By now, just about everybody knows the story of how the Dia Art Foundation swooped in to save Beacon from further decline by establishing a major modern art museum in the once-gritty city. The year was 2003 — and Beacon’s renaissance was on.
From the late 1800s through the 1950s Beacon was a bustling factory town, producing mainly bricks and hats. But, like countless cities in the Northeast, it fell on hard times when its manufacturing base collapsed and residents soon abandoned the long Main Street, picturesquely wedged between the river and the namesake mountain, for the malls.
But Dia:Beacon helped fuel the creation of an artists community, and soon a new generation of residents moved in and plucked up much of the large Victorian housing stock; artist lofts, funky new eateries, and cool consignment shops followed.
But as recession gripped the country in the last few years it seemed like Beacon might sputter and stall — new businesses shuttered overnight and plans for a huge waterfront hotel and conference center collapsed. But with the opening of The Roundhouse at Beacon Falls — well, it seems that the city is officially over the hump. An old mill — fortuitously perched on the falls in Fishkill Creek — has finally, after years of fits and starts, been transformed into an upscale boutique hotel and artisanal restaurant. Limited dining service on the patio began last summer; the full restaurant is scheduled to open in late April/early May.
Also underway is a three-phase, $3 million campaign to transform the 1930s art deco theater that has long sat boarded up on Main Street. The façade and lobby were completed last year; when it is done, the site will host a variety of performances (much like the Tarrytown Music Hall).
In addition to the arts, Beacon’s other great claim to fame is its natural beauty and abundance of opportunities to get out into the great outdoors. Visitors and locals alike love to hike the steep trails up the 1,503-foot Mt. Beacon to see the stunning vistas and to explore the ruins of an old hotel on the summit, as well as the remains of what was once the world’s steepest incline railway. Last year saw the opening of a new waterfront park, complete with a dramatic artistic installation, new paths through rehabilitated wetlands, and a kayak pavilion. And Fido needs his fun too — a dog park is scheduled to open soon in Memorial Park.
All this, combined with the fact that Metro-North runs express trains (approximately 70 minutes) from Beacon to Grand Central Terminal several times a day, means that “the real estate market in Beacon is hot,” says sales associate Claire Browne of Gate House Realty. “People continue to move here from New York City — and then they stay, even if they move into a bigger house. It’s the sense of community here; the sense that something is happening.”
Median Household Income: $60,987
Fun Fact: Beacon derives its name from the signal fires that were lit on the mountain to warn George Washington of British troop movements during the Revolutionary War.