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In Search of Value: Cliff Park Inn, Milford, Pennsylvania

Cliff5 Reviewed by Ed Wetschler

THE BACKSTORY: When The New York Times asked me to write an article about Milford, PA, a few years ago, I paid a visit to the Cliff Park Inn. How could I not? Cliff Park Inn has such a rich history dating back to Colonial times (check out that wide-plank floor), with additions c.1820 by an uncle of Pres. James Buchanan. The nine-hole, wide-fairway golf course, completed in 1912, was the first on this planet owned by a woman (Annie R. Buchanan built it because women weren’t allowed on American courses). And the entire property is now part of the Delaware Water Gap National Recreational Area, thanks to the generosity of Harry Buchanan, who still lives next door.

Cliff1 But despite its great pedigree, greens, and setting, I couldn’t put Cliff Park Inn in that Times article. The place struck me as having gotten slightly shabby, and its restaurant, downright pedestrian. Fortunately, that’s not the end of the story. Last year former stage manager and director Stephanie Brown took over, and she has turned this old house into a swell place to stay, dine, and do a whole lot of other things.

Cliff3 ROOMS: Each one’s different, but in general, wall colors are bold and furnishings are comfortable — country oak tables, leather chairs, tasteful prints–rather than innkeeper precious. Says Brown, "I removed a lot of bric-a-brac."

MORE REASONS TO STAY: The village of Milford, just one mile away, has terrific art galleries, antiques shops, coffee shops, landmarked Victorian homes, museums, Grey Towers (the chateau of Gifford Pinchot, who created the U.S. Forestry Service), and The Columns historical museum.

Cliff2 INSIDER TIP: Bring your appetite. I recently had an extraordinary entree of moist hoisin-wasabi swordfish, mixed grains, and broccolini with clarified butter ($25). Grief-stricken when I’d eaten it all (and you can be sure that I did eat it all), I consoled myself with a piece of unsugary, profoundly chocolate cake and homemade vanilla ice cream. FYI, most of Cliff Park Inn’s produce is organic, and all breads and pastries are fresh-baked. Breakfasts, different each day, may include granola that’s half fruit and nuts, creamy homemade yogurt, and breakfast sausage made to Ms. Brown’s strict specifications.

YOUR NEIGHBORS: Quiet middle class club types and day-tripping golfers and diners. (Downstairs, in the pub, you may also see some looser, pool-playing locals.)

THE DEAL: Rooms start at $136 midweek, $157 weekend.

CAVEAT: The white clapboard facade needs a fresh paint job. Brown plans to give it one, and also to reroof the inn, build a patio out back, change the building entrance, upgrade the 15 guestrooms, expand the golf course to 18 holes, partner with Orvis on a fishing program, and more. Sometime in 2009, room rates have to rise. So hurry.

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION: I’ll say. Just 72 miles from midtown Manhattan, this north end of the national park has gorgeous foliage, rugged cliffs, canoeing on the Delaware River, deer, bears, bald eagles–you could happily sit all day in a rocker on the front porch watching critters on the fairways. Or you can request a picnic lunch, take a one-mile hike to The Overlook, and sit there all day.

THE DETAILS: Cliff Park Inn, Milford, PA, 800-225-6535 or 570-296-6491

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