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Rhinecliff Hotel

Rhinebeck Town, Dutchess County, NY

The Rhinecliff Hotel was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1987. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. The building has been significantly expanded since 1987, the date of the nomination document. Accompanying photo was taken in May, 2008. [1]

The Rhinecliff Hotel is located on the south side of Schatzell Avenue in the historic core of the Hamlet of Rhinecliff. The hotel occupies a small (less than one acre) lot bounded on the west by the Conrail Railroad tracks and the Hudson River, on the north by Schatzell Avenue and on the east by Grinnell Street. The immediate neighborhood is composed of small-scale residential and/or commercial buildings on small village lots. Most of the buildings surrounding the hotel date from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries; none, however, retains sufficient integrity to meet the National Register criteria. Other intact historic properties in the historic core of the community include the O'Brien General Store and Post Office and the Morton Memorial Library two blocks east of the hotel on opposite corners of the intersection of Schatzell Avenue with Charles and Kelly Streets and the Riverside Methodist Church and Parsonage several blocks northeast of the hotel on Charles and Orchard Streets.

The hotel is oriented northward on its narrow, steeply sloped lot at the west end of Schatzell Avenue. The building sits close to the street with a small, unpaved parking lot alongside the road. A narrow, terraced lawn is located east of the building. The south end of the lot is heavily wooded. The narrow strip of land between the building and the railroad right-of-way is overgrown with brush and mature trees, obscuring the previously unobstructed view of the river.

A contributing garage is located behind the hotel fronting Grinnell Street.

The Rhinecliff Hotel, erected ca. 1855, is a large L-shaped frame building with restrained Picturesque design and decorative features. Embanked into the steeply sloped terrain, the building is two stories tall on the east elevation and three stories tall on the west, riverside, facade. Formerly oriented westward with an expansive vista of the Hudson River and Catskill Mountains, primary access is now through the basement level of the north elevation. The building is sheathed with clapboard siding and is surmounted by a cross-gable roof sheathed with standing-seam metal. The roofline is marked by broadly projecting eaves with exposed rafters, prominent cross gables and a wide frieze pierced by small, rectangular attic windows. A two-tiered verandah encircles the west and north elevations. Fenestration is regular. Original window openings and trim generally survive intact, but modern double-hung sash have been added.

The north (currently the front) elevation of the main block of the hotel features a three-story, five-bay, center-hall composition. Primary access to the building is through the brick-faced basement level. The altered entrance features an off-center doorway, recently enclosed by a wooden vestibule, which provides access to the hotel's public space currently serving as a bar and dining room. A small, partially exposed brick shed is attached to the southeast corner of the hotel at the basement level. A more formal entrance, composed of a centrally located double-door, is located at the first story. This doorway, surmounted by a transom and surrounded by simple wooden trim, provides access to the verandah, a hip-roofed porch with decorative wooden post brackets and simple, square support posts. A simple balustrade spans the verandah. The attic story is marked by small rectangular windows and a large cross-gable with exposed rafter ends. A rounded-arch, double-hung sash window with an ornamental lintel is located in the field of the cross gable.

The two-story, east gable end of the rectangular main block is three bays wide. A secondary entrance is located at ground level; the remainder of the elevation features modern one-over-one double-hung sash windows. A pair of double-hung sash windows with a decorative, miter-arched lintel is located in the apex of the gable end.

A two-story ell extends southward from the west end of the main block. The east elevation of the ell features regularly placed one-over-one double-hung sash windows. A modern fire escape is attached to the second story. Small rectangular attic windows mark the roofline. A modern one and one-half story addition is attached to the rear (south) elevation of the ell. The addition features a low-pitched hipped roof, irregular fenestration and modern siding.

The three-story, west (riverside) facade features a slightly asymmetrical, seven-bay composition spanning the width of the main block and the length of the ell. The entire length of the facade is spanned by a two-tiered verandah. Like the north porch, the west porch features decorative post brackets, simple, square support posts and a simple balustrade. The roofline is marked by two large Picturesque cross gables embellished with decorative, exposed rafter ends. Paired double-hung sash windows with miter-arched lintels are centrally placed in the fields of the cross gables. The former primary entrance is centrally located at the second story, providing access to the verandah. The entrance, sheltered by a bracketed hood projecting beyond the verandah, features a double-door flanked by sidelights, surmounted by a wide transom and enclosed by a miter-arched surround. The remainder of the second and upper stories are characterized by slightly asymmetrically placed, one-over-one double-hung sash windows. (A large modern picture window has been added on the second story.) The brick-faced basement level features a large service entrance and several double-hung sash windows with stone lintels. The modern addition extends southward from the rear of the ell.

