Casa Hudson: An Upstate Penzione

Ascending the front porch stairs and entering the antechamber of Casa Hudson (Haverstraw, N.Y.) elicits the same feeling of anticipation as one experiences as he or she moves through the warren of passageways and staircases at Grand Central before emerging into the Great Hall of the upper concourse. Before you pass the threshold, you can sense something enchanting is hidden inside this nineteenth century Italianate-style monolith. The smell of new wood and paint sits poignantly at your nose. The heavy wooden doors swing silently out of your way, and creaking parquet and inlaid floors flex under your weight. A surprisingly sparse and tantalizingly appointed set of galleries, sweeping stair and dining space awaits.

It sits proudly on a bluff overlooking the widest point of the Hudson River. Like a sentinel, the house leads an elite bevy of historic mansions that grace the Hudson River’s shores from New York City to the Adirondacks. These are serious homes built by serious people during an extravagant, but very serious time as the United States was ascendant and it seemed inevitable that it was and would be the new Empire the world needed. These castles of industry and steel and steam technology pierced through the dramatic stone and wooded landscape and above the labyrinth of common homes, grid streets, and businesses in the dense, little Village of Haverstraw. Their brick walls forged from the clay and forests that descend to the River. They, these houses, are the landscape and the Village’s history at once.

The most striking aspect of Casa Hudson is its modern, minimalist interior juxtaposing a gruelingly restored, historic exterior. The house’s facade was scraped and painted in the style of Renaissance Masters as they coaxed their fresco to life. Owners and partners, Andrea Caccuro and Nelson Diaz, took very seriously the prospect of renewing Casa. Andrea uses here honed sense of style to imbue a take on Victorian architecture that is both settled in its time but also rooted in the future. Nelson, a visual artist, musician, and painter by trade, spent what turned into weeks and months breathing life into the facade and its ornate cornice corbels. Quite literally, his blood is in the paint and patchwork there. The house becomes an extension of their bodies. They become their home.

Luckily, Andrea and Nelson have chosen to share their masterpiece and themselves with the world. They run a sparingly simple Inn operation here. Visitors often have the house to themselves for quiet dinner parties or for episodes of yoga and meditation on a Juliette balcony that stuns with its view. The Hudson is nearly 4 miles wide here. The mountains are craggy and in summer, they are cloaked with garlands of lush vegetation. The local Dominican population say the mountains remind them of their home island’s jungled peaks. The fashion forward kitchen is fully accessible to folks that decide to eat in. Of course, Casa Hudson would lay dormant without its espresso maker.

I had the chance to spend a misty April weekend with friends at Casa. We arrived by ferry from MetroNorth Railroad. The ferry leaves from Ossining in Westchester County after connecting with a 1-hour train ride that originates at Grand Central. It was easy as pie to make it to Haverstraw after a full workday. At the time, I was living in Brooklyn and was somewhat nervous at trying to coordinate our group on that Friday evening, but my travel anxiety was for naught. It is simply too easy to get to and from Haverstraw versus those unwieldy treks to Kingston or Hudson. The ferry unloads its passengers about two blocks south of Casa Hudson – there’s really no need to hire a car for those two blocks. The walk was pleasant aside from a few spring sprinkles. The Village’s streets are clean and its people are friendly. It feels as if you’ve stepped back to a former period where cars aren’t central to life – it’s quiet and laid back. You can hear boats’ horns echoing on the River. A train whistle sounds in the distance.

Friday night was a night out on Main Street. We ate at Union Restaurant (highly recommended) and got coffee and dessert at Bella Sophia Sugar Crafts (holy god in heaven). The waterfront is amazingly accessible and there are a number of trails and viewing areas to take in what is a staggeringly beautiful view, even at night. Saturday was a day of sleeping, eating and playing board games at the extra long dining room table. Our game of choice was the Bloody Inn – super appropriate given the fog and grey that descended on the Village. By the late afternoon, the fog lifted and it was time to hike and explore the River’s edge. The River shore is littered with brick from former brickyards that gave Haverstraw its fame and wealth. There’s too much history to explain here, but please peruse the rest of HaverstrawLife.com to learn more. Haverstraw has an epically dense historical record. Saturday evening we grabbed a few bottles of wine downtown, made use of that great, open kitchen and laid low. Our train trip home to New York on Sunday was simpler than the train + ferry. We easily took a train from Nanuet, N.Y. to Penn Station via Secaucus and that was that.

I highly recommend Casa Hudson. It is an escape from our time. It is a place to let go of whatever is worrying you at work or elsewhere. Let it float away on the River’s tide. Take in the smell of a new/old house. Smell the River and lush surroundings. Let time dissipate. Have no plans here; this is a place to simply be.

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