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10 Top Towns

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Vanilla, or chocolate? Such is the majesty of the Hudson Valley that selecting the most superlative of our communities is like quibbling over the best ice-cream flavor — whichever you choose, you can’t go wrong. And it’s the same with a Hudson Valley address. From out-of-the-way villages with no traffic lights, to urban centers boasting shopping, dining, and cultural opportunities that rival those of our neighbors to the south, our region has just the right environment to satisfy every temperament.

That some unquestionably excellent ports of call are missing from this list — Saugerties, Beacon, High Falls, Millbrook, and so on — is less an indictment of the omissions than a testament to the abundant charm of our little corner of the state. Think we should have included your town? Tell us why here.

» Click ahead to travel through our 10 Top Towns. First stop: Red Hook, Dutchess County
 

red hookRed Hook, Dutchess County: Sprawling farms and winding roads dot the town that’s as picturesque as it is cultured; it’s home to Bard College, Poet’s Walk, and many a restaurateur (including Mario Batali of Molto Mario)

Photograph by Daniel Case

red hookThe laid-back village of Red Hook is home to the Merritt Bookstore Vol. II, as well as several fine restaurants

Photograph by Michael Coddington

Dutchess County

Red Hook

Until the 1800s, the Village of Red Hook was called Hardscrabble; one surmises it was not exactly Xanadu West. Certainly there was not much about Hardscrabble that suggested a metamorphosis into such a charming little village.

Red Hook is both a Town and a Village, with the former also comprising a number of smaller hamlets, among them Tivoli; Barrytown, site of the Unification Theological Seminary; and Annandale-on-Hudson, the home of Bard College (and the place Steely Dan claims they will never go back to in their hit “My Old School”).

With the studious tone set by its institutions of higher learning, Red Hook is renowned for its academics — its public school system is arguably one of the best in the Hudson Valley. The schools include “a music department that is second-to-none, and performing arts activities that rival much larger districts,” says David Temple, a classical guitarist who has lived in Red Hook for eight years. The high school is one of only a handful in the Hudson Valley to offer an International Baccalaureate diploma.

Said to be one of the state’s oldest formal organizations, the Red Hook Society for the Apprehension and Detention of Horse Thieves still holds an annual meeting

Tourists come to visit Bard College and the Aerodrome in nearby Rhinebeck, but the locals soak up the beautiful views of the Hudson River, promenades along Poet’s Walk, and ice cream cones at Holy Cow. The vibe, Temple says, is low-key and collegial. “I like the combination of small town aspects — I shop in the village IGA where I can talk to the butcher himself and buy local produce — and New York sophistication. I have attended and performed in concerts at the Bard’s Fisher Center,” he says.

When locals desire a little more action, Red Hook’s big cousin Rhinebeck is just five miles south. Here, chichi shopping, fine dining, and a popular independent movie theater draw hordes of tourists on weekends throughout the year. Still, there are several notable eateries in Red Hook, too. Mercato’s standout Northern Italian fare and casual atmosphere ensure it is perennially packed, and Max’s Memphis BBQ has a well-deserved reputation as one of the best barbecue joints in the region. But it was the addition of the sophisticated Flatiron Steakhouse in 2008 that really raised the dining bar in town.

Town Facts:

Location: Northern Dutchess County
Population: 11,500 (T), 1,900 (V)
Median Household Income: $47,000
Nomenclature: According to local lore, Dutch navigators exploring the Hudson River happened upon Cruger’s Island — which is actually a peninsula, or hoek in Dutch — in the autumn, when the foliage was a brilliant red.
Notable residents: Margaret Hamilton, the actress best-known as the Wicked Witch of the West; fiction writer Robert Sheckley

» Next stop: Pawling, Dutchess County
 

quaker lake pawlingThe boat house at Quaker Lake; scenic beauty is just one reason why Pawling residents love their town

Photograph by David Sollors

Dutchess County

Pawling

Nestled in the rolling hills of the eastern reaches of both county and state, “Pawling is New York State’s best-kept secret,” says Nancy Tanner, a lifelong town resident and the retired founder of the Book Cove, its popular independent book store. “It is the people here who make it so.”

