Drive down Main Street away from the train station for exactly one mile, past the Shangri-La nail salon, BJ’s Chicken and Ribs and Augie’s Texas Lunch, home of The Augie Doggie, and you begin to notice the Dia-fication of Beacon. You’ll pass a yoga studio, a fledgling gallery or two and a plain-faced pizza shop advertising a new addition to its menu written in Sharpie marker on a sheet of white paper taped to the front window: "gluten-free options available." There are other restaurants, too, of course, ones that the Dia’s staff can confidently recommend to their visitors. But continue on over a set of seldom used railroad tracks until you arrive at 2 East Main Street, the unassuming location of The Roundhouse at Beacon Falls, the new hotel and restaurant designed by David Rockwell. Dia:Beacon may have lured New Yorkers to make the quick day trip to the small and charming Hudson River Valley town since it opened in 2003, but with Rockwell’s contribution city folk now have a reason to stay overnight.
Developed by Robert A. McAlpine, the hospitality project renovated one of the few remaining historic industrial buildings in Beacon, a mill with a 200-year-old history that includes manufacturing thick industrial grade felt, fur hats, and the line of Swift lawnmowers, which the recently opened 100-seat restaurant is named after. The 6.25-acre site is split by Fishkill Creek, a gently moving tributary that falls over a perfectly horizontal ledge before joining up with the Hudson River less than two miles away. As luck would have it, the prime viewing location of this waterfall is 2 East Main Street, and Rockwell made sure to give diners at Swift an eyeful through the large windows that encircle one side of The Roundhouse. There are more views, too, from the 14 guest rooms (including two affordable penthouse suites) in The Roundhouse and the 42 to follow across the creek in The Mill property, which will also house a spa when it opens in early 2013.
The Roundhouse has been renovated in the most considerate manner, preserving the best features of the long abandoned industrial space. Original bricks have been used to reconstruct exterior walls and The Mill’s rough wooden beams are used to support the roof. In The Roundhouse, raw cement beams overhead bear the marks of the original joinery, and the ceiling itself is inset with panels of thick grey felt—another tribute to the building’s past life. McAlpine has even gone to the great trouble of restoring the turbine from the site’s former hydroelectric plant, which will supply around 60 percent of the hotel’s energy when it is completed.
Apart from being something of a poster child of architectural renovation, the project is also a showroom for Beacon’s creative community. Every interior element is sourced from no further than a mile or two around the site. The restaurant and guest rooms are outfitted entirely by local artisans, from the wooden tables and doors by Wickham Solid Wood Studio to the beautiful hand blown pendant lights by Niche Modern and the gold-cerused oak bar face by Metconix. The interior designer, Elizabeth Strianese, resides in Beacon, as does McAlpine, whose construction company is based there and whose son and daughter are involved in the property’s management. Even the restaurant’s executive chef, Brandon Collins, was trained at the nearby Culinary Institute of America before working as a sous chef at Valley at the Garrison, also a stone’s throw away. At Swift, he’s developed a menu of clean, fresh American fare made with ingredients that are grown, yes, locally. Fortunately, none of the emphasis on the L-word is presented as a preconceived selling point for the property. Rather, it comes across like an earnest, family-run venture, albeit a family with very excellent taste.