Rhinebeck, NY: a historic community with cultural amenities


Gary Bassett moved to Rhinebeck, NY, in 1993, after being transferred by his employer, IBM, from Wisconsin to a factory near Kingston. The Hudson Valley village of about 2,600 people reminded him and his wife, Brenda Bassett, of their small hometown in central Pennsylvania, and they felt an immediate affinity with the place.

They have now lived there for almost 30 years which would make you an elder in most places. But Rhinebeck has a history of over 300 years and a long memory.

The village of Rhinebeck – which lies inside the town of Rhinebeck, like ‘the hole in the donut’, Mr Bassett said – is home to one of the oldest working inns in the country, Beekman Arms & Delamer Inn. And the houses there are not known to the people who live there today, but to those who lived there a century ago. The town and village both lie in the historic Hudson River district, which includes more than 40 waterfront estates and, at 32 square miles, is one of the largest historic neighborhoods in the country.

“I know people who have lived here all their lives,” said Mr. Bassett, mayor of the village. “The people of Rhinebeck are very proud. We are working hard to keep this historic preservation alive. “

At the same time, he added, “there is this transition of new people coming in. The region is changing.

Locals cite Chelsea Clinton’s wedding in 2010 on an estate once owned by John Jacob Astor IV as a turning point. Rhinebeck has grown from what Catherine A. Mondello, a local real estate agent, called “a laid back country town, a Mayberry,” to a popular destination for New York day trippers, as well as a community where retirees and seniors alike. young city dwellers choose to move.

“Since then we have just seen the upward trend,” said Ms. Mondello, owner and principal broker of Mondello Upstate Properties. “The village is lively.

Vanessa Bertozzi and her husband, Mickey Duzyj, are two recent transplants. The couple lived in Red Hook, Brooklyn, where she worked for Etsy, and he pursued a career as a filmmaker. But their apartment felt cramped after the birth of their second child, and Etsy, which has an office in Hudson, NY, offered Ms Bertozzi the opportunity to move upstate.

The couple chose Rhinebeck because the public schools are good and because it gave their two sons a childhood version of a small town that Ms Bertozzi experienced in New England. In 2017, the couple paid $ 430,000 for a four-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bath house in a new development in the village. It now looks like a bargain, as Rhinebeck, like many towns upstate, has seen housing prices soar during the pandemic.

“It’s not a nice house, but because we got a good price, we were able to redo things,” Ms. Bertozzi said. “We have redone the terrace and the front porch to give it more appeal. It has been fun as the new owners.

Ms. Bertozzi has had little difficulty adjusting to life outside the city. The village of Rhinebeck has many cultural amenities including a bookstore, cinema and two public libraries, while the town offers extensive farmland, winding country roads and the Hudson River, which runs along its western border.

“Everyone takes so much care of their gardens. There are tree-lined streets here, ”Ms. Bertozzi said. “It’s a place that really takes pride in its beauty. It is just a very attractive village.

The village of Rhinebeck, in the center of town, is small but vibrant and lively, especially on weekends. Within its 1.53 square miles are nearly two dozen restaurants; the famous Bread Alone bakery; an upscale spa, Mirbeau Inn & Spa; several art galleries and clothing stores; and a candy store, Samuel’s Sweet Shop, co-owned by actors Paul Rudd and Jeffrey Dean Morgan. On a recent visit, there were hardly any vacant storefronts.

The Beekman Arms, with its white brick facade, black shutters and landscaped front yard, stands majestically in a prominent corner as you enter the village. In the streets behind the business district are beautifully preserved old houses. There is a noticeable sophistication and richness to Rhinebeck that you can’t find in some nearby towns – it’s a quaint village in the northern state polished to a high luster.

Lydia Slaby, a writer and village administrator who moved to the area in 2018, called the village the “center of gravity” of the more rural town and surrounding countryside. (Traffic certainly gives the impression of being at a crossroads.) Ms Slaby followed her sister, who had bought a 17-acre farm in the city, and her aging parents, who moved into a cottage on the property. She and her husband, Michael Slaby, an executive with a non-profit organization, lived in Chicago and first visited Rhinebeck on a snowy Christmas day in 2011.

“I thought it was beautiful here. It’s like walking through a painting – which makes sense, because there was this whole school of painting, ”Ms. Slaby said, referring to the Hudson River School movement. “Everyone was saying hello to each other. It is a real community.

