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The New York Post

Why Andes is Worth a Peek

By Tina Traster

August 18, 2011 -- My most vivid memories of being a camp counselor in the late 1970s are about nights out at the Andes Hotel in upstate Delaware County. The scene was a mix of tattooed, bearded bikers shooting pool in the bar and blue-haired ladies and gents square dancing in the cavernous dining room. We counselors used to order pizza and beer from the bar.

Nights at the 1850s two-story Colonial hotel, with its gracious rocking-chair porch, were exotic for a city kid, as was the night I spent in one of the hotel rooms out back. (Don’t tell my parents.)

On a recent steaming hot July Sunday, I’m sitting on that same porch, eating smoked salmon benedict prepared with “crisp roesti potatoes, poached eggs and an herb Hollandaise.” The meal has been prepared by Ed O’Neill, a Culinary Institute of America-trained chef who owns the hotel with his wife, Sally.

The Andes Hotel is not the honky-tonk I remember. Neither is the sleepy village of Andes, situated halfway between Woodstock and Cooperstown, about three hours from New York City.

With its fresh, locally grown menu items, an array of music and theater, the annual Harvest Moon Ball, updated rooms and Cans & Clams nights in its summer shack, the Andes is as hip as any NYC boutique hotel. It draws locals, second-home owners and tourists.

Kelsey Grammer, who owns a 1900s farmhouse in Andes, stops in frequently -- it’s like an upstate “Cheers.” Ben Stiller recently dropped by. Main Street, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, lures sophisticates with its art galleries, antiques and gift shops, a farmers market and the Tay Tea shop and restaurant.

There are, however, essences of the old dairy-farm town I recall: the one-pump gas station, a basic grocery store, the Cassie’s Kitchen diner. Holstein cows still graze in fields surrounded by rolling corn and hay fields.

Andes’ history is preserved in the Hunting Tavern Museum on Main Street. The town was founded in 1819 along a stagecoach route. In 1845, disgruntled farmers staged a tenant rebellion on Dingle Hill when Undersheriff Osman Steele came to collect overdue rents. Disguised as Indians, poor tenant farmers shot and killed Steele. In 1847, the system of feudal tenures was abolished.

The 19th century brought logging, tanning and sheep and dairy farming to the area. In the 1950s, several towns were razed, the east branch of the Delaware River was dammed and the valley was flooded to create the Pepacton Reservoir, which supplies New York City with 25 percent of its drinking water.

The Village of Andes, population 300, is situated in the Town of Andes, population 1,600. Village homes for sale, according to Dorothy McArdle, owner/broker of Apple Tree Realty, range from $100,000 to $275,000. A three-bedroom, 1920s house with mountain views, a gourmet kitchen and hardwood floors was recently listed at $179,000.

Joanne Oplustil and her husband, Kazimierz, who live in Brooklyn, bought a second home in the Tunis Lake development in Andes because it reminded them of their years living in the African bush during the 1970s.

“It was the beauty of the area that brought us here,” Oplustil says. “It’s truly rural. You drive around the county without having to go through built-up areas. This is hard to replicate.”

Tunis Lake is a 90-home development just three miles north of the village with a beach, swimming docks and other amenities managed by a property owners’ association. A 2,700-square-foot, four-bedroom Contemporary with a fireplace in a mountain setting is listed for $359,000.

“More than 70 percent of property [in Andes] is owned by part-timers,” says McArdle.

This includes million-dollar homes situated along the Pepacton Reservoir, Beech Hill Road and Barkaboom Road.

Sally O’Neill, the Andes Hotel proprietor, left New York City a decade ago and bought the hotel from a family that had owned it for half a century. She says “you’ve got to have a bit of the outdoorsman in you” to enjoy spending time up here.

With stunning options for hiking, biking, fishing, hunting, skiing and other outdoor pursuits, it’s easy to understand how city folks who come up learn to spot a bald eagle, fish for trout or hunt turkey.

And they get really good at sitting on a rocking-chair porch and doing nothing.

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