Wallkill, N.Y., isn’t hip, and it barely has a downtown — but homes there often cost less and come with more land than those in higher-profile Hudson Valley communities.

After a two-year search, Vanessa Stanton found in this Ulster County hamlet — not to be confused with the larger town of Wallkill in Orange County, about 15 miles southwest — what she had been unable to find in places like Hudson and Rhinebeck: a four-bedroom house with a sleek kitchen and a pool on more than five acres. She closed on the property last September, paying $1.4 million.

On weekends, “I like to get away from hip and trendy,” said Ms. Stanton, 51, a retail executive who owns an apartment in Battery Park City, in Lower Manhattan. “I saw a house I liked in Hudson, but Hudson has changed — it’s way more hip — and that took away some of the appeal. I need good grocery stores, a few good restaurants and proximity to the train line. And I didn’t want to live more than two hours away from Manhattan.”

Named for the Wallkill River, which flows north through the hamlet, Wallkill sits near the southern border of Ulster County and offers striking views of the Shawangunk Ridge to the northwest. According to the 2020 census, the hamlet has a population of 2,166 and occupies three square miles inside the 56-square-mile town of Shawangunk. But in practice, about 40 percent of the properties in Shawangunk (pop. 13,609) have a Wallkill address, said John Valk, Shawangunk’s supervisor. It’s a common discrepancy in Ulster County, where hamlets have amorphous borders.

Wallkill’s rural character and relative proximity to New York City are drawing city buyers who want to spend less and get more. But the area is beginning to offer more than just a bargain: The recent openings nearby of high-profile projects, like the Auberge resort Wildflower Farms, in Gardiner, N.Y., and City Winery Hudson Valley, in Montgomery, N.Y., have drawn more attention to the hamlet. In Walden, in a former Borden Dairy condensery, Michael Dorf, the chief executive officer of City Winery, is planning a $30 million project called The Milk Factory that will include a hotel, retail space and apartments.

“The entire area seems to be on people’s radar in a way that I don’t recall previously,” said Deborah Hitz, the owner of Habitat Real Estate Group, in Stone Ridge. “Wallkill has a wonderful feeling of open space and light. It’s very bright and pastoral.”

Kathryn Hupczey and her husband, Ronald, recently moved from Alexandria, Va., to Wallkill with their 8-year-old daughter and 6-year-old son. The couple wanted to be closer to relatives in New York City and Pennsylvania, and were drawn to Wallkill’s “cheaper cost of living,” said Ms. Hupczey, 37, a custom signage maker for weddings and other events. “We were tired of the keeping-up-with-the-Joneses rat race. Wallkill has good taxes, but it also still has good schools.”

She and Mr. Hupczey, 37, a patent examiner for the federal government, sold their 1,528-square-foot Virginia house on 0.14 acres for $625,000 in May 2021 and closed on a 2,516-square-foot house on 1.7 acres in Wallkill in September 2021, paying $420,000.

“We didn’t have that small hometown feeling in Alexandria,” Ms. Hupczey said. “I always tell my friends in D.C. that Wallkill seems like a real-life Hallmark movie.”

Wallkill properties run the gamut from modest cottages and ranches on smaller lots to spacious houses on sprawling lots and with riverfront views. Because large, reasonably priced, buildable lots are available, new construction is common.

An economic plan adopted by the town of Shawangunk in 2021 relaxed some zoning restrictions in an effort to bring more businesses to Wallkill. Although the Wallkill River runs alongside the hamlet’s main commercial strip, Wallkill Avenue, the area lacks the picturesque quality of many Hudson Valley communities. It has a handful of businesses, including a hardware store, a Stewart’s market, a Chinese restaurant and a pizza parlor. The nearest supermarket is a few miles away, in Walden.

Demand for more upscale businesses seems strong. Since Hudson Valley Chocolates opened on Wallkill Avenue in 2018, sales have doubled, said the shop’s French-American owner, Stephanie Glaisek, who makes the confections by hand. Across the street, Dos Amigos II, a Mexican restaurant that opened in early March, has seen a steady stream of customers, including on a recent Sunday evening, when every table was occupied.

The Bruynswick Inn, a longtime Wallkill fixture, reopened under new ownership in January as The Oyster and Clam Bar at the Bruynswick Inn, with a new red-quartz bar, hand-hewed beams and other upgrades. On a recent Saturday, the place was packed.

“Growing up, I lived right down the road, and my parents would come here for date night,” said Michelle Kelly, 56, an owner of the restaurant. “Back in the day, there wasn’t a whole lot going on in Wallkill, but now it seems much busier.”

Other places to eat include Parkview House Restaurant & Tavern, which serves comfort food, and Nu-Cavu, specializing in steak and Italian dishes. Magnanini Winery, Restaurant & Distillery offers housemade pasta, wine and spirits in a rustic chalet overlooking a vineyard.

