Well-Kept Secrets: Cold Spring, Garrison, Mahopac | Cold Spring | Hudson Valley | Chronogram Magazine

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Well-Kept Secrets: Cold Spring, Garrison, Mahopac

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Boardwalk at Constitution Marsh Audubon Center and Sanctuary.
  • Anne Cecille Meadows
  • Boardwalk at Constitution Marsh Audubon Center and Sanctuary.

Within the borders of Putnam County lies some of upstate New York's most lovely scenery, with the shores of the Hudson River to the west and the Taconic Mountains along to the New York-Connecticut border to the east. Given its proximity to the city, the county's popularity as a bedroom community, a second-home vacation haven, and a year-round living destination is certainly no surprise to anyone. Cold Spring, Garrison, and Mahopac are communities rich in history and culture, and they've helped to cement Putnam County's place not only on the map, but also in the hearts and minds of so many who live, work, or visit there.

Cold Spring
Situated along the Hudson in the town of Philipstown, Cold Spring offers spectacular views across the river. But Cold Spring is so much more than just a pretty face; all one has to do is a take a drive into town (or a train ride to the Metro-North station) and spend an afternoon walking its streets, visiting its shops, and talking to its townspeople to know that within Cold Spring beats the heart of a nature-loving Bohemian artist.

Back in 2004, Putnam County was awarded the first ever Preserve America designation. A Bush-era government program, Preserve America was designed to recognize communities and entities that exemplify our national heritage. In fact, the Main Street section of Cold Spring was specifically recognized, according to Cold Spring Chamber of Commerce President Vincent Tamanga. However, aside from the variety of shops and boutiques on Main Street area that everyone knows and loves so well, there is a wealth of other destinations in Cold Spring that are slightly more off the beaten path.

The Putnam History Museum, formerly known as the Putnam County Historical Society & Foundry Museum, houses the history of Cold Spring in the form of both permanent and traveling exhibits. History lovers as well as those with a soft spot for small-town museums would be missing out on something special by not stopping in.

Cold Spring is an artists' enclave through and through, with a multitude of galleries taking their places along the streets of the village. Gallery 66 NY is one such gallery. Honing in on the Hudson Valley's myriad artistic talents, Gallery 66 NY, the newest gallery in Cold Spring, also keeps its exhibit space open to national and international artists.

Speaking of the new, the Living Room on Main Street is one of Cold Spring's freshest music and performance venues. Acts range from singer-songwriters to indie bands to drum circles, but the venue doesn't just do music. The Living Room is an art gallery, lecture hall, and performing arts center, all rolled into one neat package.

According to Tamagna, Cold Spring is styling itself to become a destination for festivals in the Hudson Valley, starting on May 5, with the "Pedaling into Spring" Bike Event. This event is being combined with a flower festival, and the village is expecting upwards of a few thousand people attending both. Later in the fall, Cold Spring will be hosting a music festival to raise awareness for antibullying efforts.

When asked to describe the village he loves, Tamagna called Cold Spring, "quaint and charming, with a nouveau twist that compares with the sophistication of Manhattan."

The Cold Spring Train Station.
  • Anne Cecille Meadows
  • The Cold Spring Train Station.

Garrison
The hamlet of Garrison, also located in the town of Phillipstown, is like Cold Spring's quiet older brother: The pace is slower, but the family resemblance is striking. The views across the Hudson are just easy on the eyes, and its landscape is dotted with such iconic and historical locations as the stately Boscobel mansion and gardens and the Manitoga/Russel Wright Design Center, former modernist home of designer Russel Wright, now a testament to Wright's design philosophy of "easier living" in harmony with nature.

Indeed, living in harmony with nature seems to be a key concept in Garrison. Visitors will notice immediately a distinct shortage of paved roads in the hamlet, and that's just the way people around here like it. Big-box stores and strip mall sprawl are also refreshingly absent from the Hudson Highlands community, but privacy and outdoor recreational opportunities abound, particularly if you enjoy a good walk spoiled. Garrison loves its golf, and there are two courses within Garrison itself: the Garrison Golf and Country Club, and the Hudson Highlands Country Club. For those who prefer their walks unspoiled, they can always hike the Appalachian Trail (specifically Anthony's Nose, located near the Bear Mountain Bridge) or explore one of the many New York-New Jersey Trail Conference trails nearby. Water lovers can kayak or canoe on the Hudson from Garrison or Cold Spring.

