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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quaker lake pawlingThe boat house at Quaker Lake; scenic beauty is just one reason why Pawling residents love their town

Photograph by David Sollors

Dutchess County


Nestled in the rolling hills of the eastern reaches of both county and state, “Pawling is New York State’s best-kept secret,” says Nancy Tanner, a lifelong town resident and the retired founder of the Book Cove, its popular independent book store. “It is the people here who make it so.”

The original people were the Quakers, who settled the Oblong section in 1720; their meeting house still stands. Washington slept here, too — and more than once; he operated from the John Kane House for two months in 1778. Now, the Colonial and Federal-style building is home to the local historical society and displays various exhibits, particularly about the life of the late radio broadcaster Lowell Thomas (a former resident).

Nowadays, the population comprises quite a few Manhattan commuters (during peak hours, the average trip is 95 minutes), as well as second, third, and fourth generation families. Pawling is that rarity in today’s transient age: a hometown that is returned to. Like a scene from a Norman Rockwell painting, it’s easy to imagine getting off the train and rambling over to McKinney & Doyle, an old-fashioned eatery and bakery that is continually named “Best Old-fashioned Brunch” by the editors of this magazine.

Known as “Positive Pawling” — a tip of the hat to both the community-oriented spirit of its citizens and former resident Norman Vincent Peale, author of The Power of Positive Thinking — “Pawling is not too small to absorb you nor too large to ignore you,” as Tanner once noted in a Chamber of Commerce brochure.

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