Long before Peekskill tried to lure artists, Croton had the bohemian scene locked up. Artists, actors, and writers flocked here from the City to pass the summer; the scandalous poet Edna St. Vincent Millay owned a house there. Croton was so popular with Communists that Mount Airy was nicknamed Red Hill; John Reed and Max Eastman had homes there.
Today, Croton is a small, quiet village known more for its wonderful river parks and walkways, and affordable homes. You’re more likely to spot a bald eagle than a Communist, though the village remains a magnet for artists and theatrical people, such as Tony Award winner Audra McDonald, many of whom volunteer with the Croton Teen Theatre. The County-owned Croton Point Park, has a swimming beach (yes, it’s okay to swim in the Hudson, at least most of the time) and a campground, and hosts the popular Clearwater Festival every summer.
Croton is divided into two parts. The lower, Harmon, is across Route 9 from the Croton-Harmon station, where a nonstop express can get you into Grand Central Terminal in 46 minutes. These are smaller homes on smaller lots, popular with young families. Half Moon Bay, a gated townhome community on the Hudson, has easy access to one of the County’s best marinas.
The highly walkable upper village has a vest-pocket downtown with an old-fashioned streetlight mounted on a post in the middle—one of the few “dummy lights” in the US. The Black Cow, one of the first independent coffeehouses in Westchester, is a social hub. Older homes line the narrow streets, and cedar contemporaries occupy woodsy lots. It’s a small place; the Class of 2012 at Croton-Harmon High School was all of 139 students.
Like its neighbor Ossining, Croton is more affordable than the southern River Towns. “You can get a small home for $300,000 here,” says Cynthia Lippolis, broker at Prudential River Towns Real Estate. “Croton is very eclectic. You can have a $400,000 house next to a $2 million house.”
While communists may be scarce, Croton remains a beacon for artists. Bonnie Watkins has lived here 34 years in an antique farmhouse in the upper village. “It’s a unique community,” she says. “My friends are all wildly creative people who march to a different beat. We’re not interested in having a state-of-the-art material town. Those of us who have chosen to live here don’t want money to be front and center.”