In the latter part of the 19th century, Thomas Hunt Talmage, a businessman from Brooklyn, built a grand summer residence on Lake Joseph high in Sullivan County’s Catskill Mountains. The property included 2,000 acres of wilderness. However, just prior to the completion of Talmage House, Thomas died.
A few years later, a group of lost Dominican Sisters from Long Island were looking for property for a new retreat. With horse and carriage, they accidentally turned onto a secluded road and came across Talmage House. Mrs. Talmage sold the estate to the sisters and became a close friend and supporter of the order.
As time passed, the Dominican Sisters developed a self-contained retreat which included farming facilities, schools, children’s camps, a convent and a drug rehabilitation center. The addition of guest houses and cottages made Lake Joseph a major family vacation destination.
In the 1930’s, the Talmage House became the vacation home of Cardinals Hayes and Spellman. The main house hosted hundreds of international dignitaries and celebrities over the years and became known as the Cardinal House.
The facility known as Saint Joseph’s reached its peak in the late 1960’s and closed after 120 years of service in the late 1970’s. Most of the existing buildings were razed and the land was returned to its original wilderness state, leaving the majestic Talmage House to fall into disrepair.
Then, in the early 1980’s, two lost Sunday drivers turned down a secluded road to seek directions back to the main highway. There stood the Talmage House, a bit ruffled but in reasonably good condition, waiting to be rediscovered.
These two Sunday drivers immediately envisioned the dwelling as a fine country inn, and went to work on restoring it to its former glory. The Inn at Lake Joseph welcomed its first guests in 1984.