Chateau on the Lake: Once a Boathouse, Now an Inn
Originally constructed as a boathouse, then towed from the shore to become a home for one hundred years, the house at the end of Allen’s Alley is now an upscale, lakeside country inn called the Chateau on the Lake.
Owned by Ed and Jennifer Foy, the Chateau on the Lake began serving dinner on August 2 and, without any advertising or even so much as an ‘Open’ sign, the restaurant has been full every night.
“We had a dinner for family and friends, and the word spread from there,” said Jen Foy. “People are also intrigued by the sign on Main Street directing you to the lake, so we’ve also had roamers come by; they look around and immediately want to make reservations.”
As Hugh Allen Wilson would say, it’s the talk of “tout Bolton.”
Wilson, as many people know, grew up in the converted boathouse. Even after he achieved acclaim as a concert organist, he stayed put, frequently remarking that he was the only man in his graduating class at Yale never to have changed his address.
Wilson died in 2010 at the age of 85. The Foys purchased the home from Wilson’s estate in 2012.
Although the exterior of the building remains substantially unchanged, the Foys have invested as much in renovations as they did in the purchase of the property, and they’ve yet to finish. The inn’s accommodations, to consist of four suites, will not be completed until next year.
For the Foys, who founded and recently sold eFashion Solutions, one of the first successful retail web sites, opening an inn has been a long-time ambition, but only if it was a historic structure and only if it was in Bolton Landing.
“Whenever we traveled in Europe, we would stay in small, intimate inns wherever we could, and those were the most memorable parts of our trips; they were places that rejuvenated you,” said Ed Foy. “We’d say to one another, ‘wouldn’t it be great to have a place like this in Bolton Landing?’”
“Those small hotels were the inspiration for the Chateau on the Lake,” said Jennifer Foy.
Ed Foy grew up in Bolton Landing and graduated from Bolton Central School. Before leaving for Iona College and a career in fashion, from which sprung his internet business, he worked at E.P.Foy’s, his father s restaurant, and the Algonquin.
“I grew up in the business, and I couldn’t have learned from two better people, Buddy Foy and Teddy Smith,” said Foy.
(Today Foy’s parents own Cate’s Italian Garden on Bolton Landing’s Main Street; the two restaurants are unaffiliated.)
While Jennifer Foy didn’t grow up in restaurants, she did grow up in “a food culture,” says Ed Foy.
“For Jen’s family, it’s all about the table: the food, the family, the friends,” said Foy.
In fact, Jennifer Foy’s family is the source of one of the restaurant’s signature entrees; a steak with a spicy African rub. Her mother grew up in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), the child of Dutch expatriates. When her parents immigrated to the United States, they brought the rub with them. Its ingredients are a closely held secret.
But however much she shares her husband’s passion for food, historic preservation is her first love.
“We’ve restored a 19th century home in New Jersey that everyone said was a tear-down,” said Jennifer. “I was devastated when we were told that the Tanner House, the 19th century house at the entrance to Bolton Landing, was not salvageable, even by us. We had a contract for it, and we thought that was the perfect place for the inn we envisioned. But within a week of that disappointment, we learned that Hugh Allen Wilson’s house was available, and that it was in a commercial zone. It was perfect.”
“My mother called me in the middle of a business meeting in Manhattan to say there was something we had to see. We said, ‘this meeting is over,’ got the car, drove up and within 48 hours it was ours,” said Ed Foy.
Tommy Iacono, who worked with Jen Foy on the restoration of the house in New Jersey, supervised the renovations.
“Once we had designed, constructed and furnished and styled the interior, we had to find a cuisine to match the ambience,” said Ed Foy.
That search led them to chef Michael Urowsky, formerly of 76 State Street in Albany and the Saratoga Polo Club.
The Foys acknowledge that the restaurant is the most expensive on the lake, and for many people, may be a destination only on special occasions.
“We had a vision of a restaurant that would appeal to people willing to pay for a superior product and an experience you can’t find anywhere near here,” said Ed Foy. “There’s a level of sophistication in Bolton Landing; we want to appeal to that sophistication and attract it. In fact, one guest told me that we were saving him money by not forcing him to go to New York for a dining experience like this one.”
Still, as someone who grew up in Bolton Landing, Ed Foy wants the restaurant to be accessible to everyone who might enjoy it.
Earlier this week, the Chateau began serving a European style breakfast and lunch and hosting wine-tastings. The Foys have also initiated a “Chateau Hour” every evening from 5 to 6pm, with special prices and menus.
On September 5, the Chateau will host a benefit for The Sembrich. (For tickets, call The Sembrich at 644-2431.)
The Chateau will remain open year round, and once the off-season arrives, prices will be reduced, said Ed Foy.
Nevertheless, Foy makes no apologies for introducing a different type of restaurant to Bolton Landing.
“We have a vision of Bolton Landing, not of what it was, or is, but of what it will be,” said Foy. “Every generation that’s been successful here has done something new, something people said couldn’t be done. It’s our responsibility as the next generation to take the next steps, to take Bolton Landing to the next level.”
The Chateau on the Lake is open seven days a week through the end of summer, after which it will serve dinners Thursdays through Sundays. For reservations, information about directions by boat and special events such as weddings, call 644-7094.