It’s been a year since a devastating fire tore through the village of Wappingers Falls. Rather than give up, however, residents are forging a rebirth that’s reverberating beyond downtown.
“The village was able to bounce back because it has the best residents who know how to come together in bad times and help each other,” Mayor Matt Alexander explains. A revitalized infrastructure has helped as well, the mayor adds. “There is much more to do, but the village definitely appears as a much more viable investment because we are taking care of ourselves by investing in ourselves.”
A stroll through the village shows how far it’s come. The three 19th-century buildings affected by the fire (including one owned by the mayor) are quickly undergoing renovation. To beautify East Main Street while the work continues, the Wappingers Falls Civic Association hosted a painting party: Local artists were invited to paint scenes on plywood, which then replaced the buildings’ burned-out windows. And instead of closing permanently, two affected businesses — the Rice ’n’ Beans restaurant, and Alexander’s shop, Stone Bridge Antiques — reopened in nearby spaces.
A symbol of the revival is “#WappingersRises,” a movement begun by residents including Planning Board member Trent Atkinson and his wife, Patty. Members of #WappingersRises (a twist on the village’s name) are cheerleaders for everything the village has to offer. Businesses are now sporting stickers with the movement’s icon: the letters WF inside a turbine, over waves, which represent the independently owned hydroelectric plant on Market Street that’s powered by the beautiful falls themselves.
The falls, and the Wappingers Creek that’s part of it, are a natural draw for visitors. The village hopes to attract more with its planned community boathouse on Market Street. Part of the boathouse will be leased to a canoe/kayak/standup paddleboard outfitter, while the rest is targeted for nonprofit/community center use.
More than a half-dozen shops (like Sweetbakes by Jenny, for scrumptious cake pops and artistic cupcakes) have opened within the past year. And as the weather warms, the sidewalks are filling with young families and strollers (both the wheeled and the walking kind).
All of this is proving that Wappingers Falls is more than just a walkable little village with a picturesque falls — it’s gaining a new, exciting vibe.