Down by the Riverside
Oh my gosh, those views! Follow the Hudson through
these eight Rivertowns, an eclectic collection of hip
galleries, inviting caf Ã©s, artsy shops and
perfect-for-exploring Main Streets.
By Diane Weintraub Pohl
Photography by Iko
Between Yonkers and Peekskill, Route 9 runs with the Hudson, taking the Rivertowns along for the ride. They are villages, actually, small and self-contained, their shops, galleries and cafÃ©s a compelling blend of homespun style and artistic sensibility. There is a lot of art here, befitting a landscape that launched its own school of painters—and a lot of history, too. The names resound up and down Rte. 9: Washington Irving, Jasper Cropsey, Rockefeller, Van Cortlandt. There are myriad historic properties, lush parks and preserves, jazz festivals and the 26-mile trail of the Old Croton Aqueduct. And, of course, the Main Streets that hum beneath the timeless backdrop of the Palisade hills.
This article covers much of it though, alas, not the city of Yonkers; it would take this whole issue to cover it all. But there’s more than enough here in which to immerse yourself, so face west, sit back, and start planning. Then start touring.
Eclectic & Oh-So-Artsy
Traveling northward on Rte. 9, you turn left onto Main Street and it’s pretty routine: a supermarket, bank, nail salon, realtor. But then there’s that curve and the river gaper below you, a shining swath of chrome against the muted Palisades. I take this turn every day; this is my hometown, and yet I’m still awestruck every time.
Even the shops get more interesting, with the multi-lingual titles of Galapagos Books and multi-hued confections of Festivities. Rockwood and Perry Fine Wine and Spirits sits on the corner where Main spills into Warburton, offering wine tastings each Saturday from 2 to 6 p.m. Diagonally across, the eclectic antiques of Suburban Renewal beckon from an acre of windows: pie safes, Depression glass and some pieces from the 18th century at prices that almost seem 18th century. Co-owner Fonda Lifrak, a 13-year Hastings resident, thinks the year-old shop is a natural fit for the town. “Our pieces are eclectic, just like the people here,” she declares. “We didn’t want something high-end, just a neighborhood place to poke your nose into while waiting for your prescription to be filled.”
Most of us could poke around a lot longer than that, then go poke some more further down Warburton at the American sculpture, jewelry and hand-crafted glass at Animazing Gallery, whose beaded silk-ribboned bookmarks have been a gift staple of mine for years. Turn left on Spring Street and Native American sculpture and masks lure you into the Lilliputian chamber of Arctic Artistry. Across, in the library’s parking lot, a farmers’ market is held each Saturday morning. When you’re ready to forsake commerce for nature, cross the train tracks, head right and marvel at the MacEachron Park waterfront.
That there are many book dealers, both rare and conventional, art supply shops and craft galleries here is no coincidence. Hastings is a mecca for a wide variety of artists and writers, and probably draws the greatest number of jazz luminaries this side of Bleeker Street. You’d never know it, though.
At the diner, Center Restaurant Diner, they gulp their percolator coffee and munch their tuna with iceberg in sneakers and jeans like everyone else. There are more intimate places to eat here, like Thomas’ Coffee & Tea and Maud’s Tavern, and classier places like Buffet de la Gare, with its Gallic charm, next to Maud’s near the train station. There’s the river view from the deck of Blu, the bistro atop the tennis club and across the tracks, and from the sprawling villa of Harvest on Hudson, with its mosaic of gardens and patios. But it’s the diner that’s the great equalizer, where somebody who’s anybody is nobody but the guy eating tuna in the next booth.
Animazing Gallery, 549 Warburton Avenue (479-7278)
Arctic Artistry, 2 Spring Street (478-7179)
Festivities, 22 Main Street (478-3621)
Galapogos Books, 22 Main Street (478-2501)
Rockwood & Perry Fine Wines and Spirits
525 Warburton Avenue (478-1028)
Suburban Renewal, 1 Main Street (478-9421)
Blu, 100 River Street (478-1671)
Buffet de la Gare, 155 Southside Avenue
Center Restaurant, 540 Warburton Avenue
Harvest on Hudson, 1 River Street (478-2800)
Maud’s Tavern, 149 Southside Avenue (478-1028)
Thomas’ Coffee & Tea, 579 Warburton Avenue (478-1574)
Main Street With
A Funky Feel
You’re loath to leave 9’s river view to turn down Main Street, and the first few blocks do nothing to change your mind. But then tidy frame houses and stucco boxes give way to the vivid brick of two galleries, Main Street and Upstream, flush with the paintings, sculpture, photographs and collages of county artists. The local theme continues at the new Riverview Creations studio, hung with lush riverscapes. “There’s been an influx of new businesses lately,” claims Chamber of Commerce president and Ditto! design and printing shop owner Rick Whalen. “People have a keen interest in perking up the town.”
