Like the Victorian craze for fancy fur and felt hats that for decades fed its reputation as “the hat-making capital of the US”—as well as its economy—Beacon’s time in the Industrial Age limelight was not to last. As fashions changed, and women, especially, stopped sporting the ostentatious headwear they’d worn for generations, one by one the formerly thriving milliners left the region, taking the better part of the city’s wealth with them. During the early 1960s urban renewal claimed many of the historic factories, and in the early ’70s Beacon’s economic blight began its 30-year reign. The surviving, once-proud structures fell ever more deeply into decay, becoming unstable eyesores, easy targets for vandals, and nests of nefarious activity.
With the town’s recent renaissance, however, has come the refurbishing and repurposing of many of these sites, the latest and perhaps most ambitious such project being the Roundhouse at Beacon Falls, which opens this month. “When I originally moved to Beacon five years ago, it was with the intention of retiring,” says the property’s owner, builder, and developer Robert McAlpine, who purchased the site with his retirement funds. “But when I saw the Roundhouse property I fell in love with it, and we’ve worked very hard ever since to bring this site back to life.”
McAlpine, who has partnered on the project with architecture and design firm Rockwell Group, is working to transform the nine-acre site straddling Fishkill Creek into a 54-room destination hotel with a luxury spa; a 175-seat restaurant and bar called Swift, which also features indoor and outdoor dining; and a 250-seat catering and event space overlooking the rushing Beacon Falls. Home to four existing brick 19th-century mill buildings, the site also contains a former hydroelectric plant, which will be restored to provide green electricity to the property, and plans also include turning one former mill building into five work/live artist loft spaces. Swift will be housed in the Roundhouse itself, which will additionally boast 2EM, a 40-seat lounge with an adjoining outdoor terrace that can accommodate up to 100 people, along with 12 boutique hotel rooms on the second floor offering views of the falls. The drum-shaped building will be connected by a bridge to two other nearby boutique hotels, as well as the spa and a full-service fitness center.
McAlpine started McAlpine Construction Company, Inc., as a sole proprietorship in 1987, and the firm now employs more than 20 workers. In addition to the Roundhouse at Beacon Falls project, the company currently has several other hospitality and health care facility projects underway in the tri-state area. Based in New York, with a satellite office in Madrid, the award-winning Rockwell Group was founded in 1984 and is a cross-disciplinary architecture and design firm specializing in cultural, hospitality, retail, product, and set-design projects. Owner David Rockwell’s interest in theater has informed much of his company’s work, which has included Nobu restaurants worldwide, the W Hotel in New York’s Union Square, the Gramercy Park Hotel’s Maialino trattoria, the Kodak Theater in Los Angeles, the central marketplace of the JetBlue terminal at John F. Kennedy International Airport, set designs for the 2009 and 2010 Academy Awards ceremonies, the Broadway productions “Hairspray” and “Catch Me If You Can,” and other prestigious undertakings.
“The support we’ve received from the people of Beacon, from the city administration to the local artisans and the public at large has been extraordinary,” says McAlpine. “It’s been rewarding to breathe new life into a site that holds an important place in so many Beaconites’ hearts, and we’re looking forward to introducing Beacon to a larger audience.”