Goshen, a town and village of three square miles about 50 miles northwest of New York City, represents a mixture of the old and the new that is typical of other communities sprinkled throughout the Valley. Its historic heritage dates back to 1714, and can be seen in well-preserved residential and public architecture. The Goshen Historic Track, which began hosting horse racing in 1838, is the oldest operating harness track in the country. The legacies of those who spent time in Goshen are also maintained: Noah Webster, synonymous with the word “dictionary,” taught there in the 1780s (the high school library and a local street are both named for him); Abraham Lincoln’s secretary of state, William Henry Seward, also lived in the town.
Like most communities, Goshen has faced its share of economic challenges. As the county seat, it is home to a number of government buildings that don’t appear on its tax rolls. The village was hard hit last year by Hurricane Irene, which caused significant flooding — and renewed concerns about the Orange County Government Center. Designed in the 1960s by noted architect Paul Rudolph, the building houses all three branches of county government, but has been plagued by leaks for some time. Debate continues over whether to remodel the historic structure or demolish it and build anew. High water bills, limited downtown parking, and the need for a supermarket are other worries. “We’re trying to keep expenses down through better budgeting and encouraging people to shop local businesses,” says Mayor Kyle Roddey.
One of Goshen’s architecturally elegant houses
But Goshen also has worked hard to offer its residents and visitors a smorgasbord of quality restaurants, shops, and activities while trying to attract new businesses and lower tax dollars. And that effort has been paying off: So many attorneys have set up shop on Main Street that it’s been dubbed “Lawyer’s Row.”
Lured to the area by his mother-in-law, Stephen Serkes opened Catherine’s restaurant in 1991. The town’s affordability proved very attractive. “I was looking at a spot on Long Island, where I was raised, but I saw this one; it was one-fourth the price,” says Serkes. “I wanted a neighborhood destination where I could serve quality food with a farm-to-market emphasis, since I saw all this great produce around, and at the time the concept didn’t exist.”
Affordable housing stock remains a draw. The most active price points are at the lower end of the $200,000 range, says Linda Clark, broker associate at Griffith Real Estate, as well as between $300,000 and $375,000 for newer homes. The most expensive listings — for new construction on several acres — can top $775,000.
There’s a huge sense of community in Goshen; residents and visitors delight in town traditions. The Harness Racing Museum and Hall of Fame preserves the history of the Standardbred breed that can be traced back to the mid-19th century. And for 25 years, Goshen has hosted its own Tour de Goshen bicycle race (this year’s edition is on August 19). “People are what make this community special,” says Jerome O’Donnell, an electrical contractor and chairman of the village planning board. “When something comes up, residents get involved. When the flooding happened, the village government and residents all helped each other out.”
Population: 13,687 (town) 5,454 (village)
Median Household Income: $86,940 (town) $77,422 (village)
Fun Fact: The Revolutionary War’s most notorious Loyalist, Claudius Smith, is said to have terrorized the colonists living in what is now Orange County along with the Mohawk chief, Joseph Brandt. Smith was eventually captured and hanged in Goshen in 1779.