A Guide to Hudson Valley Towns: Beacon, Cold Spring, and Garrison | Cold Spring | Hudson Valley | Chronogram Magazine

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A Guide to Hudson Valley Towns: Beacon, Cold Spring, and Garrison

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Last Updated: 05/13/2022 11:44 am
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Gregg, Bryce, Robert, Ryan, Clayton and dogs Romulus and Domino in Cold Spring. - JOHN GARAY
  • John Garay
  • Gregg, Bryce, Robert, Ryan, Clayton and dogs Romulus and Domino in Cold Spring.


Learn about the rich history and culture of Beacon, Cold Spring, and Garrison. The Hudson Valley towns have plenty of food, coffee, arts, and entertainment to go around.

Last year, over 100,000 people climbed the steep, rocky scramble that separates Putnam and Dutchess counties, a trail that's been named the most popular hiking destination in North America. Some come for the spectacular views of the Hudson River atop the 1,260-foot summit, some because the trailhead is across the road from a Metro-North train stop, making the trail accessible for car-less hikers from New York City who have few other options for outdoor adventures. Some are drawn by the danger implied in the trail's name: Breakneck Ridge.

The name was not chosen lightly. Rescue crews make weekly appearances throughout the summer, and fatalities are not uncommon. The ridge's perilous reputation is not a recent development. An Algonquin elder once told me that Native Americans referred to it as Matumpseck, a word that loosely translates as "bad rocks to climb." People have been breaking their necks on that ridge for thousands of years.

And yet, after thousands of years, the ridge has had enough. Due to the ever-increasing high volume of hikers, the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference will be closing the trail at some point after 2018 to begin a series of stabilization projects, without which the trail will soon be damaged beyond repair and have to be closed forever.



Drastic but necessary measures that are being echoed up the road in the city of Beacon, which recently enacted a six-month ban on all new construction projects, for fear that the character and scale of the city was in danger of being destroyed.

Beacon

Jo-Anne Asuncion at Loopy Mango in Beacon - JOHN GARAY
  • John Garay
  • Jo-Anne Asuncion at Loopy Mango in Beacon

It wasn't long ago that the idea of Beacon becoming too revitalized would have seemed nuts. Since Dia:Beacon opened in 2003, the city has slowly been pulling itself out of its post-industrial slump. Even as national news outlets began taking notice of the remarkable cultural renaissance on the Hudson taking place just 60 miles north of Manhattan, much of Main Street remained boarded up. But with every passing year the pace of urban renewal on Main Street increased, with the 2013 relocation of the legendary music club The Towne Crier from Pawling to Beacon acting as the tipping point from "I wish there were more coffee shops in Beacon" to "Should we meet at the old old coffee shop (Bank Square), the new old coffee shop (Ella's Bellas), the old new coffee shop (Trax Espresso), or the new new coffee shop (Big Mouth Coffee Roasters)?"

You'll need all that caffeine to keep up with onslaught of new bars, breweries, and restaurants that have opened in Beacon since you've been here last, even if you were just here last week. And yet nobody demands a six-month moratorium on building projects because they think there's too many bakeries. They demand one because suddenly there's a four-story apartment building on Main Street that's taller than any of the other buildings in town, auto body shops are being ripped up to make way for more four-story buildings, and the city's trees are being ripped up left and right. For a city that prides itself of having been the home of late folk icon and O.G. environmental activist Pete Seeger, seeing entire hillsides denuded to make room for oversized buildings of questionable aesthetics in the time it takes to turn your compost pile can be demoralizing.

Sergei Krasikov, Ray Roy, and Gabriel Pages shooting a film in Beacon - JOHN GARAY
  • John Garay
  • Sergei Krasikov, Ray Roy, and Gabriel Pages shooting a film in Beacon



But Uncle Pete taught his neighbors a lot of lessons in the more than 60 years that he lived here, including how to make good trouble. When the footprint of the aforementioned new four-story building on the corner of Man and Eliza started jutting out several feet onto the sidewalk a few weeks into its construction, in violation of its original plans, local artist Ori Alon printed out every negative comment made about the project on Facebook and hung them on the fence surrounding the project—including several blank sheets and a marker so that people could leave additional comments right there. The building was moved back shortly thereafter.

