On weekdays, Peter Kuper can be found on the Upper West Side, steeped in the angsty writings of dead European novelists. On weekends, it is a different story. That’s when he and his wife head for their 1940 cottage outside Cold Spring, a sylvan village on the east bank of the Hudson River, where angst — and half of New York City, it sometimes seems — likes to take a hike.
Mr. Kuper, 60, is a graphic novelist and illustrator who contributes cartoons to The New Yorker and since 1997 has drawn the Cold War-inspired “Spy vs. Spy” comic strip for Mad Magazine. (In September, W.W. Norton & Company published his collection of Franz Kafka tales rendered in multiple panels, “Kafkaesque: Fourteen Stories,” and this fall Norton will release his adaptation of Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness.”)
The Kupers bought their wood-and-stone cottage 26 years ago for $186,000, when Cold Spring was radiating malaise. I.B.M. had recently laid off thousands of its workers in the Hudson Valley. “When we first got up there, it was sad,” Mr. Kuper said. “There were a lot of closed stores on Main Street.”
Now on fine weekend days, Cold Spring, which is across the river from West Point, is thronged with day trippers disembarking at the Metro-North station near the foot of Main Street to visit cute shops and cafes that line the sloping avenue. Or they hit the hiking trails at Breakneck Ridge or Bull Hill.
For New Yorkers looking for greenery, scenery and culture, Cold Spring checks all the boxes. The village, which is in the town of Philipstown in Putnam County, has an impressive collection of 19th-century buildings with sedate neo-Classical features or frothy Victorian trimmings. It has good food, but no fast food; a public library that lends gardening equipment and museum passes; a riverside gathering spot; and a nearby picturesque preserve on the site of the West Point Foundry. A mainspring of Cold Spring, the foundry produced artillery and other ironworks from 1818 to 1911.
Maybe most attractive is that Cold Spring is a little more than an hour from Manhattan by car or train.
Proximity makes this Mayberry throwback irresistible to New Yorkers who scorn the suburbs but cannot commit to a full-throttle rural lifestyle. It is particularly alluring to gig-economy workers making occasional trips to the city. For weekenders faced with the anticipatory bleakness of Sundays as they contemplate the return trip to their primary homes, the short distance is a comfort.
David May, 68, an architect, said that when he and his wife, Doris, decided to buy a weekend house 12 years ago, “there were very few places we could actually look because my wife doesn’t drive.” They walk from their Manhattan home in Murray Hill to Grand Central Terminal to catch a train and then hoof it to their 1850s stone house on Morris Avenue, uphill from the Cold Spring station.
Mr. May parks his a car at the house during the week and uses it for errands and excursions beyond the village. (Cold Spring has a small strip mall on Route 9D; the nearest big-box store is a 15-minute drive.)
But Mayberry has its price. Demand has driven up the cost of housing to a median sale price of $460,000. That’s a bargain compared with Cold Spring’s affluent neighbor, Garrison, where the median is $686,500, but it’s 27 percent more than the average in Putnam County. And the taxes are high in this low-industry community.
Accessibility also means that Cold Spring attracts an increasing number of visitors who compete for parking spots, scuff hillsides and turn the purchase of a chicken Caesar wrap at a Main Street cafe into an ordeal half as long as the ride up the Taconic State Parkway. On a recent Saturday, as the village teemed with day trippers enjoying the first mild weekend of spring, one woman was overhead muttering, “Damned tourists.” (Improvements in Beacon, up the road, are further credited — or blamed — for an influx of visitors enjoying the smorgasbord of local recreations.)
“It is a double-edged sword,” said Susan Branagan, who runs the Cold Spring Farmers’ Market, which in winter does business in the parish hall of St. Mary-in-the-Highlands Church and in May moves to the grounds of the Boscobel house museum in Garrison. “As a resident, I don’t like the traffic jams,” she said, but as the market’s president, she thinks the surge of shoppers is “great.”
What You’ll Find
Historically a company town, Cold Spring has houses that were built for bosses, grunts and everyone in between. Those currently on the market include a circa-1840 estate on Parrott Street ($1.995 million, with taxes of $30,875) believed to have first been occupied by William I. Paulding, who helped start the West Point Foundry; it has a military-themed frieze over the living room fireplace, stained-glass insignia and views of Storm King Mountain. On the modest side of the spectrum is an 1860 stucco workers’ house off Main Street ($375,000, with taxes of $6,607).
