BY JILL NAGY
George Washington didn’t sleep there, but four
other American presidents did: Ulysses S. Grant,
Chester A. Arthur, Rutherford B. Hayes, and James
Garfield, boasts John Szemansco, owner and
host of Oakcliff Bed and Breakfast located at 78
Church Hill Road in Halfmoon.
Szemansco did not host them personally, of
course. That distinction belongs to the second
owner of the home, T.G. Younglove, the first
speaker of the New York State Assembly and onetime
state Republican Party chairman. Younglove
lived in the house from 1850 to 1882 and was
speaker in the 1860s. (The house was built in 1835
by County Judge Duncan MacMartin).
However, the current host can offer guests use
of the Grant Library and rooms named for the
That history has helped attract guests to the
“The main focus [of guests] and the thing that
surprised me was the interest in history,” he said.
Szemansco said he finds himself catering more
to international travelers, people on weekend
jaunts and local people “who just want to get away
and don’t want to drive far,” and fewer business
travelers than he expected. It is a popular spot
for Saratoga racing fans as well as people visiting
colleges in the area.
There is no sign out front or on the house or its
accompanying carriage house. There is a historical
marker on the road out front, however, and
the building is on the National Historic Registry.
It sits on a hilltop overlooking the Mohawk
River, close to Falls View Park in Cohoes and
Peebles Island State Park, across the river from
the Waterford waterfront.
Inside, the bedrooms and public rooms are
decorated with antiques but furnished, also, with
modern plumbing and high-speed internet access,
as well as a business center, laundry facilities
and parking. The President Grant bedroom has
a jacuzzi in the bathroom. Guests have use of a
library, sitting room, and porches overlooking the
Mohawk. Szemansco prepares a full breakfast for
his guests every morning and serves baked goods
from a local bakery.
The choice between a conventional hotel or
motel and his bed and breakfast “are like night
and day,” he said.
Rates are comparable, though, ranging from
$150 to about $200 a night for a room and breakfast
during most of the year, about $100 more in
August. The inn is open 12 months a year.
The host said the business is “going very well
and the reviews have been excellent.”
Although Szemansco began work on the
project “in phases,” in 1988, it has only been open
as a bed and breakfast for about 18 months. The
telephone number is 281-4434.