It was first built in 1852, a few years after the first train ran through what was then Callicoon Depot, part of the railroad-related boom that turned a single house into a bustling community. Originally, it was built in the Greek revival style, but sometime around the turn of the 20th century, the roof was raised and two stories and a mansard roof were added to create the iconic structure that dominates Upper Main Street in Callicoon today. For well over 100 years, it was a vibrant part of the hamlet’s commercial life. Then, for some years, it lay dormant.
But now, Callicoon’s historic Western Hotel has been reopened and reimagined as a boutique hotel, a bar featuring craft cocktails, and a restaurant with an inventive menu that serves updated comfort food, bar snacks and healthful farm-to-table choices. Irene Nickolai purchased the property after having opened local lifestyle shop Callicoon Trading and serving as president of the Callicoon Business Association. “I’ve put down roots in Callicoon, and it became my mission to see The Western not only return to its former glory but serve the community’s current needs,” said Nickolai.
Nickolai says that her renovation plans aim to preserve the charm and character of the building, which has recently been placed on the National Register of Historic Places, and a tour of the ground floor bears her out. Keen on opening immediately, Nickolai has already freshened the space. She pointed out places where modern white ceiling tiles have been removed to reveal the original wooden ceiling (as can be seen in the photo of the bar below), and areas where somewhat drab late 20th-century wallpaper has been removed. The entire bar area—which includes a fabulous stained-glass ceiling insert, also visible in the photograph—has received a facelift, including a new lighting installation by New York Vintage Lighting that perfectly enhances the historic ambiance.
Nickolai says the local clientele is already returning to both bar and restaurant. Rooms on the upper floor will host travelers and former residents happy to be revisiting the Upper Delaware. Harmonie Hall, the classic second-floor ballroom—which the public most recently obtained a tempting glimpse of during Callicoon’s Dickens on the Delaware celebration in December of 2015—is being readied to host more events ranging from weddings and film screenings to dance and other performances; the room features a stage that makes it particularly versatile in this respect. Nickolai explains that “the space will get a bit of a makeover, but the hallmark tin ceilings and original wooden dance floor remain,” retaining the room’s abundant character.
The restaurant’s menu was conceived with chef Henning Nordanger of Henning’s Local. Henning has brought his farm-to-table ethos to the Western, creating a succinct and reasonably priced menu that includes a cast-iron-roasted chicken with creamed broccoli and pickled-onion-mashed-potatoes, salmon with a curried corn puree and fresh greens, and a grain plate that features quinoa, barley, roasted organic vegetables, a beet tahini and herb yogurt. Also of note is the house-ground beef burger, and a gourmet grilled cheese that is a novel take on French onion soup, which Nickolai describes as “wildly popular.”
The craft cocktails are especially creative and utilize house-made cordials, fresh fruit garnish and a host of different bitters—the latter a historic preparation, made with botanical ingredients, that is enjoying a new popularity. Coincidentally, both the herbaceous bitters and The Western first enjoyed success in the mid-1800s. Nickolai believes in the timing: “We’re creating a welcoming environment for everyone, one that’s fresh and inviting but steeped in tradition and history,” she says.
The Western Hotel’s restaurant is open Thursday through Sunday from 5 to 10 p.m., with the bar staying open for those wishing to imbibe later into the evening.