The original people were the Quakers, who settled the Oblong section in 1720; their meeting house still stands. Washington slept here, too — and more than once; he operated from the John Kane House for two months in 1778. Now, the Colonial and Federal-style building is home to the local historical society and displays various exhibits, particularly about the life of the late radio broadcaster Lowell Thomas (a former resident).

Nowadays, the population comprises quite a few Manhattan commuters (during peak hours, the average trip is 95 minutes), as well as second, third, and fourth generation families. Pawling is that rarity in today’s transient age: a hometown that is returned to. Like a scene from a Norman Rockwell painting, it’s easy to imagine getting off the train and rambling over to McKinney & Doyle, an old-fashioned eatery and bakery that is continually named “Best Old-fashioned Brunch” by the editors of this magazine.

Known as “Positive Pawling” — a tip of the hat to both the community-oriented spirit of its citizens and former resident Norman Vincent Peale, author of The Power of Positive Thinking — “Pawling is not too small to absorb you nor too large to ignore you,” as Tanner once noted in a Chamber of Commerce brochure.

One of New York State’s largest freshwater wetlands, the Great Swamp in Pawling takes up more than 6,000 acres

There is both a Village and Town of Pawling. In the center of the village, in the shadow of the venerable Dutcher House, a new village green is in the works. A new bandstand, flanked by bas-relief sculptures of 13 Pawling forebears, will replace the hundred-year-old gazebo. The Quaker Hill section of the town, with its vast estates and open space, continues to attract both the rich and the famous, and the Appalachian Trail, which winds through the northern part of the town and can be accessed by its very own Metro-North stop, attracts just about everybody.

Pawling is home to the nine-hole Dutcher Golf Course, one of the oldest public places to hit the links in the U.S., as well as two highly-regarded private schools, Mizzentop and Trinity-Pawling. And if that’s not enough to sell you on Pawling, there’s this: the Trader Joe’s in Danbury is just a 30-minute drive away.

Town Facts:

Location: Eastern Dutchess County
Population: 8,200 (T), 2,200 (V)
Median Household Income: $61,000
Nomenclature: Named for Catherine Pawling, daughter of Henry Beekman, whose land this once was
Notable residents: Thomas Dewey, former governor of New York and presidential candidate; Edward R. Murrow, broadcaster and subject of the film Good Night and Good Luck; James Earl Jones, actor and voice of Darth Vader

» Next stop: Hurley, Ulster County
 

main streetMain Street in history-rich Hurley features 10 stone houses, dating back roughly 300 years

Photograph by Daniel Case

Ulster County

Hurley

Old, quaint, old, quiet, old, laid-back — and did we mention old? That’s Hurley, the small hamlet with the long history. Settled by the Dutch and subsequently seized by the British, the village played a small role in the early years of the Republic, serving as the capital of New York for three months after the Redcoats torched Kingston. In fact, the whole of Main Street is a National Historic Landmark District.

Like New Paltz, Hurley boasts a collection of stone houses dating to the Dutch Colonial period. Unlike the famous houses of Huguenot Street, however, Hurley’s 10 houses are privately owned. (Want to live in one? At press time, several were on the market). Don Kent, a retired director of public relations at SUNY New Paltz who has called Hurley home for 70 of his 92 years, lives in the “Spy House,” so-called because it was once home to a British operative who was hanged 300-some-odd years ago. The parsonage of the Dutch Reformed Church, which predates Napoleon, is one of the oldest in the country.

There is only one road leading from one end of the hamlet to the other. “If that’s blocked up, you can’t get through,” says Kent. “You have to go to either Stone Ridge or Kingston (five miles away) to get to the other side of town.” Not that this poses much of a problem. What little car traffic passing through downtown was mostly assumed by the Route 209 bypass built when IBM opened its Kingston plant years ago.

