Pros Park, Troy, Garnet Baltimore, Composite 2

On July 4th, 1902, the bands marched, politicians waxed poetic, and the people celebrated on this, the grand opening of the Warren Hill Park, on top of Mount Ida, overlooking downtown Troy. The year before, after a few positive voices of agreement, along with the usual contentious wrangling and pompous posturing, the City Council of Troy voted in favor of purchasing the parkland to create Troy’s newest and most important public park.

After debating the issue for several years, the city finally owned the land. Now it was time to hurry up and wait. People wanted to see the view that had made Mount Ida famous, a panoramic vista that on a good day, allowed people to see for miles around. Troy lies in the Hudson River valley between the Catskills and the Adirondacks, and the view from the top of the mountain would allow you to see both ranges. It was a great place to take in the summer breezes and escape the hustle and bustle of one of the nation’s busiest and wealthiest cities. The only problem was that in the rush to get people in the park, they hadn’t yet gotten around to finishing it. In fact, it was barely begun.

That was not the fault of the city’s parks landscape engineer. Garnet D. Baltimore had already scoped out other cities and their parks, including Central Park and Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, and had great ideas on how to make Warren Hill Park a masterpiece. But first he needed to have his plans and a budget approved. Mr. Baltimore was a scrupulous record keeper, and the Troy newspapers faithful commentators, so we know what he had to go through to get the job done. For more background on the park and the man, check out Part One and Part Two of this story. (more…)

Prospect Park, Troy postcard 1

After the great successes of New York City’s wonderful parks, such as Manhattan’s Central and Riverside Parks, as well as Brooklyn’s Prospect and Fort Greene Parks, every city in the country was envious. Cities are judged by their public buildings and public spaces, and by the beginning of the 20th century, almost every municipality and its civic movers and shakers wanted to have exemplary parks. Parks were places that every citizen, high and low, could enjoy the beauties of nature, fresh air, and room to relax.

For many urban areas, that was key to a better quality of life and a happier populace. Thanks to the philosophies of the City Beautiful Movement, city fathers also thought that parks, like great public buildings, would inspire the lower classes to civic pride, and therefore industrious behavior, better citizenship and moral uplifting. Parks were also a chance for city fathers, committee heads, wealthy donors, and ambitious landscape designers to shine. They all knew they were creating places that would live on after they were long gone. (more…)

3 3rd st ghent ny

3 3rd Street, Ghent: $174,500

We had a grand time finding this week’s batch of hot listings. All of them are located in Columbia County east of the Hudson River and north of Dutchess County, and all of them are simple, sophisticated, classic, and mostly affordable, ranging from a contemporary 1990s Ranch to a mid-19th century farmhouse. Which one do you think is our favorite? Which one is your favorite?

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Pros Park, Troy, Composite

As our Brooklyn readers all know, Prospect Park was designed by the famed landscape architects Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, who also designed Central Park. That park opened in 1857 with great fanfare and much success. As well it should; Central Park is one of the great urban parks, and Olmsted and Vaux created a masterpiece of natural and enhanced landscaping that America had never seen before. When the City Fathers from across the East River in Brooklyn went to inspect the park, of course, they wanted one too.

One of Brooklyn’s leading citizens, James S.T. Stranahan, was appointed to head a parks committee that would oversee this great project. In 1860, they picked an engineer/architect to map out the project. His name was to Egbert L. Viele, and he had actually been the original architect picked to design Central Park. That is until someone called in Olmsted and Vaux, who blew Viele out of the water with their far superior plans for the park.’

Viele would get his chance in Brooklyn. He accessed the site chosen, a huge tract of swampy and hilly land not far from Green-Wood Cemetery, up until that time, the largest park area in the city. Viele planned to include many natural features in his park, including the city’s Mount Prospect Reservoir, atop Mount Prospect, the second highest point in Brooklyn. The park would extend west towards the highest point in Brooklyn: Battle Pass, which was part of Green-Wood. Down below lay Gowanus, the site of the Battle of Brooklyn, the first decisive battle in the War of Independence, fought in 1776.