The nearly 600-acre Shawangunk Grasslands National Wildlife Refuge shelters more than 200 species of birds and is part of the recently completed New York State Birding Trail, a network of more than 300 birding hot spots. A paved three-mile section of the Walden-Wallkill Rail Trail and several small parks round out the hamlet’s outdoor offerings.

The hamlet is also home to the largest Jehovah’s Witnesses complex in the world, with a sprawling campus comprising offices, dormitories and a printing press. In the 1960s, the religious group established its Wallkill location, Watchtower Farms, which comprises nearly 3,000 acres of farmland in and around Wallkill.

A few miles north of Wallkill’s downtown area sit two adjacent prisons: the medium-security Wallkill Correctional Facility, which opened in 1932, and the maximum-security Shawangunk Correctional Facility, which opened in 1983.

Although home prices in Wallkill have risen sharply since the start of the pandemic, housing remains less expensive than in nearby towns like Gardiner and New Paltz.

Last year, the median sale price for a single-family home was $420,200, compared to the median of $579,499 in Gardiner and $456,000 in New Paltz, according to the Ulster County Board of Realtors. The Wallkill figure represents an increase of nearly 24 percent (from $339,000) in 2020, and a dramatic jump of nearly 70 percent (from $250,000) in 2019, before the pandemic.

Taxes also are reasonable. In 2022, the average county, town and school tax bill in Wallkill was about $7,500, said Curtis Schoeberl, Shawangunk’s assessor.

In late March, Zillow showed 22 single-family homes for sale in Wallkill, from a two-bedroom cottage in need of a gut renovation on 1.9 acres, listed for $175,000, to a five-bedroom home on 7.4 acres with indoor and outdoor pools, listed for $1.145 million. Five of the 22 homes were new construction.

For Ms. Stanton, the retail executive, Wallkill offers a place to nest. “Once you get to the house, you don’t want to leave,” she said.

Ms. Hupczey and her family, the Virginia transplants, appreciate the events organized by the community group Vision of Wallkill. Shortly after they moved to the hamlet, they attended the group’s Weekend of Wallkill festival, which is held on the public library’s lawn in late September and offers craft vendors and entertainment. “It really was our first foray into the community, and it felt great,” Ms. Hupczey said. “The kids ran into their friends from school, and my son’s kindergarten teacher was there with a goat for a petting zoo.”

Vision of Wallkill was founded in 2014 by residents who wanted to create a community hub, said Donna Barczak, 65, a longtime resident and the group’s president. “The Bordens were huge philanthropists,” said Ms. Barczak, referring to the family who founded Borden Dairy and lived in the hamlet. “That community spirit still lives on in Wallkill.”

The group also organizes a riverfront summer concert series in Popp Memorial Park and a Duck Derby in May. For the derby, which benefits the year-end celebration for Wallkill Senior High School’s graduating seniors, the group sells a few thousand plastic ducks that are cheered on by a crowd as they are released in the Wallkill River and float downstream to a buoy near the park. The first three ducks to cross the finish line reap cash prizes for their owners.

Students in the Wallkill Central School District attend Ostrander Elementary School, Leptondale Elementary School or Plattekill Elementary School for kindergarten through sixth grade. They go on to John G. Borden Middle School for seventh and eighth grade, and then to Wallkill Senior High School.

During the 2021-22 school year, according to the New York State Education Department, the district had an enrollment of 2,766 students in kindergarten through 12th grade; 63 percent identified as white, 27 percent as Hispanic, 6 percent as Black, 3 percent as multiracial and 1 percent as Asian or Pacific Islander.

On 2021-22 state tests, 92 percent of Wallkill Senior High School students were proficient in English, 79 percent were proficient in algebra and 82 percent were proficient in geometry, compared with 81 percent, 66 percent and 53 percent statewide. In 2022, the average SAT verbal score was 548 and the average math score was 560, versus state averages of 534 and 533. The high school’s graduation rate in 2022 was 96 percent, compared with 87 percent for the state.

Wallkill is roughly a 20-minute drive from Exit 17 on the New York State Thruway. The drive to the George Washington Bridge takes about an hour and 10 minutes, depending on traffic.

The Metro-North train station in Beacon is about a 25-minute drive. Round-trip tickets to New York City during peak hours cost $46, and the trip takes about an hour and a half.

Shawangunk was settled by Europeans around 1670 and incorporated as a town in 1788. The name was derived from a Munsee Lenape word meaning smoky air, to describe the humidity caused by being in the shadow of the Shawangunk Ridge, according to the town of Shawangunk’s website.

In the mid-1800s and early 1900s, industries in Wallkill included saw, grist and paper mills; a large hat factory; and dairy farming. With the introduction of the Wallkill Valley Railroad around 1870, farmers were able to ship produce to New York City via a link to the Erie Railway in Montgomery, and Wallkill became a dairy-farming hub, according to the Historical Society of Shawangunk and Gardiner. John G. Borden arrived in Wallkill in 1881 and amassed about 1,500 acres of land; his former farm is now an events venue called Borden Estate.

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Source: | This article originally belongs to Nytimes.com

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