John Hall, former member of the band Orleans (known for hits including “Still the One”), served in the Ulster County legislature before being elected to Congress in 2006

This is a quiet, unassuming place, where locals of all denominations attend Mass at the Dutch Reformed Church — because it is the only church in town. “Not a lot goes on,” Kent says. “But it’s a nice place to raise a family.” The only public school in town is the well-regarded Ernest C. Meyer Elementary School; students go on to Kingston High School or opt to attend the John A. Coleman Catholic High School. “The [O&W] rail trail runs alongside town,” says Kent. “There are mostly walkers on it, but some kids on bikes, too.” The little library has a surprising number of programs for everyone from kids to seniors.

Of course, there are days when Hurley bustles with business. The second Saturday in July is Stone House Day, when the owners of many of the historic homes open their doors to the public. Guides are garbed in Colonial attire, as are the “soldiers” at the 1777 Ulster Militia Encampment. Other draws include the Memorial Day Parade in May and, in August, the Corn Festival, an homage to the days when the lion’s share of the corn in New York City was grown at the Gill Farm, still a popular market — not least because its infamous pumpkin cannon shoots the gourds 4,000 feet in the air.

Town Facts:

Location: Hamlet in the eponymous town in Northeast Ulster County
Population: 6,500
Median Household Income: $59,000
Nomenclature: Originally called “Nieuw Dorp” (meaning “new village”) when settled by the Dutch in 1662, the hamlet was renamed Hurley the following year after an attack by the Esopus Indians destroyed it.
Fun Fact: Scenes from the film Tootsie were shot in Hurley

» Next stop: New Paltz, Ulster County
 

new paltzThe Shawangunk Ridge in New Paltz is a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts from all over the country

Photograph by Teresa Horgan

Ulster County

New Paltz

Beyond the banks of the Wallkill River, beneath the rough-hewn Shawangunk Ridge, is the town and village that last year National Geographic Traveler dubbed one of the “Best Adventure Towns” in the country.

New Paltz was founded by French Huguenots, a notably dour bunch, who built (or rather, whose slaves built) a series of old stone houses along the street that bears their name. Today, this decidedly un-dour college town with a liberal bent certainly has much to recommend it. There’s its proximity to beautiful Lake Minnewaska, the ’Gunks, and the famed Mohonk Mountain House; an enviable public school system; a bevy of sumptuous restaurants — Beso, 36 Main, Neko, the Gilded Otter among them — that make this a foodie Nirvana; and the best Halloween festivities in the Valley. “Nowhere else in the world can I experience in one day what I’m able to here in New Paltz,” says Erica Chase-Salerno, owner of Wyld Acres Healing Arts & Prenatal Communication. “From Agnes’ breakfast scones at the Village Tea Room to the gorgeous hikes in the Shawangunks to a glass of wine at 36 Main; from the music of the Trapps to historic Huguenot Street to our incredible farms and orchards, our town epitomizes some of the best that life has to offer.”

Stephen King included a mention of New Paltz’s Mohonk Mountain House in his horror novel, Thinner

Many find New Paltz is an ideal community in which to raise kids. “The educational opportunities in our town alone are exceptional,” says Chase-Salerno, who is also co-owner of the popular HudsonValleyParents.com online forum. “In addition to Waldorf, Montessori, home-schooling, and excellent public schools, we’ve got SUNY New Paltz and Empire State College.” Chase-Salerno points out that adults can also take advantage of a wide range of classes and therapeutic modalities right in town, including healing energy work, prenatal communication, massage, chiropractic, acupuncture, and more.

New Paltz made national headlines in 2004, when then-mayor Jason West performed 25 gay marriage ceremonies at Village Hall. The annual Gay Pride festival remains a popular event at Hasbrouck Park. In 2007, SUNY New Paltz was named the “hottest” small state school in the country by Newsweek. Renowned for its fine arts programs — the Dorsky Museum of Art is located on campus — the college imbues the town with its youthful, artsy energy.

