During the latter part of the 19th century, the development of the steamboat and railroad had made possible a growing tourist business in the Hudson Valley. People streamed out of the hot and dirty city to find healthful air, water and tranquility along the banks of the river, and an enterprising Fort Comfort Inn and Realty Company, under its president George DeGroat, converted an old mansion on the west side of Piermont Avenue into a hotel called the Fort Comfort Inn. Subsequently a recreational facility variously called “Fort Comfort”, “Fort Comfort Resort” or “Old Fort Comfort Park” was started on the other side of the avenue southeast of the hotel.
An advertisement for this attraction in the 1902-03 Breed Publishing’s Bi-Annual Directory of The Nyacks and Piermont read:
“The Fort Comfort Beach is the most desirable place on the Hudson for bathing and has many attractive features not found at seaside resorts. The clean, fine sand bottom sloping gradually for a long distance makes it absolutely safe for small children and enjoyable to all. A modern Bathing Pavilion, lighted by electricity for bathing at night, has about one hundred large booths furnished with shower and foot baths. Very large assortment of fine suits for hire.* Fort Comfort is a strictly first-class resort in every respect, and is patronized by people of wealth and refinement. Shady porches, river breezes, beautiful scenery, delightful bathing, sandy beach, ice cream, soda water, cigars and confectionery. The Casino is a recent addition to Fort Comfort and consists of a Billiard Room, Bowling Alleys and Music Room.”
Later a merry-go-round, shooting gallery, dance hall, swings, boating and other amusements were added. Boat rides on the river were available for 10 cents. The place attracted groups and was a favorite spot for Sunday School picnics.
Fort Comfort Inn postcard
The Inn became an elegant destination, selected in 1908 by the Automobile Club of America as its “official hotel.” It featured an arbor room, described as “an immense room festooned with native grape vines, life-like green leaves, luscious clusters of grapes electrically illuminated, real birds, butterflies and tree-toads here and there peeping through the tangle,” along with “two French chefs from Delmonico’s up-town restaurant.” As an undated advertising brochure boasted, “Particular and pardonable pride is taken in the cuisine. Vegetables fresh from the Inn garden are supplied and a carefully stocked dairy farm furnishes all the milk and cream used, while a flowing well provides an abundance of clear, pure water.” Afternoon teas on the veranda were featured, along with “full dress dances … every Saturday evening.” It must have been a wonderful spectacle, sparkling with lights on a hill above the river, complete with live music wafting out over the water on a summer evening.
The Inn was eventually destroyed by fire. Various enterprises continued on the site of the recreational facility, including a restaurant called the Fort Comfort Inn which was itself finally destroyed by fire in 1975. All that remains today to remind us of this elegant bygone era are the crenellated curved battlement and towers on the old site and the puddingstone gateposts along Piermont Avenue that flank a semicircular drive that once led to the original inn.
* A former Piermont resident remembers hearing that her grandmother, who came to Piermont from Slovakia early in the twentieth century, was employed in the laundry room at Fort Comfort. She and her friends washed the woolen bathing suits that were rented out to bathers there.
Fort Comfort Inn postcard