Happenin Hamlet

By   |  Photos by Deborah DeGraffenreid  |     |  Community Spotlight

The hamlet of Hillsdale sits at a crossroads, centered around a single traffic light at the intersection of Routes 23 and 22 in Columbia County. Its 25-minute proximity to hip Hudson and the Berkshires’ tony Great Barrington is appealing, but its unspoiled rural ambience is its biggest selling point. Sylvan farm fields surround Hillsdale, affording stunning views of the Taconic Range. Today, many of Hillsdale’s carpenter Gothic cottages, Federal buildings, and Greek Revival, Second Empire, and Queen Anne homes are being renovated into second homes, upscale shops, and design studios. Hillsdale is a rare place where you can still walk to both a supermarket and a family-owned lumber and hardware store. It’s a perfect blend of new and old.

Incorporated in 1788, the Town of Hillsdale (which includes the hamlets of Hillsdale, North Hillsdale, and Harlemville) thrived in sheep raising and wool production in the early 1800s. Later, the area supported a flourishing dairy industry, with milk from local farms transported via train to New York City. Hillsdale’s recovery from that industry’s collapse in the 1970s has gained speed due to strategic planning. In 2010, the hamlet of Hillsdale was designated a State and National Historic District, enabling homeowners to take advantage of tax credits when renovating . Hillsdale’s new comprehensive plan includes zoning to preserve the scenic viewshed as well as ordinances to protect farmland. A town-wide sewage system was installed in 2008, and this year Hillsdale is putting in new sidewalks, park benches, and lighting.

The Scene

Hillsdale is flourishing with new businesses, many of which cluster around the crossroads, including the updated and relocated Hillsdale General Store; Cross Roads Restaurant; LABspace art gallery; Village Scoop, a mini diner that serves ice cream in season; Passiflora, a gift store featuring work by local artists and artisans; and Home HGS Chef, a soup-to-nuts kitchenware store offering cooking classes on weekends, housed in a restored Victorian house that’s painted deep pink. (Owner Matthew White, who also owns the Hillsdale General Store, claims Hillsdale is becoming a foodie destination, thanks in part to the area’s numerous organic farms and culinary artisans.)

Nearby, Neumann Fine Art represents nine local artists—owner Jeff Neumann paints in the back room—and showcases Joel Mark’s minimalist furniture. A former garage houses the new Hillsdale Fine Wine & Spirits. Hillsdale House and Mt. Washington House are popular spots for dinner and drinks. Just over the Massachusetts border, Swiss Hutte offers dining and accommodations at Catamount Ski Center.

Roeliff Jansen Park, less than a mile south, is located on a 300-acre former farm that was slated for a housing development until the state acquired it and handed it over to the town. Trails through the fields, which are leased to two farmers, offer miles of hiking; there’s also a playground, dog run, and children’s summer camp. In summer, the park also hosts the Copake Hillsdale Farmers Market. Hillsdale is located on the Harlem Valley Rail Trail, which eventually will link Wassaic Falls to Chatham. Hillsdale is also home to the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival, held in August, which attracts thousands.


Lynne Chmurzynski (on right, shown with her friend Betzie Bendis) opened Mirror Mirror Clothing at the 1845 Althouse-Higgins House in 2012.

The Market

Hillsdale offers a great variety of properties spanning eras and styles. At press time, there were 30 residential listings in the Town of Hillsdale, ranging from a two-bedroom, two-bathroom 19th-century home in the hamlet for $119,000 to a converted 1850s barn on 10 acres with views for $1,295,000. As of February, the median listing price for the previous 12 months was $331,450, compared with a median selling price of $247,500; the average listing price was $670,818. An 1800s Colonial in mint condition with a barn, located in the hamlet, lists at $339,000, while a modern house with green construction on 13 acres is priced at $1,375,000; a one-bedroom log cabin on nine acres is priced at $280,000; and an 1811, 3,500-square-foot Federal house is priced at $229,000, but it’s a total fixer-upper.

Properties in Hillsdale tend to move quickly, with 20 sales and three properties in contract in the last year. Buying land and building from scratch is another option, with 25 land-only properties on the market at press time, ranging from four to 131 acres in size and $59,000 to $2.2 million in price.

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