As delightful as it is to see the out-of-town developers seeking to cash in on Beacon's status getting routinely dunked on by the citizenry, the most heartening thing about Beacon today is that much of its accelerated boom is still being driven by the locals who put in all the hard work behind the scenes to get the city where it is now. Trax Espresso was opened by the same lifelong Beacon couple who also own Bank Square Coffeehouse and Mountaintops Outfitters on the other end of the city's mile-long Main Street. Ama, the wood-fired pizza place that opened a few weeks ago, is brought to you by Amarcord, the Italian restaurant right across the street that for years, until the Roundhouse opened, had to carry the load of being the city's only upscale restaurant. Hudson Valley Brewery, which has fans lined around the block whenever they roll out a new release, was co-founded by one of the former managers of the late and lamented the Hop, while the Hop's former space is about to become the Melzingah Tap House, opened by the same couple that opened The Barking Frog on Route 52 before even Dia was here. Glazed Over Doughnuts, which opened a year ago and features more than 900 different doughnut combinations (not an exaggeration) wasn't opened by some hipsters-come-lately from Brooklyn, but by a couple that's been working in the Beacon city schools for almost 20 years.

Justin, Kirsten, and Wiley at Moo Moo’s Creamery in Beacon - JOHN GARAY
  • John Garay
  • Justin, Kirsten, and Wiley at Moo Moo’s Creamery in Beacon

Even the city's new (and only) vegan restaurant, Vegetalien, has deep local roots. It's the latest of five eateries run by Beaconite Kamel Jamal, the other four being the Beacon Bread Company, Angelina's, Ziatün, and Tito Santana. All five are based around completely different cuisines, united only in their excellence.

Cold Spring

Marco Scanga, member of Garrison Yacht Club at Garrison’s Landing - JOHN GARAY
  • John Garay
  • Marco Scanga, member of Garrison Yacht Club at Garrison’s Landing

Angelina's, a pizza place, stands out from the others for one reason: Location. To get there, you'll have to head down Route 9D, under Breakneck Ridge, and into Putnam County to reach the tiny village of Cold Spring, which has been undergoing its own revival. The village's tiny Main Street remains as picture-perfect as ever, thanks to its being zoned as a historic district. There will be no four-story behemoths springing up overnight on Cold Spring's Main Street, as they are in Beacon. Come hell or high water, no crimes against God or aesthetics shall be committed in the Village of Cold Spring.

Main Street in Cold Spring - JOHN GARAY
  • John Garay
  • Main Street in Cold Spring

But Cold Spring's Main Street has been slowly getting a little hipper over the past few years, as the dim and dusty antique stores are being replaced by appealing boutiques, wine shops, and (coming soon!) an independent bookstore. The upscale outdoor shop Old Souls and the Cold Spring General Store, both of which opened a few years ago to herald the beginning of a trendier era on Main Street, both recently expanded.

Luke and Catherine Hilpert, and Hank, on their front stoop on Main Street in Cold Spring. - JOHN GARAY
  • John Garay
  • Luke and Catherine Hilpert, and Hank, on their front stoop on Main Street in Cold Spring.

You won't find Angelina's here, however. It's just beyond the historic district, around the corner on Route 9D. While the historic district remains an accessible and appealing visit thanks to the train station in the middle of it, some of Cold Spring's most interesting attractions are off the beaten path. Head out of the village as Main Street turns into Route 301 for empanadas and churros at Juanita's Kitchen. Keep heading up 301, make a right on Route 9, and you'll soon find the Cold Spring Coffee Pantry, tucked in between the whole-animal butchery Marbled Meat Shop and Vera's Marketplace and Garden Center, the latter of which has been a local institution since 1982. The Coffee Pantry not only roasts their own beans, but also cans their own cold brew to go, along with their own turmeric elixirs for those who are still a little jittery from hitting all of Beacon's coffee shops.

