Nina Schmidbaur grew up next to the Dragon Inn on Route 9W in Saugerties, and as a small child, dreamed of one day owning the restaurant and restoring it to its former beauty. This may seem like a childish dream, but it recently came true and Schmidbaur is now the owner of the crumbling mansion, originally known as Clovelea. She plans to operate a mental health practice there and also use it as a residence.
Schmidbaur, a psychotherapist, said she remembers seeing the building destroyed in a fire in November, 1993. “I was eleven years old saying, ‘I hope to own this property one day,’ and now, 20 years later, I do.” The process of tracking down the owner and negotiating the sale took eleven months, Schmidbaur said. She declined to name the price.
Built as a home for businessman William R. Sheffield in 1882, Clovelea was sold to another businessman about 12 years after it was built. In the 1950s, the building became the Stonewall Hotel. It became Anton’s Restaurant in the 1960s, according to historian Michael Sullivan Smith’s website. It later became the popular Dragon Inn Chinese Restaurant, and it flourished until a fire damaged the building in the early 1990s. It has since deteriorated significantly.
Several buyers or would-be buyers had planned to tear it down, but were stopped by history buffs and the Historical Review Board, because of the building’s attractiveness and its past. The building is registered locally as a historic site.
Schmidbaur will also have to clear her plans with Saugerties Mayor Bill Murphy and the Historic Review Board. “Both the mayor and the board said they would not be putting things in my way,” she said, and added that she has permission from code enforcement officer Eyal Saad to begin clearing the debris from the property.
Schmidbaur also said she would be open to seeking grants to help with the cost of renovating the building. In the meantime, she is accumulating “sweat equity,” clearing some of the debris on the property.
Schmidbaur says that her aim is to renovate the building to have her practice on the first level and live upstairs. The first floor could accommodate between nine and 12 offices, which Schmidbaur would rent to holistic medical practices, such as psychotherapists or herbalists, among others. She emphasized that she would be looking for practitioners who share her commitment to making the treatment affordable for all those needing it. “My practice, Collective Resilience, was started during the pandemic in response to community need,” she said.
Schmidbaur is the chair of the Hudson Valley Guild of Mental Health Practitioners Social Justice Committee. She is running for the Saugerties Town Board and is a member of a group of candidates and supporters called Citizens for Saugerties. “I am an activist,” she said. “Advocacy is part of social work.”
Schmidbaur said she intends to document the entire renovation of the Dragon Inn on Instagram or Facebook.