Dutchess Discovery: Millerton, Amenia & Millbrook | Millbrook | Hudson Valley | Chronogram Magazine
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Dutchess Discovery: Millerton, Amenia & Millbrook 

Last Updated: 01/09/2017 10:56 am

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Gearing up to celebrate its 40th anniversary in 2017, the Cascade Mountain Winery and Restaurant, whose seasonal eatery reopened a year-and-a-half ago, is awash in new initiatives, including a planned summer weekend concert series, and an inaugural wine, food, and music festival in July.

Horse Leap in Amenia.
  • Horse Leap in Amenia.

On the retail front, horse enthusiasts might hit up Horse Leap, a tack shop that caters to the equestrian lifestyle with both new and secondhand riding gear. For lodging, keep an eye out for the historic Tudor-style Troutbeck estate, which is slated to reopen this summer with 35-plus guestrooms, a fine-dining restaurant, expansive gardens, an outdoor pool, and a ballroom event space.

As for attractions, the Wethersfield Estate and Gardens (former home to investor and philanthropist Chauncey Stillman), with its arts- and antiques-filled main house, Carriage House Museum, and formal Italianate gardens, is launching new golf cart and self-guided phone-prompt tours of the grounds come springtime. There's also the 2014-debuted Four Brothers Drive In, which screens evening double features that attract up to 1,000 people per day during the height of summer. Demand is such that the proprietors (who also run the adjacent Four Brothers Pizza restaurant, which provides carhop service for theater-goers) are planning on 2017 additions like a larger concession stand, neighboring mini-golf course, and a new six-room B&B which will open up a few buildings down in fall.

Wassaic, another tiny hamlet within the town of Amenia, is home to the detour-worthy Wassaic Project. Born of a popular, expanding, 2008-launched visual and performing arts festival (held annually in August), it runs an acclaimed artists' residency program. Tucked within a towering old converted grain mill, visitors can pop in on weekends to check out the rotating gallery exhibitions and to sign up kids for art workshops; the last Saturday of the month grants visitors further access still, when the artists additionally host open studios.


If the railroad tracks still crossed through these parts, the affluent village of Millbrook, first settled in the 1700s, would undoubtedly be on the right side of them. With a population of just over 1,400—a good mix of well-rooted generations-old families and more recent wealthy weekenders—this is where the well-to-do and a list of who's who (Bette Midler and Liam Neeson among them) keep their sprawling, manicured country estates. Sometimes cited as a low-key version of the Hamptons, the Porsche-and-horse-loving set here maintain a taste for fit-the-mold pastimes oozing centuries-old gentility, like riding and shooting.

The equestrian lifestyle pervades the fabric of the community via horse farms, polo matches, and beloved annual events like the Fitch's Corner Horse Trials, Millbrook Horse Trials, and the Millbrook Hunt. The Orvis Sandanona shooting grounds (which completed a $3 million renovation and expansion of its lodge and dining room three years ago) is the oldest permitted shotgun shooting club in the country, where members and the general public alike come to shoot sporting clays or set out on fly-fishing trips.

Brook outside Trevor Zoo.
  • Brook outside Trevor Zoo.

The community also maintains a strong sense of stewardship of the land, which is reflected in the institutions here. Most notable is the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, a hotbed for cutting-edge scientific research spanning some of the most pressing environmental issues, from Lyme disease prevention to climate change. The public can engage with the institute via monthly guest speaker programs, summer camps for kids, and guided or independent walks through the 2,000-acre grounds. For another brush with (landscaped) nature, the seasonal Innisfree Garden, influenced by Chinese landscaping principles, will tout new-for-2017 offerings like April daffodil viewing and a bonsai exhibit. For wildlife, the 80-year-old Trevor Zoo at the Millbrook School (zookeeper training is part of the college-prep boarding school's student curriculum) is home to 80 different species (nine of which are engendered); it's opening a brand-new welcome center and sustainable gift shop in the adjacent 1862 mill, in January.

Franklin Avenue marks Millbrook's main commercial drag, where a series of high-end boutiques—many of them new to town—beckon shoppers with good taste and deep pockets. Among the newcomers, Alicia Adams Alpaca opened her first namesake storefront here in August 2015, selling a fine line of alpaca-wool clothes and homewares. Next door, esteemed designer Barry Cord debuted Kieselstein-Cord Exchange in November 2016, showcasing samples from his brand's diverse and intricate collection spanning handbags, belts, and decorative home accents, along with a rotating show of original photography. Further down Franklin, Absolutely Wild Home opened in December with displays of high-end furnishings from around the globe.

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