Urban Intelligence: Road Testing Hudson
From the city, to the country, then back to the city again; this seems to be a growing trend hereabouts. People leave New York for greener pastures, then come to realize that they miss some of the simple pleasures of urban life—taking a morning stroll to get the paper and a cup of coffee or sharing a bottle of wine over dinner in a restaurant without risking a DWI arrest on the way home. So they decide to give city living another try. Only this time, Hudson is the city of choice.
For those who find themselves on the town-vs.-country fence, the present stagnation in the real estate market may be a boon. “The trend seems to be, if your house won’t sell, rent it,” says James T. Male of Mark Phillips Realty. Which means that a waffling Hudson wannabe can put a toe in the water before taking the plunge.
Peggy Anderson had her house on Union Street (above) on the market for months without a bite; now she’s marketing it as a furnished, short-term rental. She calls the enterprise Beaux Esprit, and it is so new that the ink on her website still is not quite dry. (It all goes as planned, it will be up and running by Friday, December 17.) Meanwhile, her terms are these: she will let the house for as few as two nights at $380 per or for up to 2 months for a negotiable price. A search of the website VRBO.com (Vacation Rentals By Owners) yielded several similar deals.
Belinda Breese, ambivalent about selling and wary of testing the real estate sales marketplace right now, instead has made her stylishly appointed Warren Street house (left) available to rent through Peggy Lampman Real Estate for $2100 per month. “I’ll consider any offer from one month to six months,” she says. Her place is stunning, as our story on it nearly three years ago amply attests.
“New York City wears you out,” says Sally Helgesen, a writer and Manhattan emigre, who has lived in the Chatham countryside with her husband, the artist Bart Gulley, for over a decade. “I go into the city 2 or 3 times a month, and I love it, but it’s exhausting. I’m forever climbing subway stairs with too many packages.”
Though she admits that her husband is unlikely to trade in his beloved chainsaw for a handy cappuccino any time too soon, Helgesen finds herself drawn to Hudson. “When I went on the Historic Hudson house tour this year, what struck me was the wonderful combination those houses have,” she says. “The best of them are very sophisticated and urbane, yet they have these cozy, casual-living gardens in back.” She finds that the street life there strikes just the right balance between small town and large. “When you walk, you always run into people you know, but you can only stop for a moment because you are both headed somewhere else. Then, in the evening, you can go out to dinner or to a festive club.”
A house on the recent Historic Hudson tour may be rented through Gary DiMauro Real Estate for $3100 per month.
Fayal Greene seems to have been inching toward Hudson for decades. She and her late husband bought “a little old farmhouse” in the county in 1967. Years later, after she was widowed, she moved into an exquisitely detailed center-hall Colonial on an acre of land in the hamlet of Claverack, where she lived and gardened for a dozen years “Just one small person in that enormous house,” she says. “I spent all those years making that wonderful garden, but it got to the point that I couldn’t maintain it any longer, so we put the house on the market.” By then remarried, she and her husband Dave Sharp had their sights set on Hudson.
“We had so many friends there, we were in almost every night, driving back and forth in all kinds of weather. That seemed kind of silly,” she says.
The vaulted ceiling of Beaux Esprit’s attic master suite—bedroom, bathroom, sitting room—is covered in 200-year-old beadboard.
Their Claverack house had been on the market for many months when Greene “decided to open the garden one last time for a Conservancy tour. It took 4 people 6 weeks to get it into what I considered okay shape. For the tour, we had a perfect June day and that was the day the people who ended up buying it first saw it.” Unlike that garden, Green’s garden on Union Street in Hudson is a manageable 25 x 40 feet. “I thought I was going into my minimalist period but then I realized I don’t have a minimalist period. I stuffed all kinds of crazy stuff in there. But it’s just one bed instead of an acre. I love it.”
The artist and designer Frank Faulkner, famous in these parts for buying, fixing up, and selling property, has tried both city and country living. “I bought a weekend house in Hudson in 1982,” he says. “Then, after I sold it, I was persuaded by a real estate broker that, if you live in Manhattan during the week you must live in the countryside on the weekend. So I bought out in the country. Then, after a succession of country places, I finally realized that, unless you have a houseful of children or are madly in love with your significant other, living in town is preferable. So I moved back into Hudson, and I absolutely love it.”