“The Hudson Valley is starting to resemble that stretch of Long Island. . . .”
Make no mistake, the Hudson Valley is beautiful territory. I’ll match the sunsets we see from our deck with the best Santa Fe has to offer. But touting the region as “the Hamptons North,” as The New York Times did in its Sunday edition of April 14? That’s a covered bridge too far.
It’s also a complete misunderstanding of what the East End of Long Island is really about, and why the area from Southampton to Montauk is bulging at the seams, with the median home price in 2018 at $2 million, while a bigger house in Orange or Greene County can be picked up for a song — $250,000 or less.
Many would argue that the abundance of celebrities of stage, screen, and Wall Street who have paid outrageous prices for the opportunity to bask on their own sunny Atlantic beaches is either the cause of or the result of the area’s popularity. But the Hudson Valley is home to as many if not more billionaires and stars of stage and screen as the Hamptons.
And as one who chose an unassuming cottage on the other side of an unending dune before the Barefoot Contessa took her shoes off, I can tell you, for me and for many who came before me, this special area has a lot more than cachet going for it.
Sunglasses on or off, the light is amazing. Winslow Homer and I had the same reaction to this phenomenon, but he could paint and, more than a hundred years before I even laid eyes on the Hamptons shore, created “East Hampton Beach” (1874), that incredible illuminated scene of ladies, fully clothed from head to toe, enjoying a day on the sand.
Artists who “discovered” the East End after him — from Childe Hassam to Willem de Kooning to Jackson Pollock — not only saw the light but made good use of it in paintings of the rustic coastline and the interior farmlands that made the landscape so unique.
Even today, if you shop in Springs instead of on Newtown Lane, you will find painters and sculptors focusing their work on that same ocean whose waves continue to break just as they did in Homer’s time, or the sunset that hasn’t changed since Georgia O’Keeffe painted it in 1928 (maybe the same day I was born).
And while Citarella now occupies a prominent space on Main Street, the old Hook Windmill, less than a hundred yards away, stands on the village green as it has for more than 200 years.
Don’t get me wrong — I have no quarrel with folks buying or building a summer home in the Hudson Valley, where by traveling two hours north of the city you can have twice the space and half the traffic you would traveling the same distance east to the Hamptons. I just think it’s important to point out that when you buy in this more accessible community, you have not gotten a house in the Hamptons at a much lower price. You have acquired a home in the Hudson Valley, a region with a natural beauty and history of its own — “of its own” being the operative phrase here.
It isn’t the Hudson Valley versus the Hamptons, the price of a house notwithstanding — there are people who can’t stand the feeling of sand between their toes, and others who loathe the muddy bottoms of lakes; some who prefer the fresh river breezes to the salt air that flows from the ocean.
The Hudson Valley is no more the Hamptons North than the Hamptons are the Hudson Valley East: You can’t mountain climb in East Hampton, and you definitely can’t surf on Lake Minnewaska.
Lyla Blake Ward is the author of “How to Succeed at Aging Without Really Dying.” She once had a house in Amagansett.