Wm. Farmer and Sons: A Modern Vintage Hotel and Barroom in Hudson, NY
20 S. Front St | Hudson, NY
Perched above the Hudson River, at the corner of Front and Union Streets, sits Wm. Farmer and Sons Boarding and Barroom, an 1830s structure that is as woven into Hudson’s fabric as the 1874 train station building across the street. Aside from an early stint as a grocery, this historic mainstay is one of the city’s longest-standing restaurants and, for years, has served as a place where passersby and guests alike could find a good meal and lay their heads. Now, with husband-and-wife team Kirby Farmer and Kristan Keck at the helm, this community cornerstone is continuing the building’s rich history as an inn, barroom, specialty coffee shop and mercantile with deeply personal roots.
Kirby and Kristan designed the entire building last year with a cozy, yet sophisticated vibe, full of eclectic spaces to relax and stay awhile. Intention and heritage were two themes they kept returning to as Wm. Farmer and Sons came to fruition. From its name — after Kirby’s father, who was instrumental in bringing the couple’s vision to life, to its guest rooms — named after each of their grandparents and family dog — everything at Wm. Farmer and Sons is guided by tradition. “It is all about paying tribute to this building and paying tribute to tradition,” explains Kristan. “We wanted to stay with this idea of family and tradition and how we all got here, and we liked the idea of a farmhouse full of our family.”
While tradition steered the more ethereal elements of the building, purpose took center stage in the tangible. From the decor to the menu, every decision was made with an objective in mind, whether it was creating a certain atmosphere or maintaining a small carbon footprint. Antiques from local shops, such as Hudson River Antique Warehouse, gave guest quarters a sense of place and time, but also, as Kristan explains, “created a ribbon to the town, tying it all back together.” In the lower level, salvaged dining hall chairs from a naval academy and an antique cabinet procured in Kirby’s hometown near Asheville, NC, mingle with more contemporary pieces to imbue the space with an air of approachable luxury. Even the food and cocktails, deceptively simple in their presentation, have been carefully planned and constructed with purpose. “We always wanted it to be a place where you felt pampered, but could easily come in shorts and a baseball cap. A place where you felt taken care of, but with somebody else thinking through the details. A place you could come in any state and just enjoy,” says Kristan. “It’s not on you, it’s on us.”
- Location: Hudson, NY
11 unique guest rooms
Clawfoot soaking tubs
Full-service restaurant and bar
Specialty coffee shop and mercantile
Event hosting and catering
Easy access to shops, galleries, and restaurants
Just minutes from the train station
In 2013, Kirby and Kristan purchased the adjoining spaces and ran the inn under its previous name, Front Street Guest House, while doing a top-to-bottom renovation of the restaurant, bar, and coffee shop below. “We would open the guest rooms on Friday and Saturday, and on Monday we would go into mass construction,” recalls Kristan. “By three o’clock on Friday, we had to pretend like nothing happened.”
Another theme behind Wm. Farmer and Sons is “no waste.” Elements that couldn’t be restored during the renovation process often turned up elsewhere in the building as decor. Original beams that were no longer structurally sound became a striking textural backdrop in one of the guest rooms.
The chilly Hudson weather played a central role in the building’s design, both inside and out, and for Kristan and her team, there was no better way to bring warmth than with fire. “For so much of the year up here it’s cold, so I just want you to want to snuggle — I want you to want to be here,” she says.
Each guest room features a different design and layout, but with all of them, comfort was key. Wooden or wrought iron beds are stacked high with towering mattresses, fluffy comforters, and piles of pillows.
Kristan and Kirby were able to create a comfortable, welcoming atmosphere that felt luxurious, but not precious. “We want you to want to fall into any surface,” says Kristan. “We want you to just jump and dive in.”
The specialty coffee shop features the structure’s original beams and wood floors, as well as both salvaged finds and modern updates. For the coffee itself, as with other parts of the business, the couple looked for masters of their craft, which led them to New York coffee roaster and retailer Irving Farm Coffee.
The restaurant’s chairs were a lucky find during a trip to Maryland, where a local shop owner had just salvaged them from a naval academy dining hall. Students in the academy weren’t allowed to don hats while eating, so each chair has a small shelf beneath it for stowing caps and other personal belongings, a feature that Kristan says is regularly used by restaurant patrons.
The menu is a result of the creative collaboration between Kirby and his co-executive chef, Tyler Viggiano. “You get this nice mix between the two of them where Kirby really wants it to be the best product that he can get and Tyler finds a way to make it local,” says Kristan. From oysters on the half shell with traditional accoutrement, to the freshest seasonal produce, to the finest local fish and game smoked to perfection, Kirby and Tyler’s menu blends good old-fashioned country grub with haughtily refined fare for a uniquely American culinary experience.
“The great part about living in the Hudson Valley is the vast cornucopia of farmers’ offerings,” says Tyler, who sources ingredients from farms like Common Hands, Sparrowbush, JSK Cattle Company, Kinderhook Farms, and John Fazio Farms. “We try to network with as many different growers as possible in order to meet the diverse demands of operating a restaurant. As the business develops, so does our opportunity to work with more of these local growers.”
“Something we all felt very strongly about was that in the design in general, all of the depth would come from texture, not color. We would have all these different textures — natural leather, metal, fabrics — but all very monochromatic. Any color that came into the restaurant would be from the food, the drinks, and the people,” explains Kristan.
When it came to creating a bar program, the couple once again looked to the best in the field, legendary mixologist Sasha Petraske. Though Sasha passed away last year, his bright, fresh, and deliberate bar menu — featuring cocktails ranging from refreshing Eastside Rickeys to spicy El Guapos — is still in use and lives on in each pour from the bartenders he trained himself. His book, Regarding Cocktails, comes out this week from Phaidon.
“With every cocktail, Sasha poured a glass of water because it’s important that your body keep a balance, and his cocktail program is all about balance,” says Kristan. “It’s rooted in the basics. It’s the opposite of complicated and it’s all about intention. Every choice is made for a reason.”
Though Kristan and Kirby live nearby in Germantown, they were drawn to Hudson for its central location reachable via Amtrak, walkable city streets filled with shops, restaurants, and galleries, and its proximity to both local farms and laid-back country living. For a perfect day of meals, begin at Bonfiglio & Bread for a taste of their ever-changing seasonal menu of baked goods. Have your lunch the French way with a stop at Talbot & Arding Cheese and Provisions, where you can pick up a crusty baguette to go along with a beautiful hunk of cheese and other accompaniments. If you’re in the mood for a midday beer and book, head to Spotty Dog, a combination bookstore and bar, or treat yourself to a cozy meal of nose-to-tail fare at Fish & Game, an absolute must when traveling to Hudson. Stop by Flowerkraut, a flower and home goods shop that also sells lacto-fermented vegetables, as well as Hawkins NY, a meticulously curated lifestyle shop. Check out Hudson River Exchange for a dose of culture and, if you’re lucky (or a good planner), your visit will coordinate with one of their pop-up events featuring local makers, vendors, and artists (the next one is their holiday pop-up in December). Don’t miss a scenic walk along the Hudson waterfront or a tour of the Hudson-Athens Lighthouse. For a dose of country life, jump in the car and head to one of the numerous local farms dotting the surrounding landscape, many of which offer farm stands and pick-your-own produce.