Boat wharf 1881 cropped

The History of Mohonk Mountain House

The origin of the Mountain House lies in a ten-room inn, Stokes Tavern, purchased by Albert K. Smiley in 1869 along with 280 surrounding acres, converted over the years into the castle on a lake that we see today.

Owned and operated by the Smiley family since its inception, Mohonk Mountain House is a National Historic Landmark, a place of extraordinary scenic beauty, and a testament to the preservation of the wonders of the natural world.

Over the decades since 1869, guests have visited Mohonk from around the world, including luminaries such as naturalist John Burroughs, the Rockefellers, Andrew Carnegie, and five U.S. presidents: Chester A. Arthur, Rutherford B. Hayes, William Howard Taft, Theodore Roosevelt, and William Jefferson Clinton.

The Smiley Family

The Smileys have owned and operated Mohonk Mountain House since Albert Smiley’s original purchase in 1869. For nearly 150 years, six generations of Smiley family members have devoted their talents to ensure that Mohonk continues to thrive and carry forward its values and traditions.

Daniel Smiley (1855-1930) the younger half-brother of founder Albert, was a key figure in the entrepreneurial development of Mohonk’s buildings and grounds and overall financial survival.

Bert & Francis Smiley (1883-1964/1889-1962) carried on the business between the 1920s and 1950s; Bert overseeing hotel operations, while Francis oversaw the Mohonk farms, engineering matters, and accounting procedures.

Mabel Smiley (1883-1972) was instrumental in managing the housekeeping department, and advising on matters of employee relations.

Rachel Smiley (1895-1993) a musician and charming hostess, added her abilities to the Mohonk’s cultural endeavors.

Daniel Smiley (1907-1989) established a natural science research center on the property.

Keith Smiley (1910-2001) convened Mohonk Consultations, which still endures today, to confer on issues related to the environment.

Ruth Smiley (1910-2004) was tireless in her efforts to interpret nature for guests.

Today’s, Albert K. Smiley, affectionately known as “Bert,” has been president of Mohonk Mountain House since 1990. He is the great-grand-nephew of Mohonk’s founder.

A Commitment to Peace

Founder Albert Smiley was much more than a hotel proprietor. His Quaker beliefs led him to a dedication to the cause of peace. In 1895, he convened the first of many annual conferences on International Arbitration, held at Mohonk Mountain House. The purpose of these meetings was to provide a forum for national and international leaders to meet and discuss world problems in an effort to find alternatives to war. The conferences continued through 1916, and included notable attendees such as President William Howard Taft, William Jennings Bryan, and Secretaries of State of successive administrations.

These conferences highlighted a concern for peaceful conflict resolution that has been credited with giving impetus to the Hague Conference movement. The United Nations of today can trace its roots back to the Hague Conferences.

The Mountain House

A ten-room inn, Stokes Tavern stood at the time on Lake Mohonk. Albert purchased the tavern and the surrounding acres with $14,000 in savings, $300 contributed by his wife Eliza, and a $14,000 bank loan. The era of Mohonk Mountain House had begun. The ten-room inn was renovated and expanded, and the Mountain House underwent a grand but gradual conversion to the place we see today. The facility opened with accommodations for 40 guests in June of 1870.

Over the years that followed, rooms and buildings were added, then torn down and rebuilt as the need to grow larger became paramount. The current Dining Room was completed in 1893, the Lake Lounge and Parlor in 1899 – both with electricity, so changes have been minimal in these areas. In 1910, the Dining Room Circle extension was completed, and this marked the end of additions to the Mountain House until the modern era.

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