“The eclectic mix of people extends into the community in so many ways,” Chase-Salerno says, “and I think it keeps our town interesting, fresh, forward-thinking, and ‘new,’ just like our name.”

Town Facts:

Location: Central Ulster County
Population: 13,750 (T), 6,500 (V)
Median Household Income: $41,000
Nomenclature: The Pfalz, located in Germany, was the last European home of the French Huguenots, who settled here in 1678.
Notable residents: Sojourner Truth, abolitionist and activist; Floyd Patterson, boxer and heavyweight champion; Jason West, Green Party mayor and gay marriage activist

» Next stop: Hudson, Columbia County
 

hudson’s warren streetHudson’s Warren Street, the heart of the city’s cultural district, is home to antiques shops, restaurants, and stores (including the Spotty Dog Books & Ale, at center)

Photograph by Teresa Horgan

Columbia County

Hudson

The unofficial antiques capital of the Hudson Valley, Hudson is a mecca for those whose interest in procuring old objects is so profound that they employ antique as a verb. The fact that the antique shops along Warren Street are decidedly high-end establishments might suggest that this is a city whose streets are paved with gold. It may surprise you to learn that Hudson is not at all hoity-toity.

Like Beacon, Hudson was once a thriving blue-collar city — the former was known for hats; the latter, cement — that fell on hard times in the ’60s and ’70s, only to rebound by reinventing itself as a tourist town. (Strictly speaking, of course, Hudson was always a tourist town; the coup de grace to the city’s reign of vice was the state-level crackdown on gambling and prostitution in the early ’50s).

To walk the streets of the Hudson Historical District is to flip through the pages of A Field Guide to American Houses. All manner of architectural styles can be found here, from Second Empire to Queen Anne, Italianate to Gothic Revival. It was the variety of eye-catching architecture that drew the antiques dealers here in the 1980s — storefronts that were big, cheap, urban-chic, and a two-hour Amtrak ride away from New York City.

The demographics of Hudson have shifted in the last decade. When Lisa Durfee, owner of the wonderfully named vintage clothing store Five and Diamond, moved here 10 years ago, she found that the population skewed older. That is no longer the case. “It’s a younger crowd now,” she says. “Every few years brings a new wave of hipper and younger people.”

Also changing is the antiquing-or-nothing makeup of downtown. You can now hang out at the Spotty Dog Books & Ale, peruse the racks of used books and records at Jean Deux, take in a performance at Time and Space Limited arts center, or enjoy a cup of joe and a mouthwatering scone at the Parlor. Club Helsinki, the eclectic music venue that draws acts like Norah Jones, Michelle Shocked, and Gogol Bordello to its modest space in Great Barrington, has relocated to Hudson. The hope is that the city will continue to “grow into a place where you can shop for things other than antiques,” as Durfee puts it.

Hudson’s best-kept secret, ironically, is the river that bears its name. Tourists generally come for the shopping, and therefore head for town when they get off the train — in the opposite direction of the majestic waterway, which is, truth to tell, hard to locate without a map.
“A lot of people forget that the river is right here,” says Durfee. Promenade Hill Park is there, with views of the Hudson-Athens Lighthouse. Plans are underway to build a boat launch, so kayakers can head to the Middle Ground Flats, the man-made island between Hudson and Athens. “The next wave for Hudson,” she predicts, “is that we’ll take advantage of being on the river.”

