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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main streetMain Street in history-rich Hurley features 10 stone houses, dating back roughly 300 years

Photograph by Daniel Case

Ulster County

Hurley

Old, quaint, old, quiet, old, laid-back — and did we mention old? That’s Hurley, the small hamlet with the long history. Settled by the Dutch and subsequently seized by the British, the village played a small role in the early years of the Republic, serving as the capital of New York for three months after the Redcoats torched Kingston. In fact, the whole of Main Street is a National Historic Landmark District.

Like New Paltz, Hurley boasts a collection of stone houses dating to the Dutch Colonial period. Unlike the famous houses of Huguenot Street, however, Hurley’s 10 houses are privately owned. (Want to live in one? At press time, several were on the market). Don Kent, a retired director of public relations at SUNY New Paltz who has called Hurley home for 70 of his 92 years, lives in the “Spy House,” so-called because it was once home to a British operative who was hanged 300-some-odd years ago. The parsonage of the Dutch Reformed Church, which predates Napoleon, is one of the oldest in the country.

There is only one road leading from one end of the hamlet to the other. “If that’s blocked up, you can’t get through,” says Kent. “You have to go to either Stone Ridge or Kingston (five miles away) to get to the other side of town.” Not that this poses much of a problem. What little car traffic passing through downtown was mostly assumed by the Route 209 bypass built when IBM opened its Kingston plant years ago.

John Hall, former member of the band Orleans (known for hits including “Still the One”), served in the Ulster County legislature before being elected to Congress in 2006

This is a quiet, unassuming place, where locals of all denominations attend Mass at the Dutch Reformed Church — because it is the only church in town. “Not a lot goes on,” Kent says. “But it’s a nice place to raise a family.” The only public school in town is the well-regarded Ernest C. Meyer Elementary School; students go on to Kingston High School or opt to attend the John A. Coleman Catholic High School. “The [O&W] rail trail runs alongside town,” says Kent. “There are mostly walkers on it, but some kids on bikes, too.” The little library has a surprising number of programs for everyone from kids to seniors.

Of course, there are days when Hurley bustles with business. The second Saturday in July is Stone House Day, when the owners of many of the historic homes open their doors to the public. Guides are garbed in Colonial attire, as are the “soldiers” at the 1777 Ulster Militia Encampment. Other draws include the Memorial Day Parade in May and, in August, the Corn Festival, an homage to the days when the lion’s share of the corn in New York City was grown at the Gill Farm, still a popular market — not least because its infamous pumpkin cannon shoots the gourds 4,000 feet in the air.

Town Facts:

Location: Hamlet in the eponymous town in Northeast Ulster County
Population: 6,500
Median Household Income: $59,000
Nomenclature: Originally called “Nieuw Dorp” (meaning “new village”) when settled by the Dutch in 1662, the hamlet was renamed Hurley the following year after an attack by the Esopus Indians destroyed it.
Fun Fact: Scenes from the film Tootsie were shot in Hurley

» Next stop: New Paltz, Ulster County

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