure it’ll make me want to make a pilgrimage too.

  • josh and brent

    thank you all for visiting us! sorry we weren’t around…but it sounds like you met all of the exciting people in town anyway. xo j&b.

  • This is a great review, all things Sharon Springs and Schoharie County — and of course, the always memorable Cooperstown. I live about 10 miles from the Beekman Mansion and still find myself enjoying all of the sights and people you saw and met! When my husband and I moved here nearly 13 years ago one of our first visits in Sharon Springs was to the little cafe’ that Doug and Garth were running. We were just talking about how Doug was so excited about this “big ol’ run-down place” down the road that they were considering buying and turning into a restaurant with rooms. They both have given the term “get-er-done” a whole new meaning. (I just wrote about reading “The Bucolic Plague” on my blog this weekend — it’s nice to be on the same wavelength!). Best wishes. LKK

  • I made that trip too! Although, I’m only in Albany and about an hour away. It was fun, and I hope to do it again (we’re almost out of the soap we bought!)

  • Suz4

    How did you get a room? We’ve been trying for months to reserve a room at The Amherican (plus according to their website the hotel is closed, except for the restaurant, opening the end of May) and have been told every time they are all booked up. I realize that with only 9 rooms that is no doubt true, but when we first tried (before the posted May opening) we found it amazing they were booked up and not even open.

  • What a fantastically awesome adventure and get together Wow!!!!

  • I’ve been a visitor to your site for awhile, but have never commented until now. I am a huge fan of Josh and Brent, so when this post about the Beekman Boys appeared, I couldn’t resist! My sister bought me some of their soaps last winter. I loved them so much that I drew them (that’s what I do) and posted them on my blog. Lo and behold, I got comments and a Facebook mention from the guys (which gave me my busiest day ever on my humble little blog. I recently met them when they visited San Francisco (and blogged about it, of course)…what amazing guys. Your trip to Sharon Springs sounds like such a hoot – thanks for sharing, and I promise to keep visiting (and commenting) your wonderful site.

  • Oh my gosh! It is so awesome that you actually got the chance to visit! It looks lovely and it sounds like you had a wonderful time out there. I have been wanting to read The Bucolic Plague for months now, and just seeing these photos makes me want to grab it right away!

  • Kristen

    Anyone one who visits Sharon Springs will fall in love with it as I have. Check out my page on Facebook: Fan of Sharon Springs, NY. I have a lot of pics on their for those to enjoy who have not gotten a chance to visit yet.

  • I’m beyond envious! I love the Beekman Boys!!

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