Athens. This is the place to watch the river go by right at your chicly-shod feet. Artsy, compact, and just four miles from the bridge, Athens is home to an eclectic mix of newbies and old timers. The award-winning Crossroads Brewery draws from both sides of the river, the Athens Cultural Center offers up a stimulating calendar, and that frantic ferry scene in War of the Worlds, Tom Cruise version, was shot here. Not bad for such a tiny place. Factor in the annual street festival, the village pool, and the local Little League obsession, and it all adds up to a hometown feel, but in a setting which merits Historic-Register status. Athens’ building stock ranges from Federal to Stick Style, Italianate and Second Empire Victorians. A grand manor stands at the southern entry to the village, overlooking the river; more modest brick rowhouses line the village streets. An early center of shipbuilding, brick making and ice harvesting, the Hudson-Athens ferry docked here until 1947 (blame it on the bridge, four miles away). The 1837 Hudson-Athens lighthouse (take the tour!) – northernmost of seven remaining on the river – still stands proudly thanks to The Lighthouse Preservation Society. There are public boat launches; visit Paddlehead Boards for kayaks and paddle boards. Outside the village sits Brick Row, an intriguing enclave of what was once 19th century workers’ cottages. Rarely available, but we’ve got one on our website right now!
Coxsackie. Stunning and sleepy, Coxsackie is more evidence of early (c.1662) New Netherlands. The original land was acquired from Native Americans for fifteen guilders in beaver pelts. Take note: the name (which means “hoot owl place) is pronounced somewhere between “Cooksackie” and “Cussakie”; “Cocksakee” is a dead giveaway that you’re from afar. In West Coxsackie, Pieter Bronck, (as in The Bronx) built Bronck House, a stone building that’s expanded over the centuries and now serves as a museum. Be sure to visit the thrift shop and the Vedder Library on the property. In the waterfront village, what was once factories and a steam boat landing is a park, and nearby Reed Street is an intact historic district and mercantile section. It’s still a business district of mostly two and three story, mid 19th century buildings, and at the top of the triangle connecting Reed, Ely and Mansion Streets stands the Heermance Memorial Library, housed in an early 19th century home bequeathed to the village by its owner, Eleanor Heerance, born in 1820. Ely and Mansion Streets climb steeply from there, lined with an assortment of splendid Federal, Greek Revival and Victorian homes. Eat at the Downtown Bistro near the waterfront. Pick up treasures for your new place at the Coxsackie Antiques Center on 9W. Venture farther and the landscape is rural, with larger properties. And boating fans – dock yours at the Coxscackie Yacht Club. Bonus: the deck overlooking the river is a great place for a drink at sunset.
New Baltimore. The sign outside town (what there is of it) proudly proclaims “An agricultural community.” Indeed. It’s about creeks (the Hannacroix), river, and countryside here. Not surprisingly, New Baltimore’s Farmers Market is a stellar example of the genre (quail eggs, homemade jams, local honey, guest chefs). Agfest is an annual celebration of regional farming traditions: antique machinery, music, tractor pulls, falconry demos, brewery tastings and the like. Once part of the town of Coxsackie, New Baltimore was settled c. 1700, and handsome 18th and 19th century houses along and above prime River Road offer spectacular views. Cornell Park on the river is a peaceful spot (in a peaceful place) to watch huge barges pass by. There’s not really a commercial district, but this is an ideal locale for nature lovers. The New Baltimore Conservancy is a land trust owned by Scenic Hudson, The Open Space Institute, and the town of New Baltimore, comprising interpretive trails, freshwater tidal pools, marshes and wooded areas of natural and historic significance. The Conservancy hosts popular events with guests like Riverkeeper’s John Lipscomb. There are plenty of NYC transplants here, but if you work in Albany, New Baltimore is a commuter’s dream…jump on I87 and you’re there.