Town Facts:

Location: Western Columbia County
Population: 6,900
Median Household Income: $24,000
Fun fact: Diamond Street, a stretch of what is now called Columbia Street, was once an internationally known red light district; more than a dozen brothels operated there.
Notable residents: Frederic Church, landscape painter and owner of Olana; Philip Glass, composer of modern classical music; Martin Van Buren, former New York governor and United States president

» Next stop: Windham, Greene County
 

christman’s windham house resort golf courseThe 18th green at Christman’s Windham House Resort wraps up a challenging 7,072-yard course that winds through the mountain’s rolling hills — and leaves golfers with memorable views in case their rounds were sub-par

Photograph courtesy of Christman’s Windham House

Greene County

Windham

In 1997, Men’s Journal named this mountain redoubt in the upper reaches of Greene County one of the top 10 “Dream Towns” in the U.S. Nothing has changed in the last 13 years to affect Windham’s standing. In fact, we think it keeps getting better.

This is a one-of-a-kind tourist town. Outdoor enthusiasts flock here for hiking, fishing, hunting, golf — there are two magnificent 18-hole courses — and, of course, the skiing at Windham Mountain, with 46 trails and 10 lifts. This August, the International Cycling Union’s 2010 UCI Mountain Bike World Cup finals will bring an estimated 30,000 riders and their fans into town. But culture mavens can also get their fix at one of several art galleries or at the famed Windham Chamber Music Festival.

So while there are a number of vacation homes here, more and more folks are deciding to call Windham home on a full-time basis, including commuters to Albany (which is just about 40 miles away). It seems the nice mix of city sophistication and down-home country charm is irresistible. Cathy Hennessy, a sales manager at Giandana-Loftus Real Estate, and her husband bought a second home here in 2001. But last year, they sold their primary residence in the Jersey suburbs, and moved to Windham. “We decided to come up here and slow down the pace,” she says, noting that there is no grocery store, just a deli that stocks the staples. The nearest malls (in Kingston or Albany) are at least 45 minutes away. The nearest traffic light is 10 miles away. “When people come to visit, they ask ‘What’s that noise?’ ” says Hennessy. “And I say, ‘The silence.’ ” The nights are just as dark as they are silent, she reports, making Windham ideal for stargazing.
And to top it all off, fine dining has finally arrived. Bistro Brie & Bordeaux, a classic French eatery — and a onetime Best of Hudson Valley winner — opened in a charming space on Main Street a few years ago. And now the Cave Mountain Brewing Company, which has been in business since September 2008, makes its own craft beer, root beer, and even absinthe.

Town Facts:

Location: Upper Greene County, bordering Catskill State Park
Population: 1,900
Median Household Income: $36,000
Nomenclature: Known as Osbornville until a political rival of Bennet Osborn, the postmaster for whom the town was named, had the place rechristened Windham
Notable residents: Scott Adams, cartoonist and creator of “Dilbert”

» Next stop: Highland Falls, Orange County
 

highland falls west point cadets“The Long Gray Line” — as the West Point cadets are often called — marches on the Military Academy’s parade grounds, something they’ve been doing for close to 200 years

Photograph courtesy of United States Military Academy

Orange County

Highland Falls

Atten-shun! Girded by the United States Military Academy at West Point, this small, modest town on the Hudson could well be the safest place in the Valley. Unlike some college towns, where locals and students either ignore each other or wage endless war, Highland Falls and West Point enjoy a very collegial relationship.

“West Point is great,” says Andrea McCue, a special ed teacher who moved here from New York City six years ago. Her son, now in kindergarten, plays hockey and soccer through the Academy. “It’s part of the community,” she says, noting that most residents are “big Army supporters when it comes to sports.” On the flip side, cadets support the town by attending services at the churches, marching in parades, and availing themselves of pepperoni slices at Tony’s and West Point Pizza.

Highland Falls enjoys breathtaking views of the Hudson River, and is close to Bear Mountain, Bannerman Island, and Hudson Highlands State Park. The dining room at the Thayer Hotel, at West Point, has been voted “Best Brunch” by our readers year after year. For more modestly priced fare, the Park Restaurant and Hacienda are also recommended.

