Black Dome Press

Mohonk and the Smileys


A National Historic Landmark and the Family That Created It

By Larry E. Burgess, Foreword by Bert Smiley
8 ¼″ x 9 3/8″, 240 full-color pages, over 200 illustrations
Cloth, ISBN 9781883789923, $45.00

Mohonk and the Smileys: A National Historic Landmark and the Family That Created It chronicles the history and enduring legacy of a unique resort whose aim has always been to create and sustain a peaceful, contemplative environment for the betterment of human relations and for improved relations between people and the world around them. It is a story that includes the creation of the largest privately owned nature preserve in New York State, international arbitration conventions that predated the Hague Conventions, and landmark efforts to improve the plight of American Indians and African Americans—all while dealing day by day with the logistical challenges of operating a complex private enterprise successfully over the span of 150 years of rapid technological and social change.

In 1869 twin brothers Albert and Alfred Smiley purchased a rough-and-tumble ten-room inn and 280 acres of surrounding land on the shores of Lake Mohonk in the wild and isolated Shawangunk Mountains. Year by year the Smileys expanded the hotel, bought surrounding farms to feed their guests, built stables and carriage houses, a power plant and blacksmith shop, planted acres of flower gardens, and created a vast network of roads and hiking trails for guests to access the singular beauty of the Shawangunks—and all was done with the then-unusual business philosophy of careful respect for the environment. Soon the little guest house had become a grand Victorian castle seeming to rise organically from the Shawangunk ridge on which it perched.

It was the heyday of the grand hotel era in the Catskills and the “great camps” in the Adirondacks. Then, one by one nearly all of those hotels and camps either went up in flames or were abandoned, left, like the great Catskill Mountain House, to rot in the wind and rain. But not the Smiley’s Lake Mohonk Mountain House. Despite two world wars, the Great Depression, the rise of automobile and airplane travel, changing demographics and cultural upheavals, steadily increasing tax burdens—events and factors that finished off most of its competitors—one hundred and fifty years later the little inn on the shores of Lake Mohonk has not only survived, but thrived and grown into a world-famous mountain resort in a spectacular setting with over 260 guest rooms, luxury amenities, and acclaimed dining—and still family-owned and operated, five generations later.

“The world needs places like Mohonk. … People need to be aware of the fact that Mohonk is more than a resort, or that its architecture is landmarked—it is also a center for very good science, and a place where the world can learn a great deal.” Dr. Noel Brown, Regional Director of the United Nations Environment Programme in North America, 1994

"It would be most deplorable if this house should ever acquire the mercenary spirit and make the accumulation of money without higher ulterior aims the goal of its ambition.” Albert K. Smiley, 1908

“It is not as if our region needed any convincing that Mohonk is an extremely special place, as much for its curatorial character and traditions as for its eminently accessible natural beauty, its iconic gazebos and its aesthetically rich latticework of carriage roads and trails. … Still, Burgess’ book is essential reading for anyone who would understand the full arc of the story, and for anyone who wants to appreciate a lively well-written case study in the paradoxes of progress and preservation.” Almanac Weekly, Ulster Publishing

LARRY E. BURGESS received his B.A. in history from the University of Redlands and his M.A. and Ph.D. in history from the Claremont Graduate University.
He served as founding Archivist and Head of Special Collections of A.K. Smiley Public Library from 1972 to 1985 and as Director of the library from 1986 to 2012. Since retirement in 2012, he now serves as Director Emeritus for the A.K. Smiley Public Library and gives many programs a year on a variety of subjects relating to the history of Southern California, the West, and Lincoln and the Civil War.
Dr. Burgess has served on many regional boards and commissions including the Board of the University of Redlands (vice chair) and the California Historic Preservation Commission (vice chair). He is a past president of the Historical Society of Southern California and is on the advisory board of the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission. Additionally, Dr. Burgess was an adjunct professor in the graduate department of history at the University of California, Riverside and University of Redlands. From May 2000 to November 2000, he acted as Interim City Manager for the City of Redlands.
Dr. Burgess is the author of many books including Faithfully & Liberally Sustained: Philanthropy in Redlands (2010), coauthored with Nathan D. Gonzales; Redlands in Transition (2008), coauthored with Nathan D. Gonzales; With Unbounded Confidence, A Centennial History of the University of Redlands (2006); Images of America: Redlands (2004), coauthored with Nathan D. Gonzales; The Smileys: A Biography (1969, 1993); Mohonk: It’s People and Spirit (1982, 1993); Daniel Smiley of Mohonk: A Naturalist’s Life (1996); The Hunt for Willie Boy (1994), coauthored with James A. Sandos and named Outstanding Book on the subject of human rights in North America by the Gustavus Myers Center For The Study of Human Rights (1995); and Willie Boy in Two Worlds: An Episode in Indian-White Relations, coauthored with James A. Sandos in True Stories from the American Past: Since 1865, edited by William Graebner (2002).

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This product was added to our catalog on Tuesday 19 March, 2019.

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