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

Pawling

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.

One of New York State’s largest freshwater wetlands, the Great Swamp in Pawling takes up more than 6,000 acres

There is both a Village and Town of Pawling. In the center of the village, in the shadow of the venerable Dutcher House, a new village green is in the works. A new bandstand, flanked by bas-relief sculptures of 13 Pawling forebears, will replace the hundred-year-old gazebo. The Quaker Hill section of the town, with its vast estates and open space, continues to attract both the rich and the famous, and the Appalachian Trail, which winds through the northern part of the town and can be accessed by its very own Metro-North stop, attracts just about everybody.

Pawling is home to the nine-hole Dutcher Golf Course, one of the oldest public places to hit the links in the U.S., as well as two highly-regarded private schools, Mizzentop and Trinity-Pawling. And if that’s not enough to sell you on Pawling, there’s this: the Trader Joe’s in Danbury is just a 30-minute drive away.

Town Facts:

Location: Eastern Dutchess County
Population: 8,200 (T), 2,200 (V)
Median Household Income: $61,000
Nomenclature: Named for Catherine Pawling, daughter of Henry Beekman, whose land this once was
Notable residents: Thomas Dewey, former governor of New York and presidential candidate; Edward R. Murrow, broadcaster and subject of the film Good Night and Good Luck; James Earl Jones, actor and voice of Darth Vader

» Next stop: Hurley, Ulster County

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