Beacon: Bright Spot

By   |  David McIntyre  |     |  Community Spotlight

Beacon has a long history of fire on its mountain, undoubtedly stretching back to the era before George Washington chose that summit as a great spot for signal fires. During the decades when an outlandishly vertical inline railway toted folks up the hill to the Beaconcrest Hotel and Casino, where you could take in the 75-mile views through coin-op telescopes and dance the Turkey Trot and the Grizzly Bear, fires in 1927, 1934, 1936, and 1967 interrupted the festivities; two fires in 1983 and 1985 took out most of the remaining infrastructure. A brushfire in 2020 seared 300 acres, but it wasn’t until 2022 that a group looking to restore the famed funicular finally threw in the towel and donated their archives to the historical society.

A resident of the mountainside named Pete Seeger, who bought his home site in the 1940s for $1,700, stayed a humble neighbor to the end, playing for local children with Grammys under his belt. He’d offered to sing for the House Un-American Activities Committee, too, so they could judge the fuss for themselves. They declined, and the whole word was singing “If I Had a Hammer” and “Turn! Turn! Turn!’ a little while later on.

Seeger’s influence is inescapable down on the Beacon waterfront; the city dedicated its own park to Pete and wife Toshi, and the majority of the waterfront is now parkland, housing Seeger’s Sloop Club, a River Pool for safe dipping, and Clarkson University’s Beacon Institute for Rivers and Estuaries, all of it an easy walk from the converted Nabisco box factory housing the Beacon outpost of the Dia Art Foundation, where you can view a 350-foot-long Andy Warhol piece in its entirety.

Dia announced its plans back in 1999, prompting former Brooklynite George Mansfield and his wife to get a bit ahead of the curve. “Having been sort of uprooted from every hip part of New York City over time, we knew what that level of culture would do to Beacon,” he says. “I decided I’d get involved—started going to City Council meetings and expressing my opinions, then got on the Planning Board, then ran for City Council.” He won, and has been serving for 14 years, along with operating two popular bars, Quinn’s and Dogwood.

Scenic Hudson now manages the mountain in cooperation with New York State; in lieu of a funicular, there’s a trailhead parking lot with EV chargers, a bike rack, and portable toilet. And even without a dance hall, plenty of visitors still make the trek to the summit and fire tower, where on a clear day you can make out the New York City skyline in the far distance—if you want a spot in that parking lot on a weekend, get up bright and early.

“Everything changes all the time,” says Mansfield. “There’s always this underlying tension between the established folks and the newcomers, and when people started investing in property and opening businesses, there was some resistance—but when your economy depended on factories that have been shipped overseas, something needs to happen. They’d given up on the main artery.” When the MTA sought to implement a transit-oriented-development scheme that would have resulted in excess commercialization, Mansfield and his circle were instrumental in shutting that down in favor of a Main Street focus.

The Beacon Scene

Quinn’s and Dogwood have been open for around a decade, and Mansfield says they’ve become well-loved staples. “Casual, great food, live music—that’s what works here,” he says. “If you walk into either place, you can get a sense of what Beacon is about—they’re both very community-based venues.”

Beacon’s very much a walkable city, measuring 1.8 miles from the waterfront Metro-North station to the Mount Beacon trailhead. Within that modest distance, one encounters a wild and varied array of eats—soul food, sushi, Italian, Chinese, and much more, including uncommon endeavors such as the Beans Cat Cafe (full of potential fur-ever friends to adopt), a Himalayan dumpling shop, a purveyor of exotic house-made marshmallows, and the Dr. Who-themed Pandorica restaurant—and that is but the tip of the iceberg. A Little Beacon Blog, which tries to keep abreast of openings and closings, had about 65 places to eat and drink listed as of this writing. Fresh-roasted coffee and lovingly, hyper-locally brewed craft beer are ubiquitous; there’s a food hall, an arcade bar full of classic games called Happy Valley, and a distillery. Live music fills the air, especially on weekends.

Little League baseball at the Shawn M. Antalek Memorial Field at Memorial Park.

The Second Saturday Art Gallery Stroll lists 16 essential stops, including Hudson Beach Glass, the Howland Cultural Center, and KuBe Art Center. Retail is likewise robust, with loads of apparel ranging from bridal to hiking gear and beyond. There’s a boutique for every taste, and all the jewelry and beauty supplies to go with them. You can memorialize your look with an heirloom photo from Tintype, and experience “where the motorcyclist and the spiritualist come together” at Notions and Potions. Once again, we’re talking tip of the iceberg, and within the mix you’ll also find a locally run hardware store, a pack-n-ship, a garden center, and a bike shop, among other practical amenities. You can catch movies at the Beacon Theater, or live standup and improv jams from Serious Comedy Theater, where you can also polish your own comedic chops with workshops and classes.

The Beacon Real Estate Market

“We have low inventory, but the market is still plodding along,” says realtor Jonathan Miller, a sixth-generation Beaconite. “Stuff that does come on the market, when it’s priced properly, has sold, and we still have multiple bidding wars. But the pandemic-era trend of people buying houses sight unseen except for a video, has faded.”

Want a home in Beacon? Get yourself a hometown realtor, says Miller. “Using an out-of-town buyers’ agent is an injustice to yourself. Someone who really knows the area can help steer you not just to a house, but to your house.”

On the market in early May: a two-bedroom co-op unit for $199,000 and a handful of colonials and ranch-style homes in the $300,000 to $500,000 range, moving swiftly from “For Sale” to “Pending.”

Available condos in the city were priced at $579,000 and $724,999; within walking distance of Main Street, penthouse condos at the View were priced at $1,175,000. A five-bedroom brick home on a five-acre lot could be yours for $1,600,000, complete with bluestone patio and adjacent building lot. 

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