The couple rented an 1883 Victorian on half an acre, a five-minute walk from the village center, and ended up buying it. Ms. Slaby, who grew up on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, had never considered living outside of a large metropolitan area. But now she said, “We’re never going anywhere again. We are an hour and a half from New York. We both work remotely. Why would we ever leave? “

It is a point of pride for Mr Bassett that Rhinebeck does not have big box stores, although he noted that there was a supermarket “on the outskirts of the village”. The city of Kingston, directly across the river, offers locals more food shopping options, as well as a Home Depot, Walmart Supercenter, and other retail chains.

In July, the average selling price of homes in the village was $ 859,000, a 39% increase from September 2020, according to data provided by Mondello Upstate Properties. The average selling price of a house in the village in 2019 was $ 545,000.

Aside from soaring prices, the main challenge for buyers is the very low inventory, especially in the village, where many urban transplant recipients want to live. The village is pretty much built and with strict zoning regulations, new houses are not added.

“I have a client who is from Brooklyn – her daughter is a teenager, she wants to be in town,” said Adelia Geiger, a broker at Gary DiMauro Real Estate. “And I can’t find anything for them in town. I can find them out of town, but she doesn’t want to do that.

The village’s housing stock is a mix of Colonials, Victorians and Tudors, along with a few newer subdivisions and modest starter houses. About $ 350,000 will get you “a basic two-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment on a quarter acre on the outskirts,” Mondello said. “If you want to buy a turnkey home with all the features, you’re going to pay at least $ 1.5 million. “

As of September 2, ads ranged from an 1837 three-bedroom, two-bath Victorian, priced at $ 599,000, to an 1860s Victorian on a coveted village street, complete with a Wolf stove and steel appliances. stainless, priced at $ 1.5 million. , with annual property taxes of $ 20,114.

Since the pandemic, homes have frequently sold for above asking price, sometimes on sight and after a bidding war. “For some people,” Mondello said, “money is not an issue. We’ve seen a lot of it here.

The mix of small town community and access to New York City has drawn many retirees to Rhinebeck. Richard McKeon, the rector of the Messiah’s Episcopal Church in the village, said young retirees in their 60s find Rhinebeck to be an engaging community.

“It’s a community that is seen as wealthy, but it’s a community that has a great commitment to social justice,” said Father McKeon. “People bring a lot of their donations to the community and want to give back. It’s fantastic for the parish. It doesn’t look like a sleepy retirement village.

As someone who moved from New York, Ms. Bertozzi said, “I wouldn’t say it’s pissed off. It’s very quiet, with a bit of activity on the weekends.

For years, as the population aged, local school attendance plummeted, putting the school system “on a slow and steady decline,” Bassett said. But as young families like Ms Bertozzi’s have moved into the community, especially during the pandemic, that trend has started to reverse, and Rhinebeck feels like a community of families again.

Today, gentrification and housing affordability are a concern for local village leaders, but as Father McKeon said: “The city is really wide open. People can find their way without moving others.

“The school system is a big draw,” said Ms. Geiger, the real estate agent. “You want a good school system, and Rhinebeck has one.”

Ms Bertozzi, whose two sons are enrolled in local schools, said: “The teachers and the administration really care about the community.

Town and village children attend schools in the Rhinebeck Central School District. In the 2020-21 school year, enrollment at Rhinebeck High School totaled 321. The graduation rate was 90.2%, compared to 83.4% statewide. And the average SAT scores were 580 in math and 568 in verbal, compared to statewide averages of 530 and 528, according to Whitney Druker, secretary to the school district superintendent.

One of the advantages of Rhinebeck, over other communities in the upstate, is its proximity to an Amtrak station in Rhinecliff, two miles from the village. The trip to Manhattan takes about an hour and a half and costs $ 30 to $ 71 one way, $ 336 for a 10-trip pass, or $ 756 per month.

Mr. Slaby commutes twice a week and uses his seat as a mobile office. “He considers his journey to be six minutes by car to the station,” Ms. Slaby said.

The 100-mile drive to town takes about two hours, depending on traffic.

When violets became a fashionable flower in the Golden Age, appearing in wedding bouquets and corsages worn at Harvard-Yale football games, an industry emerged around Rhinebeck to fuel the trend.

“Dutchess County was considered the ‘purple belt’,” Hudson Valley magazine wrote in 2012, “with Rhinebeck his buckle. The city was known as the purple capital of the world; its main growers – known as Violet Kings – and small growers supplied about 25 percent of the country’s violets.

Last summer, city officials unveiled a historic marker commemorating Rhinebeck’s floriculture past. It sits on Route 9G, the main road connecting Rhinebeck to neighboring Purple Belt communities like Hyde Park and Red Hook. The causeway was once known as Violet Avenue.

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