Town Facts:

Location: Eastern Orange County
Population: 3,700
Median Household Income: $46,000
Fun Fact: Inspiration for the Billy Joel song “Summer, Highland Falls”
Notable residents: Charles Durning, actor

» Next stop: Washingtonville, Orange County
 

moffat library washingtonvilleA national and state historic site, Washingtonville’s Moffat Library features Goshen brick, a clock tower, a grandiose fireplace, and Tiffany stained-glass windows

Photograph by Jason Hermann

Orange County

Washingtonville

Established in 1731 as Matthews Field, this village in the Town of Blooming Grove was known as Little York before changing its name in 1818 to honor the nation’s first president (Washington did not sleep here — but he did water his horse at a trough in the center of town).

With many residents making the daily commute into Manhattan or Rockland County, Washingtonville is a true bedroom community — recently built, single-family homes occupy the tree-lined streets. And for such a tiny burg, the village recreation department offers a wealth of activities for kids. Soccer and basketball leagues, a roller hockey rink, a skateboard park, and (just recently) two new playgrounds have been installed, according to Ronnie Cudmore, circulation supervisor at the Moffat Library (and a 23-year village resident). “And both the Boy and Girl Scouts are very big here,” she adds. “Our Memorial Day Parade is pretty well-packed for such a small town.”

There are seven churches in the village, all of which “are pretty active,” says Cudmore. And school sports events and other goings-on are well supported not just by parents, but by the whole community. “I always take my grandkids to see the high school play,” she adds.
The village has two distinctive landmarks. For architectural beauty, the circa-1887 Moffat Library, with its gorgeous Tiffany stained-glass windows, rivals any library of its size in the country. And America’s oldest winery, Brotherhood, offers tours, tastings, special events (and, of course, great vino). Its underground cellars were originally dug by its French Huguenot founder in 1839; they are still in use today.

Like many a small town, “it seems like everybody knows everybody” in Washingtonville, Cudmore says. “But this is nice. All the town comes out to help those in need.”

Town Facts:

Location: Central Orange County
Population: 6,100
Median Household Income: $63,000
Fun Fact: Brotherhood Winery is named after “The Brotherhood of New Life,” a 19th-century utopian commune in the Valley
Notable residents: Screenwriter/directors James Mangold and Tony Gilroy; NY Yankees GM Brian Cashman

» Next stop: Pearl River, Rockland County
 

hilton in pearl riverThe Hilton in Pearl River — known as “the chateau in the country near the city” — is the highest-ranked Hilton hotel in the tristate area, according to its Web site

Photograph courtesy of Hilton Pearl River

Rockland County

Pearl River

Just 17 miles north of Manhattan and an hour-long ride on a New Jersey Transit train to Hoboken (there are also a variety of commuter buses available), this charming suburb is an ideal commuter town. Although not everyone has to make the trek to New York: One Blue Hill Plaza, Rockland County’s first skyscraper, is here, with its 21 floors of office space. (The building also contains the Blue Hill Art and Cultural Center, which has changing exhibits of works by artists both local and otherwise.)

Pearl River is home to a huge Irish population; in fact, the annual St. Patrick’s Day parade that proudly marches through town is the second largest in the state. But year-round, signs of Irish pride are everywhere in this down-to-earth downtown: there are pubs galore and at least three Irish gift shops.

Park land abounds in Pearl River. Anglers can fish for trout in Pascack North Park. In the center of town sits Braunsdorf Memorial Park — the oldest in the environs, named for the founder of Pearl River, who built the train station in 1873 (it’s still there). And the Henry V. Borst Memorial Gardens, an arboretum on three acres, is a perfect place for a picnic.

Pearl River is also a great place to hit the links. Blue Hill Golf Course, a 27-hole golf facility, is operated by the Town of Orangetown, and offers discounts and preferential tee times for residents.

Parks make up more than one-third of Rockland County, including town, recreational, and historic sites — not to mention numerous nature reserves and trails

The Pearl River School District — which educates 2,700 students in three elementary schools, a middle school, and a high school — offers enriched activities for “advanced learners” starting in the second grade. (Pre-kindergarten services are also available on a limited basis.) With 35 clubs and 70 sports teams at the secondary level, the district’s drop-out rate for 2007-8 was zero percent.

