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From Brooklyn to the Spruceton Inn

1 Casey and the Motel

Our readers love stories of New Yorkers who manage to reinvent themselves as Upstaters. So here’s an inspiring tale: one artist couple decides to make the move, buys a derelict motel once owned by a relative of Arnold Schwarzenegger, and chronicles their reinvention of the place on their websites and in illustrations. That couple is Casey Scieszka and Steven Weinberg, and we’ve interviewed them about how they’ve come to realize their dream. Look for the Spruceton Inn: A Catskills Bed and Bar to open this summer. Photos of the gorgeous property and more answers to our pressing questions after the jump.

How long have you and your husband lived in the city? Where? What do you guys do?

CS: I was born and raised in Brooklyn but have bounced around the globe quite a bit since then. Steven, who is originally from D.C., and I met while we were studying abroad in Morocco then lived everywhere from Beijing to San Francisco to literally Timbuktu. We even wrote a book about it which Steven illustrated called To Timbuktu: Nine Countries, Two People, One True StoryWe landed back in Park Slope, Brooklyn in 2011 for about three years where we continued our freelance shenanigans in illustration (him), graphic design (him and me), and writing (him and me). We moved upstate in December.

13 Schwarzeneggers-Sunshine-Valley-House

Tell us how you came to buy the Schwarzenegger’s Sunshine Valley House. Were you looking for a place upstate?

During my years as a freelancer I came to want something more. Something stable that I could build from scratch and call my own. I love to travel and by both nature and nurture I’m an interior design fan. (My mother is a fabulous interior designer.) For years I’ve harbored fantasies of buying an old, traditional courtyard house in Morocco and rehabbing it into a guesthouse. One night in Brooklyn, I started to lay out detailed plans for what that would entail and I thought, “This would be so much more feasible in America”. It was my light bulb moment! I spent the next year and half researching, working at a hotel, and developing a business plan.

Though I considered several different locations, I ultimately decided that I wanted to create a place that my friends and I would want to (and be able to afford to!) go. While living in Brooklyn, Steven and I had been escaping to the Catskills to explore and unplug even in the dead of winter. So this summer, when I was ready to start location hunting in earnest, we came up here first.

A meeting with a realtor in West Kill led us to a meandering drive on our own through Spruceton Valley. We spotted a motel strip behind an old farmhouse and stopped dead in our tracks. There was no “For Sale” sign but it was exactly what we were looking for.

Back in Brooklyn, after a bit of Google sleuthing, we figured out who owned it and I made the most potentially awkward but important cold call of my life! It was on that phone call that I learned that the place had been the Schwarzenegger Sunshine Valley House for many years up until a lovely, former-military family with roots in the area settled there and used it for purely residential purposes for the past decade or so. More importantly I learned that despite not having their place on the market they were open to selling!

Schwarzenegger? Explain!

Karl Schwarzenegger, cousin to THE Arnold Schwarzenegger, ran the joint for about 40 years. I’ve heard funny tales from neighbors about Arnold coming by in his bodybuilding days, hanging out at the bar that his cousin named after him—Conan’s Corner—flexing his muscles for curious kids and cracking jokes. Most of the old brochures for the place have bits like, “Arnold slept here and loved it!” We even have the actual bar that was Conan’s Corner. We’re keeping it, and the name too of course. Arnold, if you’re reading this, WE WANT YOU BACK! You said you’d be back.

What are your plans for the place? Tell us how being artists will influence the design and feel of it.

To open this summer we’re spending the winter and spring renovating with this great, local father-son duo, Jerry and Ben Vis of Vis Cottage Industries. They are both visual artists themselves so it’s been easy to convey our vision for the place, which is essentially that Nature is the best artist at play out here. While I love a memorable and bold hotel design, I understand that most people are coming up here to unwind and to enjoy the seclusion, colors, textures, and sounds of the natural area. The Spruceton Inn will be “design conscious” while letting the valley be the star.

And while I often speak of this endeavor as “we”, it’s technically only my professional baby. Steven is still illustrating and writing full time for the likes of everyone from Simon & Schuster to Hyperallergic to Green Door Magazine. That said, I still identify as an artist and want to stay connected to that community. That’s one of the reasons I’m really looking forward to hosting all kinds of creative retreats and developing an Artist Residency program.

When can we come?

This summer! Sign up for our mailing list HERE so we can keep you in the loop. I’ve really enjoyed the parade of neighbors and soon-to-be-guests we’ve been meeting, so feel free to stop by and say hello any time! You can also shoot me any questions/thoughts at casey@sprucetoninn.com.

2 Steven and Waldo the dog

3 Grounds

4 Grounds

5 Grounds

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9 Grounds

10  Spruceton Road

11 View from Hunter wintertime

12 Waterfall

Category: Accommodations, upstate new york

By: lisa | 23 January 2014 12:00 PM | 3 Comments

3 Responses

  1. [...] pleased as all heck that Upstater, aka country real estate porn for city folks, just ran an interview with me about opening Spruceton [...]

  2. Karolina says:

    Congrats! Glad to see more fellow Brooklynites in the area! We got a place in Big Indian last year and it’s wonderful… Looking forward to meeting you guys and grabbing a drink at conan’s corner…

  3. To Timbuktu says:

    [...] they wind up doing something like THIS?” then you should check out this interview we did with Upstater in which I spill all the beans, because I promise it makes sense. And I can’t tell you how [...]

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