Hip Hudson Valley Living by Steffi Kammerer | 24th November, 2017 | Travel
The first to arrive were the artists. Now, more and more New Yorkers are relocating to the small towns along the Hudson River. Two hours north of Manhattan it feels like the city is millions of miles away. The living costs are low and there’s plenty of space for creativity and community. Perhaps this is why there is so much focus on good food and the finer things in life.
The small glass bottles are emblazoned with labels like “Legato” and “Adagio.” A sign on the door of the organic perfume shop displays its opening hours and then: “We are makers and musicians. Perhaps we are playing fiddle and cello somewhere. If we have missed you, we hope you can visit again soon. Our online shop is always open.” This sign sums up the vibe in the city of Hudson, a town located on the banks of the river with the same name, two hours north of New York City. Here, lawyers take up beekeeping and gallery owners and shop windows outdo each other with the vintage treasures they display. Hudson is the Hudson Valley’s style hub. With its many historical buildings and specialty stores, Warren Street is its commercial heart. There are French patisseries, two millineries making large, ornate hats that wouldn’t look out of place at Ascot, and an avantgarde clothing store called Kasuri, where buying just two items can easily set you back a couple of thousand dollars. Literally everything is made right here on Warren Street: syrup, chocolate, blueberry vinaigrette, alpaca hats, hazel-wood tables and blankets. In the cheese store, small sculptures are on display. Handwritten cards inform shoppers of the provenance of the milk. The Flowerkraut store is run by a guitarist and his wife. He makes sauerkraut in a wide range of flavors and she is a florist and a blogger. The sidewalks in Hudson are abuzz with window shoppers. Exploring the length of Warren Street can take almost an entire weekend. The street also has places to stop and dine, such as the ÖR restaurant, located in a former car repair shop, or the fabulous and rustic Fish and Game, whose chef wows diners in a 19th century blacksmith shop. The Rivertown Lodge, a 27-room hotel in a former movie theater, boasts an elegant bar and a wood stove with a fire flickering in it. Everywhere in town, notices advertise performances, screenings, concerts or readings. Hudson’s top venue is the oldest theater in New York State – the Hudson Opera House. Only 30 years ago, parts of Hudson were dangerous and run-down, full of drug dealers, prostitutes and boarded-up windows. But then came the antique dealers, artists and designers. The small inland port with its many historical buildings now has roughly 7,000 inhabitants. There are more self-employed people here per capita than anywhere else in the state. Usher and Katy Perry love spending time in Hudson, and Hillary Clinton was spotted having a burger at the Grazin’ Diner not so long ago. A few hundred yards to the south are the offices of award-winning architects BarlisWedlock, famous for their sustainable designs. In an old brick building just behind theirs, you will find one of the offices of the online marketplace Etsy. The editorial staff of the influential Modern Farmer magazine are also based on Warren Street and have their target audience right on their doorstep, so to speak. The Basilica Hudson on the riverfront is a trendy art and cultural center housed in a former factory. In the winter, an ice rink is sometimes installed in the big hall and used for parties or hockey games. One of the center’s co-founders is the ’90s cult singer and former bass player of the Smashing Pumpkins, Melissa Auf der Maur. Having had enough of touring the world, she settled down in Hudson with her filmmaker partner Tony Stone and had a baby daughter. Auf der Maur once said that the town reminded her of Soho as it used to be. “It’s manageable, beautiful and has infrastructure that can inspire you… You feel like you’re part of a moment of discovery.” You won’t find a Starbucks here. Instead, there is Moto Coffee Machine, which serves the best espressos and heavenly waffles in addition to selling motorbikes and related accessories. Painter Charlotta Janssen and her boyfriend, photographer Shannon Greer, are frequent patrons. The two run the Hudson Milliner just a few doors down: this bed and breakfast is located above the store run by furniture designer Chris Lehrecke. The B&B features unique interior design elements and handpicked pieces of furniture. The couple split their time between Hudson and Brooklyn, where Charlotta owns a French restaurant. Shortly after we said goodbye to her in the café, she sent us a text message saying: “Malcolm Gladwell just walked in.”
Everyone here knows each other, supports each other and shops in each others’ stores. It’s a creative community of like-minded people looking for the good life. Hudson is full of frequent travelers who care about good food and great design. It’s populated by those who have had their fill of living in a tiny and grossly overpriced Manhattan apartment. The so-called “Brooklynization” of the area is undeniable – the New York Times even nicknamed the area “No-Bro” – north of Brooklyn. The “Hudson Valley” is not a clearly defined geographic term. It starts just north of Manhattan in Westchester County and stretches all the way upriver to beyond Albany, the capital of New York State. It comprises countless small towns like Cold Spring, Kingston, Poughkeepsie, Tivoli, Red Hook, Highland Falls, New Paltz, Fishkill and Tarrytown. In Germantown, you can spot Chloë Sevigny shopping at Otto’s supermarket. For the last few years, the hamlet of Phoenicia has hosted the Festival of the Voice in August. The more established newcomers reside in Rhinebeck or Millbrook, while hippies old and new gravitate towards Woodstock. The area’s delightfully hilly landscape attracted the romantic painters of the Hudson River School as far back as the 19th century. Roadside stands sell fresh strawberries and smoked salmon.
Art lovers in particular are very well served: Art is all around you. In the small town of Beacon, a former factory is home to the Dia:Beacon museum, which boasts works by Joseph Beuys, Richard Serra and Donald Judd. A halfhour’s drive from there, on the other side of the river, is the Storm King Art Center, a sculpture park with more than 100 exhibits. Travel 20 miles further and you will come across the historical Glenmere Mansion, which was turned into a hotel by a German art collector. Its walls are adorned with works by Robert Motherwell and Robert Rauschenberg. In Kinderhook, north of Hudson, a gallery owner from Chelsea has turned a former school into a spectacular exhibition space. The busier the Hamptons get, the more attractive the Hudson Valley becomes. Many people start off visiting for a weekend and end up wanting to stay. Consequently, real estate prices are rising, especially in the luxury segment. Three years ago, an architect created the Hudson Woods development in the hamlet of Kerhonkson. It comprises 26 houses on 53 hectares. Properties are priced upwards of $ 700,000, and all but one have been sold. Also available (for an extra charge): personal assistants, personal trainers, dog sitters, chefs, chauffeurs and apiarists. This is country life completely reimagined.