A well-kept secret is that housing is considerably more affordable in Pearl River than it is in most other areas of Rockland County. And with the town’s recreation options and rather vibrant scene — besides the pubs, Quinta Steakhouse offers great grub (including a $10 prixe fixe lunch deal) — there’s activity options to suit all tastes.

Town Facts:

Location: Hamlet in Orangetown in Rockland County, just north of New Jersey
Population: 15,500
Median Household Income: $77,000
Nomenclature: The discovery of pearls in the mussels of what was then Muddy Creek upgraded “Creek” to “River” and “Muddy” to “Pearl.”
Notable residents: Dan Fortmann, Chicago Bears football player and Hall of Fame lineman

» Next stop: Garrison, Putnam County
 

garrison art center’s float your boatThe Garrison Art Center sponsored the free family event “Float Your Boat” last spring

Photograph courtesy of Garrison Art Center

Putnam County

Garrison

Sandwiched between the Hudson River and Hudson Highlands State Park Osborn Preserve, this small, exclusive hamlet across the river from West Point is possessed of a natural, woodsy beauty that has cast a spell on many a traveler.

So it was for Stephen Kent, a consultant for nonprofit agencies, who discovered Garrison during a long-ago boat ride. He took one look at the craggy bluffs and said, “This is the place! I have to figure out how to live here!” Other residents have similar stories.

The word “garrison,” meaning military post, derives from the Old French garir, or to protect. It is an apposite moniker for this hamlet, where privacy, conservation, and tradition are the watchwords. The old Albany Post Road runs through Garrison; its residents formed the Old Roads Society to preserve the road in its original state — which is unpaved.

While there is money here — there are houses listed in the $5 million range, even during the recession — Garrison is not ostentatious. “It’s not the kind of McMansion thing where everyone has a 5,000-square-foot house,” says Kent. “It’s old and charming.”

And desirable. Once residents settle in, they seldom leave. These days, those residents include bankers as well as artists who ensure that the Garrison Arts Center, housed in a charming old building on the river, is one of the Valley’s most active arts meccas.

Beloved by locals, Garrison’s now-defunct pub and meeting place Guinan’s was the subject of Gwyndolyn Bounds’ 2005 book Little Chapel on the River

Although the houses themselves are often isolated — sited up long driveways on hills, behind trees, far from the road — Garrison is not isolating. “The fact that it’s small and would-be rural does not mean that it’s isolated,” Kent says. The Desmond-Fish Library, one of very few public buildings in the hamlet, functions as a de facto community center.

Among the local attractions is Boscobel, perhaps the finest extant example of the Federal style of architecture in the United States, and home to the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival (on the program for 2010: Troilus and Cressida and The Taming of the Shrew); and Manitoga, the home of industrial designer Russell Wright.

Garrison is an outdoor lovers’ paradise. Two golf courses beckon, the Appalachian Trail runs right through the Osborn Preserve, and at the Metro-North station stop (76 minutes to Manhattan) are trails leading to Glenclyffe, a 93-acre parcel right on the river.

Town Facts:

Location: Hamlet in Philipstown in Western Putnam County
Population: 4,200
Median Household Income: $72,000
Fun Facts: The Garrison school district does not have its own high school; students either go across the river to Highland Falls or north to Cold Spring. The Garrison Golf Club, a public 18-hole facility, runs Valley, the highly acclaimed restaurant where much of the food served is grown right on the property.
Notable residents: Actor Kevin Kline; former New York Governor George Pataki

» Next: Read about green homes in the Valley — and how you can get one
 

Home, Green Home

A new program teaches realtors how to help homebuyers find the house of their eco-conscious dreams

There are endless ways to go green inside our homes, from switching to power-saving light bulbs to buying organic, fair-trade coffee. As for the building itself, choosing a green home — those which run on solar power, use energy-efficient appliances, or that have been built with environment-friendly materials — can be beneficial to both its inhabitants and our surroundings.

