Inexpensive homes and country bliss
- By TINA TRASTER, New York Post
- Posted: 10:50 PM, June 19, 2013
Unless you stumble upon Livingston Manor in mid-June during its annual Trout Parade, it’s hard to grasp what this otherwise sleepy town in northern Sullivan County is all about. But a Main Street sign “SMALL TOWN — BIG BACKYARD” best explains why this little spot, two hours northwest of Manhattan, is a big draw for nature-loving second-home owners.
Livingston Manor, or “the Manor,” as locals call it, is the birthplace of American fly-fishing. The hamlet in the Town of Rockland, population 1,200, has two world-class fishing spots — the Beaverkill River and the Willowemoc Creek. And it’s next door to Roscoe, known as Trout Town, USA.
is where you’ll find the covered Van Tran Flat Bridge and serious trout fishing.
A second-home seeker can net a Livingston Manor fixer-upper for less than $100,000. Ten miles north in Lew Beach, a private enclave of more than 70 homes developed by Larry Rockefeller, $1 million buys a multi-acre spread, private fishing access to the Beaverkill River and clubhouse amenities.
Jennifer Grossman, an environmentalist from the West Village, recently purchased a 4,000-square-foot, three-story, 1910 former fishing lodge with eight bedrooms for under $100,000 in Livingston Manor.
“There’s nothing like standing in the river, early in the morning, feeling the pressure of the water, listening and smelling the river, being present,” says Grossman, who fly-fishes. “And if you get that tug on the end of the line and you feel connected to that wild creature, it’s an incredible way to start the day.”
The Manor, situated at the doorstep of Catskill Park, off Route 17, is the kind of town where you can find gun ammo and bait and tackle at the Fur, Fin and Feather Sport Shop on DeBruce Road. And local, organic produce, milk, eggs, American farmstead cheese, fresh-baked goods, meadow-raised meats, fresh Beaverkill trout, and honey and maple syrup at the Main Street Farm Market & Cafe.
The story of the Manor is the story of many of Catskill towns. Early white settlers destroyed first-growth hemlock trees and polluted rivers with tanning in the 19th century. The railroad brought a crop of inns and hotels that catered to wilting urbanites in search of a big backyard. By the mid-20th century, the Borscht Belt area fell into decline. For a couple of decades, it relied on a long-gone chicken-plucking factory as its main economic engine.
Since the 1980s, artists and members of the gay and lesbian community have flocked to Livingston Manor for unbeatable real estate deals, places to work and play and a spirit of inclusion. Over the past decade, the hamlet has rallied and suffered. Some gentrification has stuck; many stores, including an independent bookstore, didn’t survive. An investor who had grandiose plans to build a luxury hotel and spa went belly up in the crash. The Manor’s Main Street retailers have been hit by epic flooding in recent years, which the town is working to mitigate, and last November, a fire claimed the historic Hoos building, which housed the popular Lazy Beagle Cafe and three other businesses.
Local broker Judy Van Put says demand for second homes is robust and prices are still 25 percent off the 2007 peak. You can buy a three-bedroom cottage with one bathroom on 1.3 acres of land for $110,000, or a four-bedroom, 2 1/2-bathroom Ranch, near the historic Van Tran Flat Bridge, with access to good trout fishing on the Willowemoc Creek, for $199,000. The more privileged can reel in a three-bedroom, 2 1/2-bathroom, post-and-beam on 20 acres, with 6 miles of private fishing access and membership in the Beaverkill Stream and Mountain Club, for $895,000.
The Manor and surrounding small towns are devoid of chains and fast-food joints. Main Street sticks to what small towns do best: There’s the Robin Hood Diner, Pronto Pizza, Cafe 43 and Peck’s Market. Morgan Outdoors is a big lure for sportsmen. There are a smattering of mom-and-pops like Willow and Brown, Mountain Bear Crafts and other galleries and gift shops for those who appreciate local offerings. Will Hardware is a mainstay, and Manor Pharmacy is opening this summer. Big-box stores and major supermarkets can be found 15 minutes north on Route 17, in Liberty.
The Catskill Arts Society, which occupies a 4,000-square-foot building on Main Street, has a gallery, event space, a digital arts lab, and it offers classes. Every August, the Shandelee Music Festival’s Summer Sunset Concert Series draws big names in chamber music, and Bethel Woods Center for the Arts is 25 minutes away.
Ramsay Adams, director of Catskill Mountainkeeper and a Lew Beach resident, is one of three developers behind the soon-to-open Catskill Brewery on Old Route 17, which will manufacture high-end craft beer and have a tasting room.
Adams says the Manor has had its ups and downs, but “the resilience of this community is deep-rooted because this is where fly-fishing began, and it’s as important to the American psyche as baseball and hot dogs.”