Things have certainly perked up at #145 Palisade, a brief detour west off Main. The massive former brewery houses several intriguing businesses (a bagpipe maker, anyone?), studios and galleries. Hot Mud features ceramics and pottery and offers walk-in open studio time Saturday mornings, and Hudson River Gallery and Conservators shows paintings and sculptures.
Back up on Main Street is SoHo East, a crafts shop straight out of Prince Street or, more accurately, Santa Monica, where the flagship store is located. Jewel-toned glassware, beaded organza table linens, woven bamboo furniture and filigree jewelry are all artfully poised, much of it the work of local artists. Across the street, the studio of Dobbs Ferry Pottery is a cozy sprawl of disarray.
Critiquing all this art and craft is much better done with an espresso in hand, and a fine one is available back up on Main at Settepani Bakery. Sip it with a chocolate almond biscotti after a prosciutto tomato panini and ponder away. Then indulge your other senses at Rituals, a fragrant cocoon of natural balms and essences from makeup artist Ilise Harris, whose Vogue covers smolder from the walls. For a natural essence of another sort, stop in at Frankie’s Homemade Ice Cream. All 20 or so flavors are house-made, as are the gelatos and Italian ices. Forget Rocky Road, we’re talking tiramisu, jolted with sweet marsala and hazelnut oil, and a Pumpkin Pie that’ll toss you right into Thanksgiving.
Round the corner onto Cedar Street, there’s Sushi Mike’s, whose Out of Control roll of spicy tuna, avocado, eel and scallions gets me worked up on a weekly basis. From eel to squid—if it’s sinewy and swims, I love it. And I’ve had a steady crush on Piccola Trattoria’s warm Insalata Calamari for almost a year now.
But all this is pretty traditional stuff next to the nearby Earth Light Center. Shamans, tarot readers and all manner of healers have alighted here, dispensing holistic therapies “that come from a place of spirituality,” co-owner Susane Magnani says. I would think their Soul Retrieval (spiritual restoration) process should prove quite popular.
dobbs Ferry Shopping & more
Ditto! Duplication and Design
145 Palisades Street (478-364)
Hot Mud Studio, 145 Palisades Street
Hudson River Gallery and Conservators
145 Palisades Street (693-1991)
Rituals: Makeup and Manifestations
77 Main Street (478-5507)
Riverview Creations, 41 Cedar Street
SoHo East, 63 Main Street (693-7296)
Dobbs Ferry dining & Snacking
Frankie’s Homemade Ice Cream
147 Main Street (693-6259)
Piccola Trattoria, 42 Cedar Street (674-8427)
Settepani Bakery, 63 Main Street (479-0706)
Sushi Mike’s, 146 Main Street (591-0054)
& Water Views
Leave Dobbs Ferry for Irvington and 9 breathes more freely, shedding storefronts and squat apartments for pillared estates and weaving stone walls. Turn left and Main Street seems to swoop into the river. “All you have to do is make that turn, and you’ll gasp at the beauty,” says Chamber of Commerce President and River Gallery owner Pat Matero. “People say it reminds them of Cape Cod.”
But there are other mesmerizing sights here. Just past the high school, a bronze, bemused Rip Van Winkle awakens on a lawn adjoining the Town Hall and its theater, a neoclassical landmark patterned after Washington’s Ford Theater. And I sat within the lemony walls of Le Moulin many times when my boys were infants, hauling their stroller in to nibble a croissant, sip a cafÃ© creme and talk of Provence with proprietor Josyane. ‑I suggest you do the same, stroller or not. Then wander onward to browse among the crystals, bath products and Americana at the Merry Calalily and Buttermilk Blue, a “mini-department store” selling ceramics, clothing and toys.
Half my friends’ nurseries were bedecked with personalized painted gifts from Tra-La-La: nightlights, toy chests, and peg racks strewn with railroad and seashell fantasies. Across the street, pastry fantasies line the shelves at Settepani Restaurant, sister to the Dobbs Ferry bakery, serving daily high tea, weekend brunch and a luscious apple pie oozing mascarpone.
