The Montgomery Precinct was christened in 1782, in honor of a Brit who'd married a Hudson Valley girl, fought for the rebels, fallen at the Battle of Quebec, and been mourned on both sides of the Atlantic for his bravery, humanity, and decency. It was a good place, already lively with the doings of millers who'd harnessed the feisty Wallkill River to power their dreams, and it became even livelier when the Wallkill Valley Railroad came in and connected the villages of Montgomery and Walden to markets. When Russel Headly wrote his History of Orange County, N.Y. in 1908, he found the area "peculiarly healthful," featuring "many attractive and commodious private residences" and people "noted for their hospitality and public spirit."
This slice of Hudson Valley heartland has a gift for doing world-class work while holding on to that down-to-earth soul, an unpretentious excellence. The Village of Montgomery still conducts its business in an 1830s school building at the heart of it walkable, historic core.
Paul Teutul Jr,'s earliest memories are classic Montgomery: playing in the cornfields, fishing in the pond, tree forts, backyard football. "I started welding by the time I was 12," he says. "Dad's shop, Paul's Welding, was at 88 Charles Street—it's an excellent restaurant now."
In 1999, when Paul Jr. was 25, father and son started building custom bikes together; in 2002, they were chosen by Discovery Channel execs for a new venture —a reality show based not on an island or a hand-picked cast, but in a real workplace with real people. "American Chopper" was a massive hit, launching an entire sub-genre. Over 300 one-hour episodes air in over 200 countries, translated into 90 languages.
So Teutul could probably have established Paul Jr. Designs just about anywhere, drawing visitors from all over as he does. But he's right where he wants to be. "Montgomery's a happening place right now," he says. "They're putting a winery with live music and art into the old Montgomery Mills. There's a restaurant on every block, and they're busy; it's a very foodie place. It seems like it keeps changing constantly, but in just the right direction."
Food & WineThe planned City Winery, a $5 million production facility, tasting room, and restaurant that will make over 30,000 cases of wine a year, grow 10 acres of grapes and host outdoor concerts, is the project of Michael Dorf, founder of New York City's legendary Knitting Factory. The 126-year-old Montgomery Worsted Mill will be the only non-urban Wine Factory location and the first production facility, using the same Wallkill hydropower as those long-ago millers—plus some solar.
The farm-to-table Borland House Inn, a Hudson Valley Magazine Best of Brunch winner, also serves traditional English high tea—and you can charge your electric car for free while you indulge. The Wildfire Grill serves up eclectic top-notch cuisine a la cozy and rustic (try the fig pizza with something from the wine bar) and Randi Carroll whips up amazing breakfasts, lunches and pastries at Eat This! Bakery.
Local chefs benefit from the rich farmland surrounding the village centers. Some has been lost to development, of course, but care is being taken with the rest. Longtime Greenmarket farmer Morse Pitts just succeeded in organizing a formidable partnership including GrowNYC, Scenic Hudson, Equity Trust, and the Orange County Land Trust to make 72 acres adjacent to his Windfall Farms available for farmers to lease in perpetuity, rather than seeing it paved over for a warehouse.
Holiday shopping here is top-notch, laid-back, and small-town warm. Oliver Anne, opened in 2014 by Teutul's wife Rachael Biester, has been repeatedly voted Hudson Valley Magazine's Best Boutique, Best Womenswear, and Best Gift Shop, a fact that has Paul Jr. just as excited as the Discovery Channel's reboot of "American Chopper." ("She designed my logo and I designed hers; it just happened that way," he says, still lovestruck after eight years of marriage.) The Clinton Shops Antique Center is a 27-year-old passion project where you'll find the wares of a dozen experts curated under one friendly roof. Liminality specializes in distinctive handmade and Fair Trade gifts, bags, and wearables.
Back in 2000, when the Teutuls were just getting the whole chopper thing going, an artist named Shawn Dell Joyce moved up from SoHo and started giving lessons in plein air painting, soon founding a nonprofit school with an arts-meets-agriculture mission and a vision of Montgomery as a center for fine arts. It worked. Come check out the Wallkill River School of Art in its fine historic home this month. There are galleries lined with tables laden with exquisite crafts; walls hung with miniatures painted by the gallery's 40 artists; and info about classes in painting, drawing, photography, printmaking, and clay for all ages.
After the gallery show, you can take the kids (or the friend squad) on over to Flow Theory, a pay-per-hour crafting studio where you can paint, stitch, and glue to your heart's content with their wide range of materials.
Art & SpiritsFour miles north, in Walden, Millspaugh still sells finely crafted furniture and accent pieces out of the three-story brick building that great-great-grandpa TL built. These days, Walden is also where you'll find the world-renowned Pollich Tallix Fine Art Foundry, operating out of a 70,000-square-foot production space on 32 acres. (They're planning to expand and add a sculpture garden.) If you're not familiar, Polich Tallix works with artists like Ursula von Rydingsvard, Martin Puryear, and Matthew Barney to bring their oversized visions to life.
The orchard where the Crist family has been growing apples since 1963 is now home to the Angry Orchard Innovation Cider House; which hosts VIP tours on weekend mornings and game nights with creative food and cider pairings. Stop by and say hi on December 15, when vendors will gather round the fireplace for the Holiday Market, followed by a performance of "The Nutcracker," at the Hudson Valley Conservatory's New Rose Theatre.
These are villages that will probably never be called the New Brooklyn and could care less; they're Walden and Montgomery and they're just fine with that. Come visit and you'll understand.