Little mid-nineteenth century fabric is believed to survive intact on the hotel's interior. The basement level public spaces, i.e., the saloon and dining hall, feature molded woodwork around door and window openings and a pressed-tin ceiling dating from the first quarter of the twentieth century. Mid-nineteenth century room configurations (i.e., long halls flanked by single rooms for boarding) and simple woodwork, believed to date from the early twentieth century, survive intact on the upper stories and rear wings. The original mid-nineteenth century staircase with turned newel and balusters survives intact in the south wing.

The contributing carriage shed/garage, believed to date from the late nineteenth/early twentieth century, is a one-story, four-stall rectangular frame building with a shed roof and novelty siding.

The Rhinecliff Hotel, erected ca. 1855, is architecturally and historically significant as a distinctive example of the type of hotel architecture erected in Hudson River landings during the second half of the nineteenth century. One of the last surviving river-front hotels in the Hudson Valley, this resource documents Rhinecliff's important role in the multiple resource area, first as a ferry landing and then as a railroad stop. Surviving substantially intact with simplified picturesque detail, the building also reflects the general taste pervasive in the region in the mid-nineteenth century.

Intimately associated with the economic, recreational and social activity of the river, railroad and surrounding community during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the Rhinecliff Hotel provides important documentation for understanding the pattern of development in a typical riverfront landing in the Hudson Valley. The hotel and its surrounding hamlet typify the kind of development that commonly flourished around Hudson River ferry and steamboat landings and railroad stops that were established to take advantage of the commercial opportunities spurred by river and rail traffic. Communities like Rhinecliff prospered and grew as they provided services and accommodations to travellers and boatmen.

The village of Rhinecliff evolved from a small, yet important, ferry landing established in the eighteenth century, through popularity as a steamboat landing during the first quarter of the nineteenth century, into a bustling trackside commercial center for the nearby estate district and farming community. The Rhinecliff Hotel was established ca. 1855, several years after the advent of rail service in the area, at the height of the community's mid-nineteenth century prominence. In its capacity as a hotel and tavern/restaurant, the Rhinebeck Hotel provided lodging and functioned as a center for social and entertainment activities for travellers, vacationers and local patrons alike.

Although unpretentious architecturally, the Rhinecliff Hotel is representative in scale, proportion, form and detailing of the late Greek Revival/early Picturesque taste popular in the region during the mid-nineteenth century. Characterized by a standard rectangular gable-roofed form with a five-bay, center-hall facade, the hotel reflects the persistence of regional building traditions popular during the Georgian, Federal and Greek Revival periods. The introduction of restrained decorative elements, including the curvilinear brackets on the verandah, the exposed rafters beneath the broadly projecting eaves and the projecting front cross gable, reflects the influence of the Picturesque taste. On the interior, the hotel is characterized by the efficient and convenient use of space and unpretentious ornamentation reflecting the functional, utilitarian nature of the building. The decoration of the interior has been altered over the years. Current decorative elements, including simply molded woodwork and pressed tin ceilings in the public spaces, date from the early twentieth century, illustrating the continued use and periodic upgrading of the building over an extended period of time.

The significance of the property is enhanced by the survival of a four-stall carriage shed/garage. Serving the needs of guests and boarders, the carriage shed reflects the continued use of the property during the carriage era and into the automobile age.

A series of proprietors has kept the hotel in continuous operation throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The earliest recorded owner was a William Chandall;* by 1876, the property was owned by a Mrs. McElroy. The construction of the new railroad depot in Rhinecliff in 1910-14 (Sixteen Mile Historic District) assured the continued prosperity of the hamlet and, consequently, the hotel, during the early twentieth century, at least until cars and trucks surpassed the railroads as the primary means of passenger and freight transportation. The hotel was acquired by Joseph and Ellsie Steinmetz in the 1920s; they operated the establishment until the 1940s when the present proprietor, Edward Tybus, purchased the property. At some time during the twentieth century, the hotel slowly evolved in use from a lodge providing overnight accommodations to a boarding house providing longer-term housing. Due to the increased popularity of the area in general as a bedroom community for New York City commuters, Rhinecliff has recently experienced a period of revitalization. The hotel continues in full occupation and the tavern remains a vital and popular center of social activity in the community.

*According to local tradition, the hotel was built by George Veitch.

  1. Todd, Nancy and Larson, Neil, New York State Division for Historic Preservation, Rhinecliff Hotel, nomination document, 1987, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.

Nearby Neighborhoods

Street Names
Schatzell Avenue