In 1982, much of the 0.6-square-mile village, with its 200-plus buildings, was designated a National Historic Landmark District.
“You never see a modern or contemporary house,” said Kathyrine Tomann, an associate real estate broker with Houlihan Lawrence Cold Spring, referring to architectural styles. Beyond the historic district, new construction is limited by the challenging topography and an active land trust. But as aging residents look to downsize, a mixed-use development called Butterfield, with shops, medical offices, a senior center and residences for people 55 years and older is being completed on the site of a former hospital, at Route 9D and Paulding Avenue.
In addition to Cold Spring’s single-family homes, there are two 1970s developments, Forge Gate and Springbrook, that have 131 units between them. The single-level condos are so desirable that “most of them don’t make it to the market,” Ms. Tomann said.
What You’ll Pay
Cold Spring’s housing values are solid, Ms. Tomann said, if not bulletproof. The market dipped less than others during the last recession and continues to be relatively stable, although as in many other places, the high end is hampered by new rules limiting the amount of property taxes that can be written off.
Data from the website Trulia show that as of late March, Cold Spring’s $460,000 median home sale price represented a year-over-year decline of 17 percent, with an average of 16 sales a month.
The median rent is currently $2,550 a month.
As of April 8, 12 village homes were on the market. The least expensive was a two-bedroom, 940-square-foot condo at Forge Gate, listed for $239,000, with $452 monthly fees and taxes of $4,513. The most expensive was a four-bedroom, colonial-style house built in 2001 on almost two and a half acres, listed for $2.595 million, with taxes of $25,803.
Residents say Cold Spring is a blue spot in a mostly red county. There was more than a touch of Woodstock in a recent sight of protesters displaying antiwar banners near St. Mary’s Church and signs declaring in six languages that “Hate Has No Home Here.”
Twenty years ago, Main Street was dominated by antiques shops, but now there are also home-design boutiques, a camping store and an “apothecary and wellness house.” Local favorites include Cathryn’s Tuscan Grill, Hudson Hil’s Cafe & Market and Split Rock Books, an independent bookstore opened in June by Heidi and Michael Bender, a couple from Brooklyn. (It fills a void left by the previous village bookstore, which closed a decade ago.)
Last year, Niche, a website offering school assessments, ranked the Haldane Central School District in Cold Spring number one of five in Putnam County. In 2017-18, the district enrolled a total of 837 students in three schools — 84 percent were white, 9 percent were Hispanic or Latino, 4 percent were Asian, and 2 percent were black or African-American. Seventeen percent were classified as economically disadvantaged.
Haldane Elementary School has about 300 students in kindergarten through fifth grade. On 2017-18 state exams, 63 percent met standards in English versus 45 percent statewide; 67 met standards in math versus 49 percent statewide.
Haldane Middle School, which shares a building with the lower school, enrolls about 210 students in sixth through eighth grade. On 2017-18 exams, 60 percent met standards in English versus 46 statewide; 51 percent met standards in math versus 38 percent statewide.
Haldane High School occupies a separate building at the same address. It enrolls about 300 students and offers college-level and Advanced Placement programs in 17 subjects. The mean SAT scores for the class of 2018 were 601 in reading and writing and 584 in math, versus 534 in both subjects statewide.
Metro-North’s Hudson Line offers twice- or thrice-hourly service between Cold Spring and Grand Central Terminal. The morning ride takes 75 to 82 minutes. A round-trip fare is $38.50 at peak travel times and $29 at off-peak times; monthly tickets are $422.
Legend has it that George Washington tasted the local water and, finding it frigid, gave Cold Spring its name. “It’s a great story,” said Sarah Johnson, executive director of the Putnam History Museum, although she declined to confirm or refute it.
On Apr. 27, the museum will open an exhibition on important women from Putnam County, including Julia Butterfield, a local philanthropist who was married to the man credited with writing “Taps,” and Emily Warren Roebling, a Cold Spring native who supervised the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge after her husband, the bridge’s engineer, Washington Roebling, became incapacitated.