Yama Farms Inn: A Home in the Mountains



Today, at the beginning of the 21st century, few remember Yama Farms Inn, a resort that flourished on the outskirts of Napanoch, New York, in Ulster County’s Town of Wawarsing, during the early decades of the 20th century. Fewer still are aware that here, on an isolated hilltop, some of the most powerful and creative men and women of that era gathered to be in one another’s company and to enjoy the pleasures of country life. Writers, scientists, industrialists—even nobility—flocked to the Inn’s doors. Old newspaper clippings describe evenings at the Inn, during which philosophers, historians and naturalists delivered lectures, internationally known artists performed chamber music, railroad magnates and bank presidents struck deals with one another, and inventors unveiled their latest scientific innovations. It has even been claimed that one weekend, a group of vacationing bankers, industrialists, and politicians—all guests at Yama Farms—planned America’s entry into World

War I.

       John Burroughs, seated at left, was feted at Yama  Farms Inn for  

       his 83rd birthday in 1920. The Pulitzer Prize winning  author,

       Hamlin Garland, is seated next to him.  Frank Seaman and Olive

       Sarre, owners and  creators of Yama Farms, stand behind him.


The Inn building, completed in 1913

Early 20th-century postcard depiction o

       Routes to Yama Farms in 1914.

In its day, there was nothing like Yama Farms and there certainly has not been anything like it since. Located on 1300 acres, Yama Farms Inn was a relatively small hotel, containing no more than 40 rooms. It was founded in 1913 by Frank Seaman, a New York City ad man, and remained in business until his death in 1939. Yama Farms originated as a private estate and trout hatchery known as Yama-no-uchi. In addition to a series of trout ponds, the hatchery buildings, and a residence known as the Hut, the estate’s grounds also contained a complex of Japanese-style buildings and gardens. All of this was constructed by Seaman and his companion (and eventual wife) Olive Brown Sarre between 1906 and 1910. From the estate grew the Inn, its first guests drawn entirely from Seaman’s advertising clients and friends. The Inn building, completed in 1913, was large and rambling. It sat perched on a hillside overlooking the rest of Seaman and Sarre’s creation. Much of Yama Farms is now in ruins. Sadly, no historic markers or commemorative plaques exist to remind passing motorists of the extraordinary couple who founded the Inn, their famous guests, or the exotic buildings and gardens that once occupied the site. All that today’s passerby might notice is the crumbling remains of an immense Japanese “temple” built of stone. It sits on a hillside, just off the highway, near a certain curve west of Napanoch. If you slow down, you can catch a glimpse of it through the trees.

The Inn sat perched on a Napanoch hilltop.

Visitors entered Yama-no-uchi (Seaman and Sarre’s private estate) through this Japanese-inspired  gateway.

Early 20th-century post card depiction of Napanoch, New York.