Albert K. Smiley III, 74, Keeper of Mohonk Mountain House, Dies

0
11

Albert K. Smiley III, a hotelier who preserved Mohonk Mountain House in upstate New York as a 19th-century Victorian retreat that could have been inspired jointly by Rip Van Winkle and Charles Addams, while also nudging it gently into the next century, died on Oct. 16 in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. He was 74.

The cause was leukemia, his nephew Eric Gullickson said.

Mr. Gullickson, the president of Mohonk, and his cousin Tom Smiley, the chief executive, are the latest generation of a family of conservationists and innkeepers descended from the twin brothers who, beginning in 1869, transformed a rowdy 10-room tavern into an idiosyncratic hilltop hotel with more than 260 guest rooms.

In 1990, Albert Smiley, who had a doctorate in economics, and his wife, Nina, a psychologist, both took a career detour to run Mohonk, a sprawling resort on 7,500 acres at the edge of a glacier-swept lake on the Shawangunk Ridge, between the Hudson River and the Catskills, 90 miles north of New York City.

For many guests, Mohonk’s vintage gables, dormers and tower evoke Stephen King’s spectral horror novel “The Shining.” (Mr. King himself has indeed stayed there, although he said the inspiration for “The Shining” was the Stanley Hotel in Colorado. Exteriors for the 1980 Stanley Kubrick adaptation were partly shot at a lodge in Oregon.)

The Smileys were Quakers, one of whom was a Prohibition Party candidate for Congress, and for many years spirits of all sorts were banned from their hotel. (Guests at the original tavern were known to have gotten so roaring drunk that the barkeep chained them to trees while they sobered up.)

Mohonk’s owners finally applied for a liquor license in the 1960s and only then, overcoming stiff dissent from die-hard patrons and staff members, started serving drinks at dinner.

Ambivalently transitioning from the 19th century, Mr. Smiley (a great-grandnephew of the founders and a Quaker himself) audaciously opened a separate bar in 2006. A sign at the door politely warns that alcohol is not allowed “beyond this point.”

With fewer visitors remaining for a full season and shorter-term guests worried that their stays might be affected by inclement weather, Mr. Smiley took other subversive steps into the 20th century, if not all the way into the 21st. To entice visitors in the winter, he installed a skating rink in an open-air pavilion in 2001, and in 2005 he built a sumptuous spa for swimming, fitness, massages and more.

“The founders of Mohonk were real visionaries, and I’d like to think that if they knew Mohonk would be open year-round they would have had an indoor pool,” Mr. Smiley told The New York Times in 2006.

In 2016 he built the Grove Lodge, the resort’s first new accommodations in more than a century.

Traditionalists were becalmed by the enduring daily 4 p.m. tea-and-cookies service in the Lake Lounge, as well as the suggestion (no longer a requirement) that men wear sport coats or suit jackets to dinner.

They also appreciated that rooms remained devoid of television sets and radios (except on request) and that the landscape, including 85 miles of trails, was, as Ada Louise Huxtable, The Times’s architecture critic, wrote in 1971, “groomed into a Skinnerian maze of promised pleasures, anticipated reflexes and carefully set pieces.”

Another Times architecture critic, Paul Goldberger, observed in 1979 that staying at this leafy lakeside sanctuary “is like living in that grandmother’s house we all imagine, without having to answer to a grandmother.”

Albert Keith Smiley III, known as Bert, was born on June 30, 1944, in Poughkeepsie to A. Keith Smiley, who ran the hotel, and Ruth (Happel) Smiley, a horticulturist.

He grew up on the hotel grounds and attended the Oakwood Friends School in Poughkeepsie. After graduating with a degree in mathematics from Syracuse University, he was a research associate at the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences at New York University.

He marred Nina Feldman in 1974; they had met on a blind date the year before when she was studying psychology at Vassar College. They were both accepted to Princeton, where he received his doctorate in economics, focusing on industrial organization, and she was granted hers in social psychology.

He worked for the antitrust division of the Department of Justice as director of research.

In 1990, Ms. Smiley became the hotel’s director of marketing and Mr. Smiley was named president, a position he held until he retired in June. He remained a member of Mohonk’s boards of trustees and directors and corporate treasurer.

Albert Smiley, Mohonk’s founder, who bought the tavern and 300 acres with his brother Alfred, was hailed as a humanitarian, concerned about the condition of Native Americans and devoted to fostering world peace, and as a conservationist. His descendants followed suit.

In the 1960s, the family agreed to preserve more than 5,000 acres as forever wild. In 2011, Bert Smiley was instrumental in the transfer of 874 acres of the hotel’s property to the Open Space Institute, a nonprofit land preservation organization.

In addition to his wife, Mr. Smiley is survived by his sister, Sandra Smiley.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here