In spite of its well-earned reputation of being all country, Garrison does offer opportunities to catch a play and experience live music. Garrison Landing, the hamlet's nationally designated historic district, is the community's pride and joy. Not only is the Landing home to pristine examples of Gothic and Italianate Victorian architecture, but it also acts as the cultural hub of Garrison. The Garrison Art Center is located there, as well as the Philipstown Depot Theatre. Housed in the historic circa-1893 Garrison Train Station, the community theater hosts plays, movies, and documentaries, music, and youth acting classes.

Musician, author, nature-lover, and Cold Spring resident David Rothenberg knows the area backward and forward. It's clear that he's right at home in this part of Putnam County, and he describes Garrison as "the uptown to Cold Spring's downtown," and its residents as "the intriguingly mysterious people who live in castles and glass-walled modernist palaces." That doesn't mean that folks from Cold Spring and Garrison don't have common ground. "We do meet," explained Rothenberg, "in the bars and on the bandstands, on the water and in the hills."

Mahopac
The small lakeside community of Mahopac (pronounced, "Ma-HO-pac"; ask a local) is about 17 miles east of the Hudson River in the town of Carmel. Carmel itself is no stranger to accolades; it was named one of the Hudson Valley's Top Seven Towns by Hudson Valley magazine in 2012. Mahopac is roughly six miles south of Carmel, situated along the shores of Lake Mahopac. As of the 2010 census, Mahopac's population was 8,396, which is fairly substantial for a rural hamlet in south-central Putnam County.

It's safe to assert that residents of Mahopac aren't living there for its nonstop nightlife and metropolitan sophistication. "It's a sleepy kind of community, very quiet," according to Mahopac resident and musician T. J. Tomlin. Tomlin, son of songwriter Pinky Tomlin and a seasoned musician who has played with such luminaries as Frankie Valli and Tom Jones, has lived in Mahopac for 30 years and calls the 587-acre hamlet "a great place to raise your kids or retire. It's one of the most well-kept secrets in the entire world."

Indeed, Mahopac is all about the beauty of nature. The hamlet is adjacent to water bodies aside from Lake Mahopac, including Kirk Lake, Wixon Pond, and Long Pond. Lake Mahopac is home to three private islands: Fairy, Canopus, and Petre Islands. A few residences are located on Fairy, and Canopus is currently up for sale. The iconic A. K. Chahroudi Cottage, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, is the only structure that exists on Petre Island. Meanwhile, on the mainland, lake-side properties overlooking stunning waterfront views are in great demand in Mahopac, making housing prices on the expensive side.

In spite of its relative sleepiness compared to a happening village like Cold Spring, Mahopac offers some stellar dining options. Establishments like Dish Bistro and Wine Bar and Holy Smoke BBQ frequently make locals' lists of best restaurants around. Additionally, there's no shortage of Italian food in Mahopac, and pizzerias abound all around town.

If Mahopac seems familiar, perhaps it's because some of Tootsie was filmed there. Furthermore, the hamlet may have also inspired the setting of Richard Yates's novel Revolutionary Road (Yates wrote most of the book while living in Mahopac, according to Black Baily's biography A Tragic Honesty: The Life and Work of Richard Yates), which was later turned into a film starring Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio. The story portrays the darker side of domesticity in the country, but don't expect the backwater 1950s Hooterville that Yates described in his book. Mahopac is awash in the beauty of the lower Hudson Valley, an important link in the chain that binds together the cosmopolitan downstate and the bucolic upstate portions of eastern New York.

Resources
Beacon Natural Market
Cathryn’s Tuscan Grill
Cold Spring Chamber of Commerce
Ella Bellas (845) 765-8502
Gallery 66 NY
The Garrison
Garrison Art Center
Gift Hut (845) 297-3786
Hudson Design
James Keepnews
River Grill
Romeo and Juliet (845) 265-3238

The Hudson River viewed from Upper Station Road in Garrison.
  • Anne Cecille Meadows
  • The Hudson River viewed from Upper Station Road in Garrison.

The faces and places of Cold Spring, Garrison, and Mahopac.

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