But this is one of the Rivertowns after all, so galleries must be lurking. Yes, I’ve sighted one, Pat Matero’s River Gallery, whose butterscotch walls showcase the oils, photographs and other media by local artists. Across the street, the shelves at Klecktibles are stocked with rustic frames of farmhouse wood, still-life oils to fill them with and primitive painted benches to rest them on. Those benches would look right at home on the front porch of Il Sorriso restaurant across the street. Walk on through to its rear patio, share an antipasto, listen to the lilt of fountain water, watch the light glint off the river, and Monday morning will seem as far away as Mars. The French countryside would work too; just wander the aisles of provincial fauteuils and armoires at Renae Cohen Antiques in the rear of the Trent Building at 50 South Buckhout. And a walk up an industrial stairway there leads to the chic serenity of Riverspa and its multitude of beauty, Pilates and massage treatments.
Cross the train tracks and the expanse of Matthiessen Park unfolds, once home to Louis Comfort Tiffany. Matthiessen’s not open to the public, but new Scenic Park is. Just follow the road along the tracks, pass the brick-fronted tapas mecca of Solera on Hudson—on second thought, don’t pass; sautÃ©ed chorizo and goat-cheese-stuffed piquillo peppers should never be ignored. Then continue on for a stroll along the park’s riverside path, a looping strand between the stony banks of the Hudson and the arching web of the Tappan Zee.
irvington Shopping & Relaxing
Buttermilk Blue, 49 Main Street (591-6277)
Klecktibles,18 Main Street (591-8096)
Merry Calalily, 64 Main Street (591-4200)
Renae Cohen Antiques
50 South Buckhout Street (693-5400)
River Gallery, 39 Main Street (591-6208)
Riverspa, 50 South Buckhout Street (591-5757)
Tra-la-la, 36 Main Street (591-6208)
irvington dining & snacking
Il Sorriso, 5 North Buckhout Street (591-2525)
Le Moulin, 75 Main Street (591-4680)
Settepani Restaurant, 145 Main Street
Solera on Hudson, 1 Bridge Street
History, Antiques &
History weighs heavy as you follow 9 into Tarrytown. Washington Irving’s home, Sunnyside, is here, with its gabled cottage and riverbank meadows, as is Lyndhurst Castle, the 19th-century neo-gothic testament to financier and railroad tycoon Jay Gould’s rapier ambition. Like all Hudson Valley preservation properties, they offer tours and seasonal festivals.
The Tappan Zee’s tangled maze of approaches is jarringly modern, redeemed by the 19th-century brick and stucco of downtown Tarrytown a few blocks further. Make a left on Main and right away there’s the food: Lefteris’s Gyro, Santa Fe’s Mexican and Lago di Como’s Italian all within one block, flanking the Victorian grandeur of the landmark Tarrytown Music Hall Theatre. Music, drama and dance have thrived here for 118 years and they’re still going strong.
Antique stores dominate; I count 15 in the three blocks before Main Street bolts to the Hudson. Grab an ice cream at Main Street Sweets before indulging your lust for the French settees at Topping Hill Antiques, the neoclassical bureaus at Michael Christopher Antiques and the myriad collectibles and Red Wing pottery in between. Celebrate your restraint, or purchases, with a riverfront meal at Striped Bass or Sunset Cove across the tracks, or, back on 9, at a number of spirited cafes. Stroll a bit further to Patriots’ Park on a Saturday morning to visit an active farmers’ market.
But listen carefully past the modern din. The hum of history is low but insistent here—apparent in the Historical Society museum, a short jaunt east on Grove Street, and reaching a feverish pitch as 9 winds its way north toward the ghosts of Sleepy Hollow.
Michael Christopher Antiques
29 Main Street (366-4665)
Red Wing Gallery, 8 Main Street (332-1983)
Topping Hill Antiques
15 Main Street (631-5105)
Tarrytown Music Hall
13 Main Street (631-3390)
tarrytown dining & Snacking
Lago di Como, 27 Main Street (631-7227)
Lefteris Gyro, 1 North Main Street (524-9687)
Main Street Sweets, 36 Main Street
Santa Fe, 5 Main Street (332-4452)
Silver Tips Tea Room, 3 North Broadway
Striped Bass, 236 West Main Street
Sunset Cove, 238 Grove Street (366-7889)
A Turn Back in Time
To me, even on a bright summer day, these hills are steeped in mist. This is where the Headless Horseman rides, where Revolutionary War soldiers sleep and where slaves toiled for the gentry Dutch.
I’ve spent many an afternoon in the barn and fields at the still-working colonial farm of Philipsburg Manor. My boys have herded chickens, milked cows and raked hay here, and we’ve baked countless loaves of bread from the cornmeal produced by the water-wheel-powered gristmill. The farm’s workers still wear breeches and bonnets, doing the hauling, milling and sowing that Africans did for the Philipse family for over 100 years. Each Saturday afternoon in the summer, actors perform vignettes based on slave life at the Manor. “The site’s objective,” says David Archer, public relations director for Historic Hudson Valley, “is to tell the story of slavery in the North in 1750.”
