The Arnold House: A Catskills Retreat in the Woods of Shandelee Mountain
839 Shandelee Rd | Livingston Manor, NY
“I had anchovies on pizza for the first time in this room,” recalls Sims Foster, a Catskills native who grew up dining with his family at what used to be Lanza’s Country Inn in Livingston Manor. It is easy to imagine Sims as a young boy, perched at a long schoolhouse-style table with family and neighbors, eating comfort food below a ceiling-mounted shop fan; it was in this very dining room that he would grab a seat next to his kind, but stoic grandfather, Arnold, a man who would later lend his moniker to the inn. Almost three decades later, Sims acted on a gut feeling and bought the property, 1960s memory-laden dining room included.
The Arnold House, with its eleven thoughtfully appointed rooms, all unique in size but common in cozy, casual elegance, is Sims’s love song to Livingston Manor that he runs alongside his wife Kirsten. It is a nod to a bygone era — a time when exotic delights, as Sims remembers it, were cured fish from a tin can. The inn’s lobby, like much of the property, pays homage to its history, having been a boarding house, restaurant and bar for almost a decade. Box-frame sofas provide the perfect perch for thumbing a fly-fishing guide in the summer, or front row seats for a flickering Malm stove fire in the winter. The grounds are dotted with ponds and foot trails that lead out from the main house, studio rooms, and an open-air barn, used dually for inn-hosted events, like Comedy Nights and Pig Roasts, in addition to festive celebrations and beautiful wedding weekends.
Sims is a man about his town. Not in the colloquial sense, but literally. He is truly about Livingston Manor and its surrounding hamlets, the people that shape it (including those he calls kin), and its ability to transform hardened city vets into worm-casting, Ale-drinking, moonlit-swimming believers. The Arnold House artfully highlights all that is magical about the southern tier of the Catskills — the tightly gathered pines that line two-lane roads, vibrant tendrils of river, homestead farms raising happy, healthy livestock, and a deep imbedded sense of community. It makes sense that a beautiful seven-acre plot boasting a barn for barbecues, a tavern featuring a locally-focused menu, and a husband-and-wife team that helm the kitchen and guest relations, would be destined for greatness in the hands of one of Manor’s own.
- Location: Livingston Manor, NY
Eleven Guest Rooms
Locally Focused Tavern
Open Air Barn
Calendar of Cultural Events
Malin + Goetz Products
Nearby trails and fly fishing locations
For Sims, being at ground level with guests, as both a friendly face and resource, is what gives his job so much meaning. “You have the opportunity to change the course of someone’s day,” says Sims, who is known for trading hats with his team members several times a day, be it lending a hand with luggage or filling in for an employee at the Tavern.
“Growing up here doesn’t make me an expert on much except for knowing whose cousin is who,” jokes Sims. His knowledge of the land, the jovial conversation he has with his staff (some of which are longtime family friends) and the way that passing guests praise the property, though, prove that he’s not only a beloved local but someone who has scratched a real itch in Sullivan county.
“You get here, you play the jukebox, you have a little too much to drink, maybe eat some fish and chips or a burger…” divulges Sims on his ideal weekend upstate. After a night of imbibing, take a cue from Sims and enjoy a meandering morning with make-your-own waffles in the dining room.
With an endless roster of onsite happenings, from Comedy Night and Summer Friday Music, to Sunday Pig Roasts peppered throughout the fairer seasons, it is easy to land at the Arnold House without much of a plan. S’mores kits, included with each stay, lend a sticky and delicious treat to the evening’s bonfire.
Global Home, fellow Catskills business and friends of Sims and Kirsten, helped the couple source both new and found objects to round out the charm of wood-flanked walls and blue stone accents. Stacks of wildlife books and information about the area top hexagonal tables and rest alongside iron birdcages, making each corner of the inn feel warm, lived-in and, most of all, welcoming.
Comfort is king, or in this case, King, Queen and Twin. Wooden platform beds in an array of sizes don Sferra linens and bathrobes, while plaid blankets in mod pastels drape easily over top. In en suite bathrooms, Malin + Goetz soaps line retro tile shelves and deep pink sinks serve as a reminder of the inn’s previous lives.
All natural cork floors in the eleven guest rooms lay a supportive foundation for a bevy of textures, like soft faux fur rugs, low leather lounge chairs, and brass-legged side tables. Each room displays an hourglass “Nap Timer” for a fresh air-, or cocktail-induced snooze. Just two miles away is the Arnold’s Lake House, located on Shandelee Lake, outfitted with the same familiar wares but offering a more private outdoorsman escape, complete with boats, barbecues, and fishing poles.
At the end of the Tavern’s original cherry bar is a portrait of Arnold’s wife, Bobbie, who owned a beauty shop in town. “She’d have been here every night, dressed to the nines, entertaining guests,” says Sims.
Purveyors that help stock the Tavern are just a stone’s throw from the inn. Beaverkill Trout Hatchery supplies the kitchen with the native species, while the onsite garden provides herbs and greens. Chef Clark Hoskin and baker Vanessa Haden work with fresh produce and eggs from nearby Apple Pond Farm, Horak Farm, and Halloran Farm.
Belly up to the bar, just a spiral staircase below the lobby, for a drink in good company. Local fly-fisherman, day-trippers, and fellow guests all mingle over libations, which run the gamut from dirty gin martinis to a classic Manhattan. Sims’s summer drink of choice? A Gordon’s gin & Schweppes tonic.
The Tavern’s menu features hearty, pub-style offerings, anchored by goodies like apple smoked chicken wings and smoked trout dip, with a rotating cast of seasonal specials. The gist is to have reliable staples for those who like to fall in love with a single dish and for others who want to discover something new.
Comforting, homestyle breakfast dishes, like waffles and quiche, are served in the dining room to guests each morning. The neatly preserved eating spaces at the Arnold House, boasting original-to-the-building chairs and tables, harken back to simpler times, times that Sims and Kirsten are adamant about recreating.
For a tour of the Shandelee flora, Sims suggests a mosey around Alder Lake with a bottle of Aaron Burr Cider procured from Main Street Farm in Livingston Manor. “Sneak the back way to Roscoe for some craft beer at Roscoe Brewery, swing through Catskill Brewery on Old Route 17, then come back and take a nap,” he says with a smile. For dinner, head to North Branch Inn (Arnold House’s sister property) for a seasonally-curated menu and bowling on their two-lane handset wooden bowling alley. Sunday, on your way out, swing through Callicoon for a farmers’ market visit, then follow Route 97 through the Delaware River Towns, right back downstate.