But it was the Civil War that defeated Egbert Viele. All plans for the park had to be shelved until the end of the long war, and by that time, Stranahan and his committee had years to mull over his plans, and decided to get a second opinion. As we know, they asked Olmsted and Vaux, and before the committee’s very eyes, the partners had totally redesigned the park site, dazzled the committee with their plans, and got poor Egbert fired. (more…)

12601 state route 23 ashland ny

12601 State Route 23, Ashland: $248,000

Continuing with last week’s theme of our favorite Greene County properties, here’s a rambling old farmhouse in rural Ashland, located about 40 minutes west of Catskill village. Ashland is farm country, for sure, but if you’re looking to live life at a slightly more leisurely pace in the Catskill Mountains, this could be the place. The farmhouse includes five bedrooms and three acres of land abutting another 294 acres of state land. High ceilings, gorgeous plank flooring, and a huge kitchen round out the goodies within. Beds: 5. Baths: 2 full, 2 half. Square Feet: 1430. Lot Size: 3 acres. Est. Taxes: $1848. More photos after the jump…

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40 bogardus rd cairo ny

40 Bogardus Road, Cairo: $135,000

So many brand new properties on the market in Greene County this month, we struggled to narrow down our choices. See, Greene County, located on the west side of the Hudson River and a little less than three hours north of Brooklyn, is a great place to look for first-time home buyers considering the big move (or a second home) to upstate New York. It’s less expensive than its southern and east-of-Hudson counterparts, and the housing inventory is fairly robust right now. And, if you want a house on some land, you’ll probably find it here. Looking for a house that’s walking distance to town? Yep, you’ll probably find that, too. Rustic log cabins? Check. Contemporaries? Check. Victorians, antique Colonials, and farm houses? Check, check, and check. So many choices that we’re dedicating two weeks to our grab bag of favorite Greene County properties. Enjoy!

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461 acorn hill rd olivebridge ny

461 Acorn Hill Road, Olivebridge: $300,000

The Ulster County town of Olive is known for its stunning views, picturesque woodsy landscapes, lovely farmhouses, and desirable proximity to the Ashokan Reservoir. It’s also known for low property taxes. Well, low property taxes is a pretty relative concept when it comes to Ulster County. Compared to other places around the Hudson Valley area on the west side of the Hudson, Olive (including the hamlet of Olivebridge, as well as a handful of other rural hamlets in town) offers a slight bargain. And if you’re looking at houses upstate, the taxes could make or break a real estate deal. Olive is located around the western end of the reservoir and about 2.5 hours from Brooklyn.

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791 south st highland ny

791 South Street, Highland: $299,000

Exteriors with loads of curb appeal. Interiors that feel up-to-date yet comfortable and homey. That’s what we’re all about this week on Brownstoner Upstate. We are experiencing some house crushes on a renovated farmhouse in Highland, a more-bang-for-your-buck beauty in Athens, a charming retro cabin in Phoenicia, and the perfect contemporary ski getaway near Hunter Mountain. Enjoy…

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105 first ave kingston ny

105 1st Avenue, Kingston: $119,500

It’s safe to say that we look at hundreds of real estate listings a day. Sometimes for work, but mostly for fun. Because so many properties are passing before our eyes, we tend to initially focus on the exterior. And if the exterior doesn’t do it for us, we skip over it. We also know that sometimes a lackluster exterior hides a unique or an attractive interior we never would have guessed existed based on the outside, so we try to look beyond the first photo of a home’s facade as often as we can. This week’s list includes homes that, upon first glance, elicited a resounding “meh” from us until we saw what lies on the other side of the front door.

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catskill mountains

Slide Mountain in the Catskills

ICYMI: Travel + Leisure named the Catskills as one of its Best Places to Travel in 2015, and we’re not going to argue. In our completely unverified unscientific opinion, we seem to see more and more visitors popping up during the warmer months at local farmer’s markets and walking around our streets, gawking upward at cool, old buildings. People are catching on to the fact that it’s paradise in your own backyard up here. There’s a change in the air around the Catskill Mountains, and while we don’t think the tourist industry alone can completely revitalize the Catskills, it’s becoming increasingly more apparent that it will play a large role. How do casinos factor in to all of this? Well, that’s a whole post in and of itself and a subject that’s been extensively covered, but it’s what the voters wanted, so they shall receive it. Meanwhile, as we enter into a brand new year, let’s head into the mountains and see what the real estate market holds for us (spoiler alert: a lot of good stuff).

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xmas presents

…we’ve been so good this year, washing our dishes after using them and keeping our rooms tidy. All we want for Christmas is a brand new house. Or an old house. Or a little bit of both. We’ll even help you out, St. Nick, by providing a list of four properties we could definitely get used to living in, given enough time, of course. Below, please find our wish list, which includes one farmhouse in Olivebridge, one Gothic in Rhinebeck, and two contemporaries in Woodstock. And a partridge in a pear tree.

Love always,

Brownstoner Upstate

(P.S. The cookies and bourbon are on the table next to the tree.)

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