WILD turkeys coursing through the backyard and coyotes howling at the full moon might be among the reasons to buy a second home in Livingston Manor, N.Y. But many weekenders are drawn to the town, which sits at the western edge of the Catskills, by its low-key, artistic temper.
“We loved the house,” said Carolin Walton-Brown, who lives in Manhattan. “But it’s also because the arts are becoming a big foundation of the community here, partially because of the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, and the Catskill Art Society opening here in town.” (The arts center is in nearby Bethel.)
Ms. Walton-Brown, who owns a kitchen store in town, and her husband bought a four-bedroom house on a hill in 2007 for about $300,000.
Many residents savor Livingston Manor, a hamlet in the town of Rockland, for its views, woods and sense of time slowing to a crawl. “In midsummer there are large stretches of time,” said Catherine Hall, who is chief operating officer of the New York Restoration Project and lives in Manhattan. “It has that old Catskills feel — people walk to the lake at the same time every day.”
Ms. Hall and husband bought a three-bedroom A-frame with access to Hunter Lake in 2003 for $140,000. “It feels like an old-time summer camp,” she added, “with a little float deck out there and kids bopping up and down.”
That old-time feel may partly stem from the hamlet’s borscht belt heritage. “The railroad that opened up Sullivan County and created a hotel industry here came through in 1872,” said John Conway, Sullivan County’s historian. “Despite being off the beaten track, Livingston Manor had a number of well-known Jewish hotels, and was most famous for the White Roe Inn, where Danny Kaye worked for six summers, honing his craft before he became a famous actor.”
The region’s character has changed a lot since Kaye’s era, but the scenery has not. The dark woods are complemented by lakes and ponds, and hills plunge into valleys through which the silvery Beaverkill and Willowemoc waver and weave.
Jim Krul, executive director of the nearby Catskill Fly Fishing Center and Museum, said: “The great thing about Livingston Manor and Roscoe is that there’s more trout water in this area in a half-hour radius than any other place in the country. It’s challenging water, not easy water to fish. Some days you get skunked and some days you succeed.”
And there’s plenty of public access to those streams: much of Willowemoc Creek’s 27 miles, which flow through Livingston Manor and end in Roscoe, are accessible. The upper Beaverkill runs about 20 miles to Roscoe, and most of that is private. But from Junction Pool, where it meets the Willowemoc, it flows 19 more miles to the East Branch of the Delaware, and much of it is public water.
The rivers are what lured Dave and Diane Beveridge, Westchester County lawyers who have two school-age children. “It is just so relaxing to be out there standing in a stream fishing,” Diane Beveridge said. “Even if you don’t catch anything.”
The Beveridges bought a 100-year-old farmhouse on 120 acres for $300,000 in 1995. Now they also own some 420 acres, a stone cottage and the Antrim Lodge, a defunct hotel that they’re renovating. And the appeal is more than the fly-fishing. “In spring we make maple syrup,” Ms. Beveridge said. “In summer we can have great barbecues. In winter and fall we hike through the woods, make fires and drink hot chocolate and roast marshmallows.”
The arts are alive on Main Street, which is one long block parallel to the Willowemoc. The Catskill Art Society, which opened last year, includes classes in acting, drawing and pottery, and features rotating exhibits.
The main gathering place in town is Hamish & Henry Booksellers, an independent — and intimate — bookstore on Main Street that was opened in 2004 by Jeffrey Christensen and his wife, Sue Barnett, former Manhattan weekenders who became full-timers. The bookstore hosts open-mike readings and reading groups.
The Shandelee Music Festival sponsors an August chamber music festival in Livingston Manor. And nearby, the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts runs a summer music series. Its 2008 lineup includes the Del McCoury bluegrass band, the Klezmatics and the New York Philharmonic.
“What’s cool about living up here is that the art scene varies so much,” said Andrea Brown, who owns the Outsider’s Studio in town. “You can find musical theater and experimental theater, or listen to alt-folk music.”
But there is quiet for those who crave it. “During the week, I’m in this very glamorous, urban enclave,” said Alison Zuker Gould, who lives in Manhattan, “which is why it’s so nice to go to Livingston Manor and figure out where I want to plant my carrots.”
She and her husband bought a house — previously a camp mess hall — on a semiprivate lake in 2007. “For the price of a large one-bedroom in Manhattan we were able to get 6,500 square feet of space,” Ms. Gould said.
The state-owned Catskill Forest Preserve covers almost 300,000 acres and is a draw for hikers. Lisa Morgan, who owns Morgan Outdoors in town, says her favorite place in the preserve is Balsam Lake Mountain. “When you get to the top before you see the fire tower,” she said, “you have to walk through a balsam glade. And if you touch or run your hand along the boughs, it releases the balsam oil and there’s just nothing like it.”
Flooding is a significant issue in Sullivan County. There were three major floods between September 2004 and June 2006. “Our topography is such that it’s mountainous, and water comes down the hills,” said Pat Pomeroy, who owns Elliot-Pomeroy Real Estate.
And dining and grocery options are limited, sending residents to the nearby town of Liberty.
The Real Estate Market
Real estate agents say the market peaked in 2005. Options range from fixer-uppers for less than $100,000 to estate houses on plenty of acreage for more than $1 million.
There are no condos in Rockland, and no gated communities. “We don’t have tract-built subdivisions, with two or three different houses, all on half a lot,” Ms. Pomeroy said.
There is plenty of new construction, though it tends to look old, like a modern farmhouse built with a wraparound porch. And the real estate developer Andrew Krieger, who has contributed to the town’s revival by buying and renovating buildings on Main Street, is planning a luxury hotel and two residential developments, said Sims Foster, who manages Krieger properties.
“Most people want some green,” Ms. Pomeroy said. “We get asked for old farmhouses on acreage, things with character and some privacy.” Her sales last year included a lakefront log cabin on one acre for $397,000, and a house and barn on 200 acres for $1.368 million.
Carole Edwards, who owns Carole Edwards Realty, says a house on Sand Pond — the most desirable lake in town — would cost at least $600,000.
The biggest problem, real estate agents say, is lack of inventory.
LAY OF THE LAND
POPULATION 1,355, according to the 2000 census. Livingston Manor is a hamlet in the town of Rockland, whose population was 3,989 in a 2005 census estimate.
SIZE Rockland covers 100 square miles, and Livingston Manor is roughly five square miles.
WHERE Livingston Manor is in Sullivan County, in the western Catskills, and is a two-hour drive northwest of Manhattan.
WHO’S BUYING Artists, financiers, and publishing and fashion professionals from New York City.
WHILE YOU’RE LOOKING The Guest House (408 DeBruce Road, 845-439-4000; www.theguesthouse.com) has six cottages on 40 acres near Willowemoc Creek. From $196 a night in season.