Canoe Place Inn by Workstead opens in Hamptons Bay, Long Island
Dating as far back as 1656, Canoe Place Inn is America’s oldest inn, now reopening following a restoration project led by Workstead
While it may not have the same name recognition of the other more famous Hamptons, the picturesque hamlet of Hamptons Bay in Long Island, New York is a rustic, waterfront community that has retained a quaint and local feel. That may not last for long with the restoration and opening of Canoe Place Inn & Cottages, a historic inn (allegedly America’s oldest) that dates as far back as 1656. Designed by Workstead and spearheaded by Rechler Equity Partners, a family-owned local business, the elegant new property heralds a return to glory for a storied hotel that has lain empty for the last 20 years.
‘Our family business has served the Long Island community for over 60 years. My co-managing partner and cousin, Gregg Rechler and I each have our own fond memories at Canoe Place through the years, something we share with many Long Island and Tri-State residents,’ shares Michael Rechler, managing director of Rechler Equity Partners.
‘Since we began on this restoration journey back in 2005, it has been our priority to honour the history of these grounds, while bringing something special back to the Hampton Bays community. Whether creating culinary education programs for Hampton Bays School District or simply offering a place to gather for special occasions big and small, we are honored to reintroduce Canoe Place as an intrinsic thread in the fabric of the community and a portal of discovery for travelers and new guests.’
In its glory days, Canoe Place Inn was a favourite amongst Hollywood royalty, presidents and politicians alike. From Lucille Ball and Albert Einstein to Teddy and Eleanor Roosevelt and John D Rockefeller, such was the calibre of guests who would often stop in Hamptons Bay, which lovingly was known as ‘the first stop out East’.
Its esteemed clientele aside, Canoe Place boasts a deep-rooted design legacy, including colonial-style architecture by the American architect William Bottomley around 1921, which Workstead primarily drew inspiration from. Alluding to the hotel’s heyday between then and the 1940s, the reimagined Canoe Place Inn & Cottages stands as a garden by the sea. Encompassing a three-storey main building, a restaurant that spans both the indoors and outdoors, a window-wrapped event pavilion as well as five guest cottages situated on the property’s north and west, the well-sized property, which is operated by the Main Street Hospitality, is a vision of evocative touches.
‘Canoe Place is considered one of the oldest inn sites in America,’ recounts Stefanie Brechbuehler, partner and director of special projects at Workstead.
‘It was a place of shelter and revelry, rooted in a pride and dynamism, which we uncovered from the personal anecdotes told to us along the way. We spent many hours observing guests reminisce on their time at Canoe; walking into the event space, one recalled her wedding venue 70 years prior, while our gem of an installer experienced that same set of walls with nostalgic memories of the of-the-moment nightlife that the Canoe Place Inn club of the 1990s was known for. We were excited to touch on Canoe’s history and folklore and create an idiosyncratic space that spoke of its unique stamp in time.’
She continues, ‘Many aspects of the original architecture had been stripped away by the fires the hotel experienced, so we sought for each space to nod to its past while feeling distinctly contemporary in the current setting. A guest is greeted by curated antique, vintage, and novel furnishings; the reception desk was made of reclaimed pine found in the building. As one steps down into the tavern, we aim for them to feel immediately comfortable and that they could sit down not only in the high summer season, but in the middle of winter and know that the hospitality here is not one-note.
‘The carpeted floors and panelled millwork walls create a sense of ease and cosiness that is reminiscent of the early, old-world settlers that first set foot on this site. In The Bottle Room, Delft tiles also point to early settlers of Long Island, we continued the comfort of the millwork, and introduced shelving housing collections from shipwrecks, old stoneware beer bottles, and pewter stirrup cups, among many others we enjoyed hunting for. The study and guestrooms are where one experiences the original low ceiling heights that we celebrated, while also introducing carefully designed trimwork.’
From deploying herringbone brick exterior paths that start from the building’s exterior through to the lobby and all-day kitchen, where breakfast and lunch are served, to bringing the traditional trellis work that appears above the garden restaurant and bar into the hotel lobby and again connecting to the main entrance, there are threads of visual continuity that bring the large space together.
Coupled with rich and thoughtful additions, from wooden ceiling lighting fixtures, which resemble abstracted florals, a meadow-like carpet that adorns the main dining room, a moody melange of dark wood, overstuffed armchairs and a statuesque fireplace in the library bar, to a pale blue, warm green and light sand inflected colour palette, the hotel is a charming enclave that combines the comforts of home with a well-heeled luxury. There’s even a spa by the cult New York City-favourite, Onda Beauty. Poised to welcome guests through all the seasons, it’s an ideal landing point whether you wish to experience the rest of the Hamptons, or not.