The Fairlawn Inn was built and completed in 1904 to be the summer residence of an architect and affluent Jewish philanthropist by the name of Harry Fischel. The Hunter area was a vacation destination as an escape from the heat and rigors of city life for many New Yorkers: they would come to this area for weeks and months at a time. This area was populated by many large hotels, boarding houses and businesses that supported these lodging facilities at the turn of the century. Mr. Fischel was wealthy enough to have his own summer home in Hunter, The Fairlawn Inn.
Mr. Fischel was born in a small village in Russia on July 19, 1865 to a deeply religious cabinet maker and homemaker. He immigrated to the United States in December of 1885 when he was 19. He had already been educated as an architect. He arrived with the equivalent of 60 cents to his name. Ever-concerned about his parents, he sent money home to Russia to take care of his family over the years and was also a doting father and husband. He married Jane Brass, another émigré from an area close to where he was born in Russia on Thanksgiving Day in 1887. Harry became wealthy by building apartment homes and other buildings in NYC. Throughout his career Harry remained faithful to the tenets laid down by his father. His code of ethics included “to not exchange his religion for money.” In his work he always kept Sabbath and dietary laws regardless of discomfort or loss of jobs. He built many famous residential buildings in NYC which were always full despite economic downturns because he was constantly innovating and offering better homes for the elite.
Though he was quite wealthy he consistently provided for many people through a variety of organizations and was involved in many Jewish causes. A foundation established by he and his wife continues to fund those Jewish causes to this day. He built the Synagogue in Hunter on its current site across the street from the Fairlawn.
Mr. Fischel was very involved in establishing education opportunities for both Jewish men and women, was very helpful in the establishment of Israel, ultimately building the first residence for the Chief Rabbi (May 27, 1923). He also assisted and visited many US Presidents in his role of reconstructing Europe after the First World War and in his role of assisting in establishing Palestine.
Mr. Fischel was involved in many international Jewish causes; he was an original member of the American Jewish Committee which raised over 100 million dollars for the relief of Jews in need after the World War I. He established a kosher kitchen at Ellis Island for incoming émigrés with the assistance of President Taft in 1911. Mr. Fischel established the first Jewish School for Women in NYC and also opened a Hebrew Day Nursery for children of Jewish women who needed to work to support their families.
In 1927 he laid the cornerstone for Yeshiva College which he began with other sponsors. Harry was devoted to his family, his wife Jane, daughters Sadie, Rebecca and Rose. All married well and his second daughter Rebecca married a rabbi who edited the biography where most of these facts were garnered. Mr. Fischel liked to vacation in Atlantic City and also at this home where you are staying. Mr. Fischel died in Israel (then Palestine) on January 1, 1948.
The Fairlawn remained in the family until 1993 at which time it was sold to Sean Byrne and Kelly Coughlin. This couple has a history of buying older homes in need of help and restoring them to their former beauty.
The Fairlawn Inn was their fourth project and was opened as a bed and breakfast after 3.5 years of restoration. It is often said that most people in town did not think it could be saved. The rear section of the house had to be jacked up and a new foundation built underneath it. One side of the building was 28 inches lower than the other. At the time of completion the Fairlawn was added to the State and National Historic Register.
The Inn was purchased from this couple by its current owner and innkeeper Chuck Tomajko in December of 2002. Since this acquisition Chuck has upgraded every area of the house and property. He has added five fireplaces, a Jacuzzi tub for two in the Glenwood Room, many gardens, a patio, comfortable porch furniture, and much more. The common area rooms have one of the added fireplaces and the game room a new custom made billiards table. Chuck is a former executive from the fast food business and has been in some sort of hospitality occupation for over 35 years. The Fairlawn is a continuing project (a.k.a. expensive hobby) with a constant change of amenities and decoration. In addition to the Fairlawn, Chuck also owns and operates The Hunter Antique Mall across the street in the former Masonic Lodge. Please visit the mall in your time here!
Famous people who have stayed or visited are the Academy Award winner Tilda Swinton and also Joan of Arcadia star Amber Tamblyn. They were here to film Stephanie Daley, a dark drama with Amber as the lead actress and Tilda as a forensic psychologist. They were at the Fairlawn for the first two weeks of filming at which time they moved to a large home in Onteora – about 5 miles distant. The movie was filmed in the summer of 2005.
Amber was in the Gazebo Room and Tilda in the Opal Room. Both actresses were a pleasure to have as guests. Tilda plays roles as an awesome bitch (like the white witch in the Chronicles of Narnia) but is totally opposite in her personality. Timothy Hutton was also here for the opening party with the balance of the cast and production crew. The main office for the film was in the town of Tannersville and took over two months to film. Chuck, the Innkeeper, interacted with many of the crew and assisted the art director in acquiring props for the sets. The sets were in two local homes and throughout the town. The movie extras were comprised of many locals, it was interesting to see the movie with area locations and people throughout.
We hope you enjoy your time here at the Fairlawn and though most of you are not movie stars your comfort is our main concern. Let us know if there is anything we can do to make your stay more comfortable. The Fairlawn is number one in Hunter by Tripadvisor.com and Google – is a finalist in the “Inn of Distinction” for 2009 by the New York State Hospitality and Tourism Association. The Inn was awarded the “Inn of Distinction” for that same award in 2010. That same year the inn also received a three leaf eco-rating in conjunction with Audubon International and I Love NY. Our goal is to achieve a five leaf rating by the end of 2012.