Head on down the road just a bit further and you'll find the biggest addition to Putnam County's attractions in years: Magazzino, a 20,000-square-foot warehouse repurposed into an art space and library devoted to 20th-century avant-garde Italian art. Just don't call it a museum: Due to the fact that it's not a nonprofit, it couldn't be zoned as one. For now, just call it an "art warehouse," and note that while Magazzino is open to the public, you'll need to make a free reservation online before you visit.

Giulio Paolini’s sculpture Mimesi in the gallery of Magazzino Italian Art in Cold Spring. - JOHN GARAY
  • John Garay
  • Giulio Paolini’s sculpture Mimesi in the gallery of Magazzino Italian Art in Cold Spring.
Happy shoppers John LoPresto and Jamee King at Burkelman in Cold Spring - JOHN GARAY
  • John Garay
  • Happy shoppers John LoPresto and Jamee King at Burkelman in Cold Spring

Art & Antiques in Cold Spring. - JOHN GARAY
  • John Garay
  • Art & Antiques in Cold Spring.


Garrison

Allyson Crawford and Andrew Ruoti at Valley Restaurant at The Garrison - JOHN GARAY
  • John Garay
  • Allyson Crawford and Andrew Ruoti at Valley Restaurant at The Garrison

Head even further down the road and you'll hit the town of Garrison, which many visitors don't even realize is a "town" at all to it, as it's mostly just private, large houses enshrouded in the woods. (Like Boscobel, the 19th-century estate, now a historic site, which hosts the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival on its lawn in the summer.) There is, however, public life in Garrison. Garrison's Landing, a small plaza on the river that features the train station, has served as the town square since Hello, Dolly! was filmed here 50 years ago. It's been quiet down at the landing for the past 10 years since the beloved pub Guinan's closed, leaving the Garrison Art Center and the Philipstown Depot Theater having to do a lot of civic heavy lifting, admirably sustaining the cultural and public life for the entire community. They're finally going to get some company, as the spot where Guinan's was is about to reopen as a new pub called Dolly's, and a summer of events to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the filming of Hello, Dolly! are about to kick off, including an outdoor screening of the film and live reenactments of the some of the film's most iconic scenes. You will, at long last, be able to hang out in Garrison again.

Christopher Radko, organizer of Hello Again Dolly! Festival, at Garrison’s Landing - JOHN GARAY
  • John Garay
  • Christopher Radko, organizer of Hello Again Dolly! Festival, at Garrison’s Landing

It's the ability to hang out with your neighbors that transforms a bunch of houses next each other into a community. Last year, Cold Spring singer/songwriter Dar Williams released a book entitled What I Found In A Thousand Towns, consisting of what years of playing coffee shops in small towns across the country had taught her about resilient and vibrant communities. The first chapter is about Beacon, about how the city's wave of new coffee shops, bars, and coworking spaces create opportunities for the social fabric to further entwine itself among different socioeconomic groups, and for collective power to arise. "Its people know how to rally for each other," she wrote, "they know how to extend their resources beyond small, like-minded groups to people who are not like them."

St. Philip’s Church in the highlands in Garrison. - JOHN GARAY
  • John Garay
  • St. Philip’s Church in the highlands in Garrison.

The willingness of lifelong Beaconites and new arrivals from downstate to work together isn't just what helped create the kind of city that's attracting developers. It's creating the community that's pushing back against developers in most instances, packing town hall meetings and zoning boards, keeping a watchful eye to see if ordinances are being met, and not losing hope. Deep into its revival, the city remains a welcoming place, a sanctuary for those seeking the kind of community where people take care of one another and protect one another.

Shutting new development out of Beacon would be as improbable as shutting down Breakneck Ridge forever, but something has to change. Thankfully, it is changing, driven by people who don't want to see their city become an overcrowded and unstable mess, who know that feeling like you're on top of the world is great, but who also know one wrong step and you'll find out the hard way that it's a long way down.


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