In June 1962, IBM purchased 450 acres in the Town of East Fishkill, which includes the village of Hopewell Junction and is next door to the village of Wappingers Falls. Almost overnight, the entire area became a company town, as IBM hired thousands of people in what was, at one time, the largest microchip manufacturing center in the world.
The ensuing years of IBM's downsizing forever altered the economic landscape of the region, but the villages of Hopewell Junction and Wappingers Falls have evolved from their roots to embrace the next chapter in their respective stories. "It's become much wealthier and affluent than it was when IBM first moved in," explains Malcolm Mills, director of East Fishkill Historical Society. "It's almost become a dormitory town for New York City and Westchester."
Steeped in History
Hopewell Junction owes its existence to an 1873 decision to drop a railroad depot in the middle of what was then empty land. The village grew up around the depot, becoming a center of locomotive repair in the 1880s and eventually growing into a larger population center during the heyday of the railroads.
But the community has not forgotten its roots. In 1995, a group of locals began work on the restoration of the original depot building with the hopes of keeping the past alive. "We are trying to create a museum that will tell the story of Hopewell as it began," says Paul Stich, the museum chairman of the Hopewell Depot Restoration, who has lived in Hopewell Junction for 40 years.
Even though IBM is no longer the only player in town, it retains a strong presence in the region. "I always considered IBM to be more or less our anchor store," says John Hickman, supervisor for the Town of East Fishkill, which includes Hopewell Junction. "We have a lot of businesses, a lot of vendors that work for IBM on or off the site."
Still, IBM alone is no longer enough to sustain the village, and their troubles threatened the town. "When IBM downsized in the `90s, we expected that the whole village was going to die and we were going to have a serious problem," says Stich. "Didn't happen. Those young couples from Peekskill and Ossining bought the houses that were being vacated by the IBMers who were being bought out for their retirement. All of a sudden, we have a whole new generation living here."
Hopewell Junction's proximity to the Taconic Parkway allows residents to commute into New York City, making it a destination for families looking for room to grow. The influx of people moving in from Westchester and Putnam Counties has turned Hopewell Junction into a family town. The turnaround was so extreme that it was nationally recognized when the village was ranked #31 on Money magazine's Most Desirable Places to Live for 2005. "We're very happy with what we feel is the quality of life here," says Hickman.
A Recreation Haven
Central to that quality of life, and one of the major draws for families, is the immense amount of importance and attention paid to recreational opportunities. "I would say that those who've moved into town in the last 25 years are very interested in the recreation facilities for their children," says Mills.
"One thing the town has always been proud of [is that] we have a lot of different fields and facilities," says Hickman. "It seems a lot of people have moved here for the quality of life, for the sports." The Town of East Fishkill has eight different recreation sites, including a swim park, a roller hockey rink, a skate park, six baseball/softball fields, and a large sports complex complete with basketball courts, volleyball courts, and a fully lit utility field for football, soccer, or lacrosse. In all, five outdoor town fields have lights.
One project near and dear to Hopewell Junction is the expansion of the Rail Trail, a walking trail that follows one of the old railroad lines. It begins a few hundred yards from the site of the Hopewell Junction Depot restoration project and, once work is completed on a bridge over a section of Route 55, will lead 12.5 miles to the Walkway Over the Hudson; the bridge is expected to be completed this fall. The completed Rail Trail, and the access to miles of nature along its route, fits right in with the town's objective to maintain a rustic atmosphere even while transforming into a suburb of New York City. "One of the things that we've been working on for the last few years is an open space preservation plan," says Hickman. "One of the things I don't want to lose is the beauty of the town. This really is a beautiful town and we're working hard to maintain that old country type of charm."