Due to the rising demand for green homes, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) has developed a training program to teach its members how to determine if a house is eco-conscious, and how it can best benefit their client.

Established in 2008, the NAR’s Green Designation Core Course educates realtors on a variety of topics, including home design, energy-efficient technology, and the availability of financial incentives for homeowners. Those who apply for the program must submit an application and complete both the two-day Core Course and a one-day elective class to earn their Green Designation title.

So far, more than 1,100 NAR members have achieved this status, including Mon Dorris of New Paltz, a realtor in the Ulster County area since 2006. “About 50-60 percent of my clients are interested in green homes,” he says, “especially for the health benefits, such as better air quality, and for the energy savings.”

Although green homes tend to cost more than the average house, according to Dorris, the investment usually pays off in the end. “Homeowners who use solar paneling for electricity might pay more up-front,” he explains, “but it’s a fixed cost and over the years, they don’t have to pay the fluctuating price of oil or propane.”

Dorris looked into the program because he thought it would “help others help the environment.” With the knowledge he’s gained, he says he’s able to assist clients in finding options that are healthier for themselves and for the Earth.

» Next: Sticking to a budget? Find out what $300,000 will buy
 

What $300,000 Will Buy:

germantown house listing

Germantown (Columbia) $324,900
A three-bedroom, circa 1858 carriage house. Pluses: This renovated home contains high ceilings, wideboard floors, and an updated kitchen with an arched ceiling. Additional features include a large deck and three-car garage.

lexington house listing

Lexington (Greene) $299,000
A six-bedroom farmhouse built in 1880. Pluses: This home is located on five acres with views into the mountains. Wood flooring, an enclosed sun porch, and a large kitchen are highlights — not to mention its close proximity to three major ski areas.

freehold house listing

Freehold (Greene) $287,500
A five-bedroom, four-bath home. Pluses: This circa 1795 house is the oldest home in the quaint hamlet where it is located. With three fireplaces, marble baths, and new mechanicals, this home is suitable for single or multiple families.

poughkeepsie house listing

Poughkeepsie (Dutchess) $325,000
A classic Dutch colonial, built circa 1900. Pluses: With three fireplaces, hardwood floors, granite counters, and period architectural details, this four-bedroom home combines contemporary needs with an historic aesthetic.

poughkeepsie house listing

Poughkeepsie (Dutchess) $310,000
A four-bedroom Colonial. Pluses: Two words: stone fireplace. If that’s not enough, this updated home has several other assets such as a new refrigerator and stove, recessed lighting in the family room, bathrooms with granite features, walk-in closets, and a porch with skylights.

newburgh house listing

Newburgh (Orange) $299,999
A brand-new bi-level. Pluses: Up-to-date features in this newly built home include stainless-steel appliances, cathedral ceilings, a jetted tub, and walk-in closets.

walden house listing

Walden (Orange) $325,000
Newly renovated mother/daughter, or home with office suite. Pluses: This four-bedroom, three-bath home just got a makeover, with hardwood floors, new stainless-steel appliances, and ceramic tile in the bathrooms.

newburgh house listing

Newburgh (Orange) $299,999
A three-bedroom bi-level. Pluses: Located in the Town of Newburgh, this home exudes charm from the outside, but is more contemporary indoors with features including stainless-steel appliances.

tomkins cove house listing

Tomkins Cove (Rockland) $329,000
A renovated 1940s home. Pluses: Nestled in the woods, this house contains two fireplaces and stainless appliances, but maintains its vintage appeal with beamed ceilings and views of the Hudson River, just across the street.

stony point house listing

Stony Point (Rockland) $364,900
A three-bedroom Colonial. Pluses: Situated on nearly two acres of land, this farmhouse has an open porch for warm spring days, and an enclosed, heated one for chillier nights. Added bonuses: it has a view of the river, and is close to shopping destinations. 

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