For more than two centuries, travelers have discovered the unspoiled beauty hidden among New York’s Catskill Mountains. Early settlers established farms, which gave birth to small towns like Woodstock and Phoenicia. The site of the Emerson Resort & Spa was once The Riseley Flat, a thriving dairy farm built in 1840. In 1874 trains began stopping at this site daily, bringing hordes of visitors for their first taste of the Hudson Valley. For many, that first taste was ice cream, made fresh at the Riseley dairy.
More than a century later, local developer Dean Gitter purchased the Riseley farmlands and decided to build a tourist destination to help boost the economy and provide a much needed source of jobs for the area. He invited Emily Fisher, his good friend from graduate school days, to partner with him. Together they restored the historic buildings of The Riseley Flat and repurposed them for modern use. Catskill Corners and the World’s Largest Kaleidoscope opened in 1996, providing area visitors with a collection of country shops, a unique attraction and a family restaurant called The Spotted Dog.
Gitter and Fisher soon decided to expand, buying and remodeling the vacant Mt. Pleasant Lodge adjacent to the property and opening a second restaurant called the Catamount. They then purchased the Victorian Hungarian Inn across Route 28 and remodeled it into an Inn with a restaurant and African themed bar. It was named the Emerson, after Ralph Waldo Emerson (May 25, 1803 – April 27, 1882), the first great American essayist and poet devoted to humankind’s connection to the natural world. Written in 1836, Emerson’s essay “Nature,” was inspired by the serene beauty of the Catskills. The publication of “Nature” prompted the American Conservation Movement, which lead to the establishment of the 600-square-mile Catskill Forest Preserve that surrounds the Emerson Resort & Spa.
Sadly, the original Inn was destroyed by fire in 2005. Armed with a passion for hospitality and a desire to reintroduce and promote the Catskills as a premiere tourism destination, Gitter and Fisher rebuilt and opened the new Emerson Resort & Spa in 2007. In 2013 Emily Fisher became the sole owner of the Emerson, and with Chief Executive Officer Naomi Umhey, guides and directs the Emerson Resort. 2016 heralded the completion of a $6 million renovation of the Emerson’s guestrooms and public spaces. The renovation included the introduction of a new signature restaurant, Woodnotes Grille, and the grand re-opening of a full-service 6,193-square-feet Spa.
Today, reminders of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s legacy can be found in Emerson quotes placed throughout the Inn. Expansive views of Mt. Tremper and the Esopus Creek are framed by open spaces and large windows, charming and inspiring those looking to reconnect with nature. The Emerson Resort & Spa continues to honor our namesake by hosting thousands of guests and travelers amidst the beauty of the Catskills.