Millerton House

A Hudson Valley Home in search of new owners

We love this house. But here’s the thing: after eleven fantastic years in Millerton, we’re buying a place in Brooklyn and won’t be able to spend as much time upstate as we’d like.  And we’re fine with that (she says, trying to sound convincing). Change is good, right? But it’s a really special home in a really special town, and we’d love to pass it along to folks who will enjoy it as much as we do. 

Do you know Millerton? We didn’t until 2000, when we drove the 1 3/4 hours north from NYC for the wedding of a friend who grew up here.  Maybe because we’re from small town North Carolina, or maybe because we just needed a break from the city, but there was something about Millerton, with its Rockwellian Main Street and colorful Victorian houses and farmland and mountain views, that made us feel instantly happy and at home. We loved that it had a vintage shiny diner (back then the food was pretty awful; now it’s one of area’s best places to eat); a soda fountain shop that sold penny candy and comic books;  a movie house that played both blockbusters and art films; a great independent bookstore attached to one of the coolest toy shops we’d ever seen; an old school clothing store where you could buy everything from tuxedos to Dickies; a volunteer fire department that hosted pancake breakfasts that the whole town showed up for. Millerton clearly had a rich agricultural tradition — there were farm stands and u-pick places all around — but it had a great artistic one, too: Aperture, the photography publisher, is based here, and so is Gilmor Glassworks, where you can watch the blowers at work in their shop downtown. As someone whose life and work revolves around food and cooking, I especially loved that the town had an interesting culinary history: there’s a rail trail for biking (and cross country skiing, we’ve discovered), built over the tracks for the train that used to deliver milk to the city, and it cuts through Borden’s old stomping grounds, a hilly green valley full of dairy farms and silos. And, if that’s not enough, one of Millerton’s main employers is Harney & Sons Teas, who has an awesome shop and tasting room in the town’s former smokehouse and meat locker (James Beard wrote about its country hams, and my neighbors tell me that the village used to always smell of wood smoke and bacon). If we were to design our ideal small town, this would be it.

We also loved that, unlike Eastern Long Island, where we’d been traveling on the weekends, there wasn’t one (usually jam-packed) road in and out: here you could drive any which way and discover something special — a great state park with swimming holes and waterfalls; an amazing burger and manhattan made with local rye at a restaurant that used to be run by James Cagney’s mistress; a quiet lake with $5 kayak rentals; the best used bookstore ever, in a rambling old house in the woods; snow tubing at Butternut (30 min away), skiing at Catamount (20 min); a brewery that makes an insane chocolate-stout layer cake; a barn full of dangerously affordable antiques; outstanding barbecue from a pitmaster who spent years working in some of NYC’s best kitchens, and all sorts of other random, interesting things (the house where “The Night Before Christmas” was written; a ski jump where Olympic athletes practice that crazy sport; Borden’s first condensed milk factory and a livestock auction — now locations for an annual art exhibit/performance space called The Wassaic Project….)

It turned out the home next door to our friend’s parents’ had just gone on the market. It was in the Village, a two minute walk from the movies and the diner and everything else, on a quiet dead end street — a Victorian (built in 1900) painted the color of Wedgewood and framed by two majestic maple trees that towered over the high-pitched roof. I knew the minute we stepped up to the porch and into the foyer that this was the place for us: the ceilings were high and light poured in from the huge old windows. It was the perfect size — just over 2000 square feet — and it had been carefully maintained over the years to preserve its period charm. It had a simple, but proud elegance to it: the way the wood trim was detailed but not too ornate; the way the floors were shiny polished oak downstairs, but rustic wide plank pine up in the 4 bedrooms.

On the counter in the wainscoted pantry sat some knobby heirloom tomatoes the owner had grown out back. When I told her how much I missed gardening since moving to NYC, she took us to see the blackberry and raspberry bushes, tons of them heavy with fruit, that grew along both sides of the yard.

After that first visit, we drove around and discussed what the hell we should do. My husband is a snap decision maker whose gut instincts rarely steer him wrong. I’m the most indecisive person in the world. When we got to the top of Winchell mountain road, just a few minutes from the Village, we had to stop the car when we saw the 360 degree view: it’s awe-inspiring, this rolling carpet of green that seems to go on forever and ever and makes you feel big and small at the same time. We called the owner and made an offer. Not long there after, we moved in.

I hope you’ll forgive this somewhat unusual real estate listing; it just always strikes me as odd that for something as full of life and stories as a house, the sales pitches are usually so impersonal and boring. So, please, email me at dana.bowen@meredith.com if you’d like more specific information or would like to come up for a visit.  Thanks for reading….

The dining room, with its bay windows, looking into the old wainscoted pantry

The dining room looking into the living room

The dining room facing the built in shelves

The foyer, with the piano (a generous gift from our neighbor — have I mentioned how great our neighbors are?) that used to be in the old firehouse down the block (now the town hall).

The view onto the porch from our stairs. I love the old door with the beveled glass and carvings, and the built-in mirror.

The living room looking into the dining room

Last year, we re-did the kitchen with double farm sink, wood counter tops, and copper finishes. As a cook, I love hanging out in this kitchen…

The kitchen looking into the old pantry. The family room is to the left, with a bathroom and door/vestible out to the back yard

The pantry…

The back room. Forgive the futon: this is where the kids watch tv, build legos, paint, hang out…

1 of 4 bedrooms

2 of 4 bedrooms

3 of 4 bedrooms

Working on the porch

Sunflowers along the side of the barn/garage (which is big enough to fit a car and and bunch of bikes and storage.)

The veg and herb garden — there’s a big barn/garage to the left that matches the house.

Tomatoes from the garden…

Our first beets (blackberries in the background — there are tons of them separating our property from our neighbors’)

The Millerton Carnival, always super fun…

Running through the corn maze at Daisy Hill Farm, a great farm stand with a petting zoo, playground, and more (see below)

Launching pumpkins on the pumpkin catapult and cannon (shown) at Daisy Hill

A favorite hiking spot