Settling Down in Saugerties, NY

By   |  Photos by David McIntyre  |     |  Community Spotlight

Just a few miles east of Woodstock, you’ll find Saugerties, a village nestled on a pretty hillside where the Esopus Creek flows into the Hudson River. Hardy lumberers and tanners, sawyers, and millers made their homes here, finding resources in the Catskills to ship downstream; later, IBMers would find it a cozy bedroom town. Creatives in all genres have long thrived here, finding a less hectic alternative to Woodstock along its byways. Welcome to historic, friendly Saugerties; it’s gotten downright hip in recent years—try the exotic and artisanal flavors of Alleyway Ice Cream or catch a modern art exhibit at 11 Jane Street Art Center—but novelty and innovation can’t spoil Saugerties’s down-to-earth gentility.

Governor Edmund Andros paid the Esopus Sachem Tribe a piece of cloth, a shirt, a loaf of bread, and some maize in exchange for Saugerties in 1677, and more people, many of them Dutch, came to join first settler Barent Cornelis Volge. His nickname, the Little Sawyer, inspired the name of the town.

In 1710, they were joined by a group of German Palatines; in 1825, a man named Henry Barclay saw untapped power in the flow of the Esopus and built mills, and the town grew from 40 families to 4,000 souls almost overnight. Top-notch bluestone was discovered and quarried, bound for big-city sidewalks. Support services and merchants kept pace; the Saugerties business district was the first in the US to make it onto the National Register of Historic Places.

The industrial era over, Saugerties began its gradual reinvention as a great place to come live and play. Where Barclay’s mills once tamed the currents, the Diamond Mills Hotel and Tavern is now a boutique lodging and dining venue. Kiwanis members rub shoulders with artists and foodies at the Dutch Ale House. Horse Shows in the Sun’s (HITS) international show jumping tournaments draw in the horsey set from around the world for a few weeks a year. The place has made the cut as one of Budget Travel’s 10 Coolest Small Towns in America, and is the birthplace of Jimmy Fallon—who’s been known to boost its glories on late-night TV—and the incomparable performance artist Linda Montano, whose family still runs Montano’s Shoe Store on Partition Street.

The Saugerties Scene

“This town just has everything a person could possibly want,” says Laura Foster, a real estate agent and a resident for 10 years. “River, village, mountains, art, food. Like everyone else, we’re a little downtrodden and ragged from the pandemic at the moment, and tired of it. Everybody missed having the Garlic Festival, the [Sawyer Motors] Car Show. This is a town that likes its get-togethers, so there’s going to be a lot of pent-up enthusiasm unleashed when the pandemic is over.”

Inquiring Mind Bookstore is a community hub in downtown Saugerties.

Even in the throes of the pandemic last fall, folks were finding ways to have some fun. “There was a holiday market behind the Dutch Tavern organized by Laura from Bosco’s Mercantile, and she did a great job with jams and jellies and arts and crafts, and another at J. J. Newberry’s in a big open space,” says Foster. “And those were like rays of light.” Foster notes that local galleries eateries are champing at the bit to restart the First Fridays art and music series.

Businesses like the Dutch Ale House, Slices, and Miss Lucy’s worked together and adapted quickly, helped by a county-wide program that subsidized restaurants feeding the hungry. That means plenty of great eating options after a visit to Opus 40, the “Stonehenge of America” created by master sculptor Harvey Fite, or a hike up a nearby Catskill peak. Got company coming from afar? Maybe they’d enjoy a night in the Saugerties Lighthouse, which now serves as a much-sought-after B&B.

Saugerties Real Estate Market

“The median right now is $349,000; the average is $602,000 or $527,000 with the big outliers taken out,” says real estate broker Lisa Halter. “I just listed an amazing place for $2.2 million; it’s a luxury gem, on 9.5 acres on a ledge at the end of a private drive by Overlook Mountain with high-efficiency mechanicals and 3,000 square feet spread over three levels. Our highest sold price from 2020 was $1.925 million; that was a pretty snazzy super-modern new construction with views, on 7.2 acres.”

Like most of the Hudson Valley, Saugerties real estate had been experiencing steady appreciation before the pandemic bump. “When I moved here years ago,” says Halter. “You could find something for $100,000, which is no longer true, but you can find plenty of nice places in areas like Mt. Marion and Barclay Heights for around $250,00 to $350,000. That’s inland; stuff along the river is higher.”

Between $100,00 to $200,000 there are two- and three-bedroom Colonials and ranches available, some of them right in the village. Fancier ranches and Colonials, with upward of 1,500 square feet and larger lots, can be had for under $300,000. Between $300,00 to $400,000, one can start to find water views and seclusion.

Up around the $500,000 to $700,000 mark, you will encounter elegantly remodeled kitchens and en suite jetted tubs, media rooms, views galore, and exquisite retreats either walkable from the village or tucked away in the Catskill foothills.

Inching toward $1 million, generous square footage and acreage are paired with perks like in-ground saltwater pools, freestanding studio space, and multiple landscaped gardens. There are a few pristinely restored historic Colonials in this range. And if the sky’s the limit, this stunningly scenic part of the world has inspired some amazing creations you’ll have to see to believe.

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