Real-estate clients show up from Brooklyn with huge enthusiasm for this area and absolutely no idea why. That’s what happens when an area develops “buzz.” They don’t know why it’s so great here, but they’ve heard it is and they’re in love before they even get off the Thruway.
My job, as their broker, is to show them why they’re right. They want me to find them a house they can make into a home, but I’m also their advocate for the Hudson Valley. I’m the tour guide.
I grew up here. My dad’s family has had a summer cottage in Rosendale for five generations, and my family moved to Woodstock when I was nine. I’ve seen attractions come and go.
The rickety, death-defying trestle bridge over the Rondout Creek in Rosendale that thrilled my cousins and me when we were kids is now a solid, reliable structure. It links to walking trails that replaced the train tracks my grandmother and her parents rode upstate from the Bronx when she was a kid.
The railroad bridge beside the Mid-Hudson Bridge in Highland and Poughkeepsie is now the majestic Walkway Over The Hudson. My dad’s favorite Kingston spot, Lawton Park, near Golden Hill on Route 32, is closed.
Some things stay the same: the eerie echoes in the Widow Jane Mine in Rosendale, the ice caves off Binnewater Road, the climbers crawling the rocky face of the Gunks, the Mohonk tower above them, the stone walls of the Overlook Mountain House in Woodstock, and the rattlesnakes that nest nearby. Just for a few.
Then there are the attractions that have been here forever, but I never knew.
Just last year I discovered Kingston Point Park. I have no idea how I missed it. Blame the dodgy reputation the Rondout area had when I was a kid. That was a very long time ago. Imagine my delight when I wandered through those iron gates late last summer and strolled the paths to discover a beautifully preserved trolley car sitting on the tracks in a misty rain. I honestly thought for a moment that I’d managed to travel back in time. But no, no magic this time. That trolley runs every weekend in the summer.
The year before, I walked the soggy path to the Saugerties Lighthouse for the first time. I’ve been back several times since.
How about when that Viking ship with its crew of happy, young adventurers docked at the Rondout last year? Or when the Clearwater pulls up to the dock? The daily summer afternoon concerts at the Old Dutch Church in Kingston are worth a mention, too.
I happen to appreciate a good graveyard. Some of my clients do, too. You can’t do much better than Kingston’s Montrepose Cemetery, designed by landscape architect Calvert Vaux. It’s so nice, he’s buried there. Nearby Wiltwyck Rural Cemetery also has a real, haunted charm, with the lonely whistle and squeaky creaking of the occasional freight train adding to the atmosphere.
Sometimes it’s not the outside attractions that appeal to newcomers. They want architecture. They want food. They want craft beer. They want music.
We’ve got that covered, too.
I tell them they’ve got to see a show at BSP in uptown Kingston and try to get a peek at the old vaudeville theatre that hides in the back of the building. Talk about a hidden treasure! And it’s a short walk to all of uptown’s dining options. It seems there’s a new one every day. Kingston’s city hall is well worth a visit if you’re an architecture fan. Too bad about the old post office up the road on Broadway. It must have been a bit more inspiring than its replacement, Planet Wings, closed since this February.
If they’re foodies, I make sure to mention both the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, which we all know about, and also the amazing dining opportunities on Main Street in downtown Poughkeepsie. If you haven’t checked out what’s there, you’ve missed something. Maybe you can burn off all the calories by walking back across the Walkway to your car.
Breweries we’ve got. Not only the established favorites, but also new ones, like the Suarez Family Brewery in Livingston, or something entirely different, like Kombucha Brooklyn on Route 28. Plus there’s the Craft Beer Boogaloo, an annual event for the beer lovers from far and near.
Live music is coming back, too. BSP in Kingston has established itself uptown, but there are lots of smaller and larger venues, with the Colony Cafe in Woodstock just re-joining the list this spring.
There are some truly odd and terrific space reconversions that I point to when I confirm that something is, indeed, happening here. Joe’s Garage on Main Street in Catskill is a remarkable reuse of a garage space into an event venue. The Senate Garage on North Front Street in Kingston, a beautiful structure, has undergone a similar transformation.
The old lumberyard in Catskill is becoming home to a dance company. And there’s the remarkable Basilica in Hudson, a converted factory space. Kingston’s Hutton Brickyards is getting a new life as well.
My experience has been that the one thing our new residents aren’t terribly interested in is history. They appreciate it, but they aren’t excited by it. They want community, connection and nature. They love old houses, but a day in a museum doesn’t seem to hold much appeal.
It’s an interesting challenge for an area that’s always been, let’s admit it, a bit snobbish about its historical significance.
For our newest would-be residents, the Hudson Valley has no county barriers. Hudson, Catskill, Woodstock, Rhinebeck — it’s all the Hudson Valley. All they ask is what there is to do, what there is to see, and how long a trip it is back to the city. Because most of them keep a foot in the city for work. They’ve got to pay for that upstate house somehow.
Susan Barnett is an associate broker with Gary DiMauro Real Estate in Catskill. She lives in West Hurley.