At the turn of the 20th century, farmers in the Catskill Mountains of New York looking to supplement their income often converted their residences into boarding houses, taking in guests during the summer months. The guests came to the mountains to seek fresh air, relaxation and recreation far from the reaches of the gritty, unsanitary confines of New York City.
The visitors were acquainted with the age-old traditions of sharing accommodations and space, many of whom were raised in tenements that included communal living spaces and bathrooms. Privacy was a luxury. It was not until the mid-20th century that expectations for family privacy and guest services made boarding houses unappealing to most and uneconomical, especially with the rise in roadside motels and resorts.
Located along Callicoon Creek, Welch’s Kenosha Dell House is a classic boarding house. The first floor was abandoned circa 1995, although the upper floors were disused long before that.
Nearby is the empty Kenoza House on the former Quirk homestead. Opened circa 1907 by John W. Armbrust, the 36 room residence was set among 55 acres of rolling farmland and woods. It offered 29 bedrooms to those seeking a holiday from the city. Amenities included boating and fishing along Kenoza Lake.
Inside were pressed-tin walls and ceilings, an eight-burner coal-fired stove for the kitchen and a fourth-floor water tank.
Sims and his wife, Kirsten Foster, acquired the Kenoza House in September 2017 with plans to renovate the boarding house to cater to youthful city dwellers looking for an authentic back-to-nature, farm-to-table getway. The building would include 18 guest rooms and a restaurant while the property would feature 12 one-bedroom cabins, a horse barn on six fenced acres of pasture, a lakeside event are and a 65-space parking lot.
The Fosters have had success with other establishments in the Catskills, including The Arnold House, which opened with a restaurant in 2014 atop a mountain in Shandelee; Nine River Road, which opened in a renovated old residence overlooking the Delaware River in Callicoon; and the North Branch Country Inn and restaurant, named one of the “Best Bed and Breakfast Inns in America” by Time Out New York magazine.