Guest house, farm house, party barn, recording studio, zen garden, pond, wood-fired sauna, and a hot tub on 20 acres. No, this isn’t David Bowie’s hidden place you heard about in the Catskills–it’s Silent G Farms, just two hours from New York City in the foothills of the Catskill Mountains.
On the bucolic, sprawling 20-acre property in North Branch, NY, owners Justin and Elizabeth Bolognino have been crafting their dream escape since September of 2014. Their combined professions–hers in interior design, his as the CEO of an experience production company–have come together to build a country retreat that is uniquely them. As the creative director behind Brooklyn Bowl, Justin’s vision for their 100-year old barn shines, transforming the second floor into a music and event space. On the bottom level, a fully-functional recording studio with endless gadgets and instruments is the ultimate man-cave. The creative duo has big plans for the rest of the ground floor, too: three bedrooms and 2.5 bathrooms will accommodate seven people, with a small bar and kitchen kitchen, thus creating the perfect scenario for bands to hole up, work and record something. Their contractor, Terrance Fink, certainly has his hands full–construction is slated to be finished by summer 2016. For her part, Elizabeth is an interior designer, demonstrating her creative genius by designing each of the buildings’ interiors, filling them all with a mix of new and old, rustic and modern. Unsurprisingly, music is a common theme.
The farmhouse, where Justin and Elizabeth live part-time, is also rentable via Airbnb and the fourth set of interior photos above. The four bedroom home embraces the balance of indoor/outdoor living with 12 feet of windows on its east face, and a large patio overlooking the pond. Out back, a large NOLA-style porch shelters guests from weather and insects. Though the farmhouse was in near-perfect condition when they moved in, the guest house where we stayed was another story, requiring some major renovations–namely, the kitchen. It was during their work there that Elizabeth pulled a mysterious note out of the wall. The artifact turned out to be a welcome note, penned by “The Minister of Adventure,” dated 8/96. The cheerfully written letter started out by welcoming the Minister’s guests–presumably friends and family–offering several suggestions of how to best spend time here: swimming in the pond, setting up a campsite, or bushwhacking trails through the woods. The note also gave a brief history of the guest house, which before its time as such, had once been a chicken coop, and then a schoolhouse. Perhaps most intriguing, or maybe just amusing, the note casually refers to the house as the headquarters for the “Ministry of Adventure,” and the area surrounding, the “Republic.”
These days, the Ministry of Adventure–and the Republic–is still alive and well. Same as they were in 1996 when the note was left, visitors at the guest house are free to enjoy the pond, a zen garden, multiple fire pits (including one in the woods), and 20 acres to roam. If walking aimlessly or swimming in lakes isn’t your thing, you can still take in the outdoors without being outdoorsy in the newer additions to the property, like the wood-fired sauna or the outdoor hot tub. The region, Sullivan County, is also full of great stuff to do–more on that below.
As far as the cabin rental, the The Guest House at Silent G Farms is a two-story home with a full kitchen, bath, king-size bed and a wood stove. Downstairs, a compact but premium kitchen allows guests to cook up breakfast, lunch and dinner in-house. A wood stove cozies up the open space, complimented by the large windows allowing for lots of natural light. Also on the first level, a small patio with a pair of Adirondack-style chairs overlooks the barn, pond, and hot tub. Upstairs, the second level has a large, open bedroom with a dangerously comfortable bed. The view from the window nearby overlooks the top half of the barn as well as the nearby hills and farms. The small bathroom, also located on the second floor, has a shower and bath and came stocked with all the beauty products we needed. Modern amenities like the Nest thermostat and 5.1 surround sound system made the stay that much more enjoyable.
What To Do Around Silent G Farms: Explore Narrowsburg, Visit a Farm, or Relive Woodstock
Silent G farms has 20 beautiful acres of land to walk around and explore. We spent our mornings cooking and going for short walks, while afternoons were out and about around Sullivan County. In summer, most guests take advantage of swimming in the pond on the property, spending their evenings hanging out around a bonfire or in the wood-fired sauna.
Just 5 minutes the road, there’s not much going on in North Branch’s main street–but the nearby towns of Narrowsburg, Livingston Manor, Roscoe are all worth a visit. In Narrowsburg, check out some the great shopping like Nest, a beautiful home and lifestyle boutique; Maison Bergogne, an antique shop in an old car garage; and One Grand Books, where the stacks are determined by “desert island” picks from celebrities, authors and artists. Afterward, snag a seat on the patio for drinks or a meal at The Heron. In Livingston Manor, sign up for a farm tour at Apple Pond Farm to hold some adorable baby animals and learn about renewable energy and off-grid living; then stop in for lunch at Main Street Farm or The Arnold House. Last, check out Roscoe, the fly-fishing capital of the world. This “drinking town with a hunting problem”–or so say the tees at Prohibition Distillery–has no less than 6 hunting and fishing shops, and is also home to a brewery, fantastic handmade pasta, and lots and lots of fishing.
For an outdoor adventure–or if you’re just looking for a great photo-op–head to Russell Brook Falls about 25 minutes from North Branch. Once you’ve reached the parking lot, the hard part is already over; the massive waterfall is just .1 miles into the trail. (If you wish to continue, follow the blue markers for a 4.9 mile hike. For more details on the hike, follow the link above.)
Last, this part of the Catskills is also close to Bethel, the site of Woodstock. (No, Woodstock did not take place in Woodstock. In fact, Bethel and Woodstock are nearly 60 miles apart.) Park your car and wander the property at Bethel Woods Center for the Arts to see the field where the magic unfolded, along with the pond where festival-goers swam and bathed. The museum on-site is open from April to January.
Where to Eat and Drink around Silent G Farms: Eat and Bowl at a Historic Inn, or a Restaurant Above a Gas Station
Though we outlined a few restaurants above, there’s a couple more stand-outs that it’d be a crime not to mention. The big one not to miss is the newly opened North Branch Inn, just 5 minutes down the road from Silent G Farms. This beautiful hotel, tavern and restaurant have caught the attention of The New York Times, Travel & Leisure, and more since its opening in September. The food is cooked by chef Erik Hill, previously of Hudson Clearwater in NYC and also the Arnold House. If bowling after your meal is half the fun here, then watching Erik prepare the food is the other half; the kitchen is totally open, and just steps away from the two-lane, hand-set bowling alley.
Another foodie hotspot in the area is the new location of Henning’s Local. This farm-to-table joint is in the most inconspicuous place possible: above a Mobil station. (Yes, Mobil as in the gas.) By description alone, we thought the restaurant would be small and cozy–but it’s actually quite large and loft-like. Reservations are recommended for this meat-heavy menu, but vegetarians might want to look elsewhere to dine.
No doubt that if you’re one of our long-time followers, you know that we like to dig up the coolest dive bars everywhere we go, and this guide is no exception. Ladies and gents, we give you Welsh Cabin: a bar and restaurant in a log cabin. Need we say more? The fare definitely isn’t anything you’d consider to be healthy, or gourmet, and it’s definitely not a “hot spot”–but what this place lacks in fancy food it makes up for in character. Inside, a wood-fire stove is always roaring, the TV’s are blaring, and a simple menu of your standard pub fare is served. Along with their selection of the usual bottled domestics, we were surprised and happy to see they were carrying our favorite local craft beer, Catskill Brewery–which aside from being a bar in a log cabin, is reason enough for us to go back again.