10 Top Towns

Settled by the Dutch, Quakers, or Huguenots, nestled in the Catskills or on the river’s banks — these 10 Valley communities all have one thing in common: They’re great places to call home

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garrison art center’s float your boatThe Garrison Art Center sponsored the free family event “Float Your Boat” last spring

Photograph courtesy of Garrison Art Center

Putnam County


Sandwiched between the Hudson River and Hudson Highlands State Park Osborn Preserve, this small, exclusive hamlet across the river from West Point is possessed of a natural, woodsy beauty that has cast a spell on many a traveler.

So it was for Stephen Kent, a consultant for nonprofit agencies, who discovered Garrison during a long-ago boat ride. He took one look at the craggy bluffs and said, “This is the place! I have to figure out how to live here!” Other residents have similar stories.

The word “garrison,” meaning military post, derives from the Old French garir, or to protect. It is an apposite moniker for this hamlet, where privacy, conservation, and tradition are the watchwords. The old Albany Post Road runs through Garrison; its residents formed the Old Roads Society to preserve the road in its original state — which is unpaved.

While there is money here — there are houses listed in the $5 million range, even during the recession — Garrison is not ostentatious. “It’s not the kind of McMansion thing where everyone has a 5,000-square-foot house,” says Kent. “It’s old and charming.”

And desirable. Once residents settle in, they seldom leave. These days, those residents include bankers as well as artists who ensure that the Garrison Arts Center, housed in a charming old building on the river, is one of the Valley’s most active arts meccas.

Beloved by locals, Garrison’s now-defunct pub and meeting place Guinan’s was the subject of Gwyndolyn Bounds’ 2005 book Little Chapel on the River

Although the houses themselves are often isolated — sited up long driveways on hills, behind trees, far from the road — Garrison is not isolating. “The fact that it’s small and would-be rural does not mean that it’s isolated,” Kent says. The Desmond-Fish Library, one of very few public buildings in the hamlet, functions as a de facto community center.

Among the local attractions is Boscobel, perhaps the finest extant example of the Federal style of architecture in the United States, and home to the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival (on the program for 2010: Troilus and Cressida and The Taming of the Shrew); and Manitoga, the home of industrial designer Russell Wright.

Garrison is an outdoor lovers’ paradise. Two golf courses beckon, the Appalachian Trail runs right through the Osborn Preserve, and at the Metro-North station stop (76 minutes to Manhattan) are trails leading to Glenclyffe, a 93-acre parcel right on the river.

Town Facts:

Location: Hamlet in Philipstown in Western Putnam County
Population: 4,200
Median Household Income: $72,000
Fun Facts: The Garrison school district does not have its own high school; students either go across the river to Highland Falls or north to Cold Spring. The Garrison Golf Club, a public 18-hole facility, runs Valley, the highly acclaimed restaurant where much of the food served is grown right on the property.
Notable residents: Actor Kevin Kline; former New York Governor George Pataki

» Next: Read about green homes in the Valley — and how you can get one


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