In case you haven’t noticed, Millerton has been grabbing national headlines over the last few years. Budget Traveler magazine named it one of America’s “10 coolest small towns” in 2007, and the august New York Times favorably compared the village to Brooklyn’s trendiest neighborhoods in its 2011 piece, “Williamsburg on the Hudson.”
One reason the town is on the upswing is its primo location. Surrounded by bucolic farms and state parkland in northeastern Dutchess County, Millerton is just two hours north of Manhattan and a stone’s throw from Connecticut’s swanky Litchfield County and the culture-saturated Berkshires of Massachusetts. “Transient traffic is a huge reason why the village has developed,” says Millerton Mayor John Scutieri. “It’s in a very unique position, at the intersection of two major roads [State Routes 44 and 22]. People can’t help but drive through here.”
And many of those passing through apparently like what they see, continues Scutieri. “In the past five years, more younger New York City couples have been buying second homes here. Some real estate prices are now out of reach for people making a living locally.”
The village was founded in 1851 in response to the extension of the railroad line north from New York City. (Indeed, the town is named after Sidney Miller, a construction engineer for the line.) By 1875, rail routes to the east and west had also sprung up, and Millerton grew into a locus point — with shops, hotels, churches, and schools — for the region. Remnants of this historical past can been seen in the quaint but bustling downtown, which is home to the Moviehouse — located in a 110-year-old building that’s on the National Historic Registry, and sports a clock tower with a timepiece that still strikes.
Fast-forward to the present day. Millerton continues to fulfill its original purpose — to serve as a commercial center — only now the goods filling its shop windows are decidedly more elegant and less utilitarian than we imagine they were 150-plus years ago. The nice mix of shops features several clothing boutiques, including one dedicated solely to alpaca apparel. Florists, jewelers, home furnishings suppliers, antiques emporia — all are crowded together along Main Street, anchored by the perennial Saperstein’s, an old-style clothier that sells work clothes and Scout uniforms along with shoes and sportswear; and Gilmor Glass, a shop and studio offering blown-glass stemware, vases, candlesticks, and the like.
For a small town, Millerton has recently become rife with dining destinations. The recently opened 52 Main is a tapas bar/eatery that was lauded in our last issue as one of the region’s best new restaurants; on the opposite end of the spectrum is the Oakhurst Diner, whose retro exterior belies the fact that they have kimchi on the menu. A favorite among locals for years, the retail outlet for Harney & Sons Fine Teas (whose corporate headquarters is located just outside of the village) has a tasting room with an inviting lunch and tea menu; on the day we visited, though, Irving Farm Coffee Roasters (the northern extension of a Manhattan favorite) was the go-to spot for lunch, with shoppers crowding in for homemade soup, sandwiches, and (naturally) a killer cup of java.
Two Millerton hot spots: the Moviehouse, a combination theater, cafe, and art gallery; below, the scenic Harlem Valley Rail Trail
There is no shortage of outdoor activities available here. While the railroad no longer chugs through the middle of town as it once did, the rail bed still gets plenty of use as part of the Harlem Valley Rail Trail. This 10.7-mile paved pathway, which begins at the Wassaic Metro-North station, is perfect for walking, running, and biking; plans are currently in the works to extend it northward all the way to Chatham (a total distance of more than 46 miles). Part of the Taconic State Park, nearby Rudd Pond offers swimming and camping, as well as an extensive network of hiking and biking trails through the Taconic Mountain Range. And the village’s Recreation Park includes the requisite ball fields and other facilities.
There are also a number of cultural attractions. The aforementioned Moviehouse screens new films and hosts live simulcasts from the Metropolitan Opera; the adjoining café space doubles as an art gallery (one of several in the village). Oblong Books & Music hosts author readings and workshops on a regular basis. And the North East Community Center organizes two village-wide seasonal events, “Spring for Art” and “Fall for Music,” among other programs.
From the civic standpoint, Millerton installed solar panels in 2011, which help operate the village’s water system. And a sidewalk replacement program will soon get underway, says the mayor. “The one complaint we hear most is that we need more parking,” Scutieri admits.
Millerton’s students attend one of the three schools — elementary, intermediate, and high school — in the Webutuck School District. The current median house price in the village is around $200,000, according to Brad Rebillard of Dutchess Country Realty. While overall housing prices and volume are down, Millerton’s market remains “pretty consistent. The highs don’t seem to be too high, and the lows aren’t too low,” he says.
In Rebillard’s view, Millerton is “really cool right now. The village is a mixture of full-time and part-time homeowners, sort of like Rhinebeck was 30 years ago. This is what makes the town unique, and gives it its character.”