Into the windows of a second-floor apartment on the east end of Main Street steams the smell of late-winter newness off Mount Beacon. One of Beacon’s newest artists, Mollie McKinley, espouses her love of the Hudson Valley’s landscape. Through the lens of a Bolex H-16, she hopes to capture it while filming Lovefish, a film “about the mysteries of the unconscious mind, and the mysterious nature of human existence.” She states, “The ancient lingering in the Hudson Valley makes for a tonal groundwork rich in underlying mystery. The Hudson River is where the film’s dream-animal first appears. At the film’s climax, the tangled night woods of the Hudson Valley pull the main characters in by an unseen force, thereby transforming them before depositing them back into the hands of civilization. The landscape provides the materials and environment for cathartic transformation.” McKinley is not native to the Hudson Valley but spent many years soaking in its glamour while attending Bard College. After graduation and several years in New York City, she has come to Beacon for the best of city and country.
Naomi Sachs, a landscape architect active in the preservation of Beacon’s natural resources, characterizes Beacon’s duality: “Not many places offer the convenience of a city while being so immersed in nature. For most of us who live here, it’s an easy and often walkable distance to hike, kayak, cycle, sail, fish, garden, and play in the woods.” Sachs is alluding to Beacon’s wealth of natural resources: its location on the Hudson River; the luscious, powerful Fishkill Creek that races to meet the river; and Mount Beacon, so close that it feels like the protective, gentle giant prevalent in fairy tales. The convenience Sachs mentions is aided by Main Street, providing a scenic thread from river to mountain.
As Main Street travels west, it encounters mountain and creek in an area that could be called the Falls District, a term coined by Sai Corson, owner of the neighborhoods’ new Superfood Citizen Cafe, a raw food eatery. The smell of these bodies colliding wafts through McKinley’s windows at night while she sleeps. In an ideal environment for a resident of her temperament, she states, “Space, landscape, and atmospheric tone are crucial in all of my work. The setting is not a passive backdrop; it is a character in its own right, with an agenda, a means of communication and history.”
It is similar sentiment that has attracted enterprise to the Falls District. Early commercial pioneers of the area’s renaissance include Sukhothai Restaurant, Salon Arje, Moxie Salon, and Jacqueline Weissner of the boutique Jacqueline, who also organizes the city’s annual hat parade in June. (Beacon was once known as “the hat making capital of the world.”) Some newcomers offer sensual experience as instinctual response to the aesthetic revelry of the neighborhood. Seed to Fruit sells exquisite arrangements of locally grown flowers. Tas Kafe beckons you to drink in Haiti through the sweet, smooth taste of its coffee. Some outliers provide even further appreciation of the setting’s natural features as they explore organic form. Right before Main Street curves, one can walk 20 paces down Tioronda Avenue to Art House Gallery & Studio. This cottage is the studio, home, and retail space of artists Chip Schwartz and Lynda Curry. At the other end of the District, down an unexplored section of Main Street, woodworker Jessica Wickham creates one-of-a-kind dining and conference tables from locally sourced trees.
Another attraction to the neighborhood is the shells of industry along the creek. One source of unexpected healing has arisen in one of Beacon’s most creative realtors, Charlotte Guernsey, owner of Gatehouse Realty, who loves “dreaming of what things could be.” With a background in fine art, Guernsey lends her discerning eye to finding loving custodians for some of the city’s foremost properties. This includes the highly anticipated Roundhouse project, which is a rehabilitation of the first lawnmower factory in the US. Overlooking the falls and seated on East Main Street, it is planned as a boutique hotel, restaurant, bar, event space, and spa with properties adjoining to be live/work condos. Guernsey is excited that the project will be LEED-certified and will provide electricity to the hotel through hydroelectric power from the falls.
Erica Hauser, a 2004 transplant to Beacon from the Big Apple paints cityscapes and rural settings with the pronounced stillness of the moment. Hauser’s tendency toward prolonged experience could explain why she has grown fond of Beacon’s pace. She notes the constant rush of life in New York City, remembering how she could know someone for years and never see where they live. In contrast, Hauser points to Beacon’s environment as conducive to friendship through more spontaneous interaction.