Directly across 9, the Old Dutch Church perches on its hilltop, pristine beside its weathered gravestones. Grave markers noting Revolutionary and Civil War veterans are everywhere. I strain to make out names and tributes on the brittle slabs, jutting from the earth like schoolchildren’s arms pleading for acknowledgement.
A couple of miles away—or is it a galaxy?—the Rockefeller estate Kykuit, sprawls in neoclassical grandeur with its Italianate gardens and priceless modern art. Nearby, the stained-glass windows of Matisse and Chagall commissioned by the family illuminate the Union Church of Pocantico Hills with jeweled light.
Sleepy Hollow SITES
Kykuit, The Rockefeller Estates, Route 9
The Old Dutch Church of Sleepy Hollow
Route 9 (631-1123)
Philipsburg Manor, Route 9 (631-8200)
Union Church, 555 Bedford Road (631-2069)
More Than the Big House
Maroon pennants herald historic Ossining, and a left on Main Street confirms it in a sweep of sparkling multi-storied brick with elaborate cornices and massive lintels. At number 125, Melita’s Home Furnishings is strewn with Portuguese ceramics and, in a side alcove, armoires and bureaus of intricately carved oak.
On Saturdays, from mid-June through December, the farmers’ market fills the Bank of New York’s parking lot, and
across the street a cheerful little shop, precociously named Enjoy, is crammed with cloisonnÃ©, porcelain miniatures, local artists’ paintings and jewelry, with a side room of unfinished furniture.
About a mile or so in the opposite direction, at 136 Croton Avenue, is Sun Valley Nursery, stockpiled with the garden and tableware accessories of local artists—local to Tuscany, Umbria and Sicily, that is. Aisle after aisle brims with festive hand-painted dishes, pitchers and planters, as swollen with color and light as a Chianti afternoon. There are six different collections of Deruta ceramics, Venetian objects, hand-painted Sicilian all-weather tables made of lavastone, and enough terra cotta, cast-stone and glazed planters, statuary and fountains to adorn Versailles’ parterres.
The Old Croton Aqueduct retains its glory here with an original double arch from the old Sing Sing bridge and a granite-towered weir chamber, built to house gates that could be lowered to divert the water. A full-scale reproduction of a portion of the conduit is displayed at the adjoining visitors center.
Enjoy, 175 Main Street (923-3336)
Melita’s Home Furnishing
125 Main Street (923-0351)
Sun Valley Nursery, Inc.
136 Croton Avenue (762-6161)
A Natural Beauty
You come to Croton for the scenery. Oh, the upper village has some pretty porched cottages and a nice gift shop, Wondrous Things, and even a charming little cafÃ© with the cute name of Justin Thyme. And directly off 9 is the Historic Hudson property Van Cortlandt Manor, the country estate of the eminent colonial family, complete with period furnishings, outer buildings and orchards. But to me, the real draw here is the water.
To the left off 9 are the pathways and nature center of riverside Croton Point Park. There’s a swimming beach too, in a horseshoe cove beyond which the Hudson yawns wide to the horizon. But there’s other water here—the frothing torrents thundering down the massive New Croton Dam, the second-largest hand-hewn structure in the world. This was the launch pad of the first public water-supply system that fed New York City for over a century, where in 1837 the Old Croton Aqueduct began its 41-mile trek south. The drive up Rte. 129 to Croton Gorge Park leaves you at the dam’s base, a vantage point from which this Roman-arched colossus appears to hold back water and hold up sky.
Wondrous Things, 4 Old Post Road South
Justin Thyme, 171 Grand Street (271-0022)
Peekskill is technically a city, not a town, but a small area of shops and galleries compels me to overlook that designation. Make a right off 9, drive a few dreary blocks up Main Street, and Division Street stands like a set-piece of downtown chic. The sidewalks become brick, matching the vivid russet of the restored buildings with their sculpted cornices and painted moldings. Signs lure with the buzzwords of revival: collectibles, antiques, gallery.
This rejuvenation was the goal of the city about 10 years ago, when it rezoned downtown to create work space for artists. “We have seven galleries now and about 50 studios,” says Sally Forrest, director of the Peekskill Arts Council. “It’s a very vibrant arts community, even more so with the new Antiques, Collectibles and Art Market that opened this past summer on Saturdays.”
Between Division Street’s Driftwood Gallery S