Forever Wild in the Catskill Mountains

This story is about a couple from New York who’s chance encounter and a ‘one in a million’ chance opportunity resulted in a true ‘happily-ever-after’ mountain-themed fairytale.

Their story starts when Tommy, age 40 at the time, bought an abandoned, mountain-top A-frame châlet cabin in the summer of 2016 after a years-long personal quest to find his own retreat in the scenic Catskill Mountains of upstate New York. As a child, his earliest memories were forged at a similarly-styled mountain-top châlet in the high Catskills that his parents had built by hand with the help of friends after purchasing raw land in the early 1970’s. After his family reluctantly sold the property in the late 1980’s to make ends meet, Tommy promised himself to substitute those memories with a place of his own one day.

Over the years, he would take many trips from New York up to the mountains to vacation while secretly scoping the scene to suss his options. He would eventually make some offers on a couple of spots while passing on other potential properties in the area over the years but nothing ever worked out. However, Tommy eventually struck gold when he serendipitously found a classic mid-Century A-frame cabin listed for auction for mere pennies on the dollar. Naturally, Tommy felt the deal was almost too good to be true, so he decided to take the 2.5-hour trip up from Brooklyn where he lived at the time up to the Big Indian Wilderness of the Catskills to investigate — an area known as a coveted getaway hotspot for busy New Yorkers because of its scenic landscapes, exotic wildlife, and peaceful surroundings. A true picturesque escape from hectic city life. This particular cabin was so remote that it was nearly impossible to find at first — something Tommy now considers a bonus as he always wanted a true “hidden retreat” far away from modern-day city life. In fact, the 6-acre property is so secluded that it practically eliminates any views of distant neighbors with towering 360° tree lines that fully encompass the land.

The place was abandoned for years after the previous owner had foreclosed as it slowly became forgotten by time. It was completely overgrown with weeds and littered with piles of trash, but after a quick inspection, Tommy felt the “bones” were in good shape and there was solid potential to rehabilitate the mid-century cabin that was originally constructed in 1969. Naturally, he had some reservations at first as he had never taken on such a massive project in his life before. In fact, he had never even purchased a home before, but after learning some basic building skills from his father who had built his family’s cabin himself in the 1970’s, Tommy was encouraged to take a leap of faith and hone his skills to make it work — something he was determined to do, even if it would be without the help of his aging mentor father. After some tense ‘back & forth’ during the auction process, Tommy came out on top as the bank eventually accepted his bid to buy the property. Elated, he soon began to realize the enormous workload he had in front of him to see the cabin’s potential through. He wasn’t a professional contractor but knew that since he didn’t have the extra money to pay for one he would have to learn how to build himself and encourages anyone else reading this to do the same. Tommy’s luck continued to improve when a few weeks after closing on the property, he met a beautiful woman at a nearby music festival in the Catskills who would later become his wife, Leah. Tommy soon informed Leah of his intentions with the newly bought property and Leah was genuinely excited to join him on the new adventure. Together, they soon began to spend every one of weekends transforming the old cabin and its land into their vision for it for the next two years. As Leah worked tirelessly outdoors landscaping the overgrown acreage and often assisting Tommy with new construction projects, Tommy would focus his sights on hauling lumber & tools up to the mountain to install things like a new kitchen, bathroom, flooring, stairways, doors, windows, decking and more over the next few years — all things neither had ever done before. Amazingly, the property also came with a large, rustic field barn that decided he would Tommy completely rehabilitate and transform into a fully-functioning, 1970’s-styled “mountain honky-tonk” bar — complete with a full-sized bar, rustic game room and plenty of rustic & collectible memorabilia. All of their efforts eventually started to pay off and their friends, who became more and more interested in their adventure, convinced them to make an Instagram account for the newly renovated home to document their progress. As the progress on the house continued, so did their relationship. The couple got engaged in the summer of 2017 in scenic Venice, Italy while traveling in Europe together and soon realized that the only viable place to hold their wedding was none other than at their scenic Catskills cabin. With a hard ‘1-year deadline’ fast approaching, the pressure was now on the couple to finalize all of the construction loose ends and shift to wedding preparation mode to accommodate over 150+ guests who would come to see the couple tie the knot. After months of working relentlessly, the couple’s efforts paid off when they completed that phase of work mere hours before the big day and were happily married on the front steps of their love nest in September of 2018 — exactly 2 years after meeting and beginning their adventure together.

Since then, they continue to work on the seasonal vacation home in an effort to further improve its potential and perhaps share it with others in the near future as a rental. The couple had recently upgraded the house with a brand new, châlet-style keystone roof and plans to install a new backyard deck – complete with hot tub, sauna, and an outdoor kitchen this year!
Follow their progress at @aframe.chalet

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: