Canoe Place Inn has long been a cherished landmark in the Hamptons, having played host to distinguished personalities such as Albert Einstein and Lucille Ball. Recently restored to its former grandeur by Rechler Equity Partners, this iconic property has been transformed into a vibrant and sophisticated destination for discerning travelers. In this insightful interview, Michael regales us with the fascinating history of this legendary property, the inspiration behind the extensive renovation, and the exciting new programs and initiatives that have been introduced to entice both the local community and travelers alike. We also delve into the delectable culinary experiences on offer, and discover some of the highlights of the grand reopening of this illustrious landmark.
Canoe Place Inn is one of the oldest inns in America, reimagined as a contemporary resort with a hint of nostalgia. Can you share the history of this magnificent property?
Centuries before European settlers arrived, the native Shinnecock tribe were portaging their canoes overland from Peconic Bay on the northern shore of Long Island’s South Fork to Shinnecock Bay on the southern shore. They called the area Niamuck, “the place between fishing places”.
The first settlers choose a more prosaic name for the crossing — Canoe Place. Said to be the oldest site of an inn and tavern in America, the original Canoe Place Inn was established beside the canal in 1697 and endured for two centuries. When the railroad arrived in the 1880s, the Inn flourished, quickly becoming the center of the tourist trade on the South Fork.
In 1921, the very popular Inn was destroyed by fire. Julius Keller, owner of Maxim’s and the Copacabana, who had bought Canoe Place only a year prior, quickly hired architect William Bottomley to design an expanded Dutch Colonial Revival style building which was finished in 1922.
Over the next decades, a bustling and vibrant Canoe Place hosted luminaires ranging from Albert Einstein and John D. Rockefeller to Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. In the early 2000s, the venue transformed into a celebrated nightclub/concert hall, with headlining performances by Jon Bon Jovi, Billy Joel, Led Zeppelin and many others.
But, by the early 2000s, the once-beloved property had fallen into disrepair. In 2018, Rechler Equity Partners, the largest owner of commercial real estate on Long Island, led by first cousins Mitchell and Gregg Rechler, began a renovation of the languishing venue, vowing to bring it back to life in a faithful restoration of the 1922 structure.
Canoe Place Inn & Cottages today is a meticulously reimagined home for a new generation of luminaries, locals, and lovers of destination travel.
What was the concept behind the renovation, and how did you achieve the magnificent balance of historic charm and modern luxury?
The Rechler’s wanted to stay true to the Inn’s authentic character. They brought in multidisciplinary design firm Workstead to imbue the property with references reflecting its centuries-old, storied life.
The public spaces, guest rooms, and cottages are enlivened by carefully curated color palettes harkening back to the whimsical interiors of the Inn between 1922 and the 1940s. A mix of custom contemporary and vintage furnishings feel as if they’ve always been here.
Design clues include the Gustavian style, nautical architecture, and the Wiener Werkstätte, with modern gestures sprinkled about. The overall effect is a sense of casual luxury befitting the feel of a classic Hamptons home.
What programs and initiatives are you running to entice the local community and travelers to your hotel?
Main Street Hospitality Group, brought in by the Rechlers to bring Canoe Place to life, has initiated a wide range of activities and events at the Inn.
During the outdoor season, Fireside Fridays sees local and guest families and friends enjoying s’mores and hot chocolate over our fire-pit in the Garden.
Front Row is a year-round series of programming and performances hosting speakers, panels, and artists engaging on topics and themes that matter to Hamptons residents and visiting guests alike.
The very popular OARS program (Only Area Residents Society) offers true local residents special access and discounts to Canoe Place experiences, embracing our neighbors as an integral piece of the Canoe Place family.
Can you tell us about your food & beverage experiences?
Helmed by Executive Chef Ülfet Ralph, Good Ground Tavern features seasonal ingredients and local flavors.
Working with the East End community of farmers and fishermen, Ülfet’s team sources the freshest and highest quality ingredients to devise menus that ebb and flow with the seasons, paying tribute to the local bounty from field and sea.
The Mediterranean-inspired indoor and outdoor restaurant centers around open fire cooking, house-made pastas and pizzas, and a focus on local seafood. Standout menu items include Baked Clams Casino, Lobster Roll Crostini, and Ribeye Steak Frites. And you can’t get a better hamburger on the East End.
Indoors, the Tavern offers 100 seats, with another 125 seats outdoors in a covered “garden by the sea” seasonal Terrace. The bar features specialty cocktails also highlighting local ingredients, with an adjacent private Study offering an intimate hideaway where patrons can enjoy the quiet crackle of an original wood-burning fireplace.
What have been some of the highlights of reopening the Canoe Place Inn & Cottages?
Every time a guest or visitor’s jaw goes slack as they gaze around the reborn Inn, and they declare, “My parents got married here,” or “I worked my way through college as a busboy here,” or “My family held their reunions here for decades.”
It has been a tremendous joy to be a part of bringing such an iconic landmark back to life, where it can again play an integral part in the life of the community, and welcome a whole new generation of visitors, making new and unforgettable memories.