Review of New Park, Ithaca NY

About a mile from where I live, there’s a quarter-mile long stockade fence which obscures the land on the west side of Route 89. Locals have nicknamed it ‘Fort Whoopee.’

Rumor (and second hand stories) indicate that the owner is a friend (ex-boyfriend?) of Ms. Goldberg herself. She, in turn, financed his purchase of an old, bland, run down hotel/motel 12 years ago. Further, she also (purportedly) financed most if not all of the enormous amount of renovation that has occurred in the interim.

On a recent visit, I asked Jamie Keogh, the owner, if he’d be so kind as to give us a tour.

“Defies description” and “labor of love” cannot begin to do justice to the amazing and spectacular work that transformed a funky, boring, low budget motel into a showplace. Unique is too mild a word.

“I only have 7 rooms.” So says Jamie of New Park.

Each is a marvel of detail, whimsy, charm, and elegance. One room has a fresco of hot air balloons. Another, to be used as a conference or meeting space, has a floor of tiny blue glass pieces, hand-placed in wire mesh. The shower for a third has a tiled wall, patterned with the Finger Lakes.

Each space has dozens, if not hundreds of details that catch your eye and imagination. I’ve never seen anything like it. Just when I would focus in on a detail, something else would attract my attention. Even bookshelves had elements worth studying. Real life colored by Maxfield Parrish, Georgia O’Keeffe and Salvador Dali. And marvelous!

As an itinerant corporate clone for a Fortune 5 company, I spent much time on the road, in airports and in a multitude of hotels. I’ve also traveled a fair amount on holiday. I try, when possible, to select hotels which have charm, grace and interest.

The closest in ambiance and character to New Park was a hotel near Bolzano (Italy). This hotel had an old wing. If I remember correctly, it had been built in the early1700’s. Each room was different, in size, shape, layout. There were rough plaster walls and twelve inch wide floor boards. One could feel the weight of history, yet it was inviting and enticing, not intimidating.

Sadly, the proprietors had built a new wing. “People don’t like the old rooms. They want modern.” The newer rooms were elegant, uniform and incredibly boring. I must have been one of the last patrons to request an older room, before the wing was renovated to appeal those who wanted ‘new.’

It wasn’t only the historic wing that enticed me. The room I selected looked over a tiny square. In the middle was a fountain. Here, water ran out of a rusty dragon’s mouth. The images of that trip, that stay, that hotel, are vivid in my memory.

New Park has scores of details with similar appeal cheek upon jowl. But it’s not over-done. Somehow, the details and beauty of the place mesh and meld to make it an astonishing visual joy.

I’m not a particularly facile writer. I cannot do justice to New Park. I wish all of my creative friends and family could and would see it. It’s worth a tour. No, it’s worth a marvel.

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