Sweet on Saugerties: The Waterfront Town's Evolving Identity | Saugerties | Hudson Valley | Chronogram Magazine
click to enlarge Sweet on Saugerties: The Waterfront Town's Evolving Identity
Photo by John Garay
Horses are an integral part of Saugerties’s identity. Horse Shows in the Sun (HITS) stages a world-class equestrian series in the town each year.

This might come as a real surprise to Saugerties weekenders and day-trippers, but this cutesy Mayberry-on-the-Hudson with a fanciful Victorian facade is just a touch complicated. How can it not be? Its history as a community began thusly: Indigenous Esopus tribe inhabits land where the Esopus Creek and Hudson River meet. Dutch settlers show up in the 1600s. Chief Kaelcop of the Amorgarickakan family trades the land where present-day Saugerties is for some textiles and trinkets to Governor Andros in 1667. Local history paints the exchange as hunky-dory, but the agreement has "It's Complicated" written all over it. After all, it's not like interactions between European settlers and indigenous peoples exactly began and ended with hugs and kisses.

The Industrial Revolution brought its own prosperities and, later, complications when mills shuttered and passenger rail ended. Some businesses in the village trace their roots directly back to those heady industrial days in Saugerties's history, like Montano's shoe store, the Dutch Ale House, and the Orpheum Theater. Even the Exchange Hotel, Saugerties's own venerable former-flophouse-turned-boutique hotel (not to mention respected local dive bar) has a facade that still sports awnings, much like it did when it was built in the mid-1800s.

And then, more complications arrived in the 1950s-70s, when parts of the town and village fell into disrepair, much like the Coast Guard station near the Saugerties Lighthouse when the lighthouse closed down in 1954. However, thanks to grassroots efforts, the late 1970s brought a renewed interest in preserving Saugerties's history, which landed Saugerties Lighthouse on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978. In the 1980s, the eight blocks that make up Saugerties's village center were also added to the National Registry, the first commercial district in the country to be so designated. Since then, local businesses like Mother Earth's Storehouse, Smith Hardware, and Inquiring Mind Bookstore & Cafe, which remains the Little Indie Bookstore That Could, settled into the village and have remained viable ever since.

Then, Horse Shows in the Sun (HITS) rode into town in 2004, and with it, an influx of equestrians, high-season day-trippers, and short-term renters, ushering in a new era of tourism-based business opportunities in town. Green, the village's favorite Mid-Mod home design store, also opened in 2004, and is now expanding its operations to include stores in Downsville and Long Eddy.

click to enlarge Sweet on Saugerties: The Waterfront Town's Evolving Identity
Photo by John Garay
The Saugerties American Legion Post 72 baseball team taking batting practice at Cantine Memorial Complex.


But a few of Saugerties's longtime businesses have recently decided to move on. DIG owner Daisy Kramer-Bolle and her husband, Van, first opened the shop at 123 Partition then moved it up the block to 89 Partition. Now, they plan to close their Saugerties storefront in the spring and focus selling their wares over in neighboring Woodstock at Woodstock Design/Woodstock Trading Post on Tinker Street, formerly run by Kramer-Bolle's parents, Robin and Mike Kramer. While Kramer-Bolle, a Woodstock native who relocated to Saugerties from LA in 2005, considers DIG's tenure in Saugerties a positive experience, rising operating costs have made it impractical for the shop to continue in the village.

Partition Street Wine Shop, which also opened during the early `00s, has transitioned from regular brick-and-mortar shop to a wine collective that offers curated, customized monthly delivery of small-production wine, cider, and spirits.

Out on Route 212 in the Town of Saugerties, New World Home Cooking slung its last plate of blackened green beans last April, after keeping the fires burning at that location since 1998.

Artful Community

Meanwhile, for other Saugerties-based ventures, it's a new dawn. Just ask Jennifer Hix. The Saugerties village resident is currently gut-renovating 11 Jane Street, a long-time arts space in the village, into a shiny-new arts and performance space with a focus on creators workshopping their new creations, as well as both short and long-term residencies for visual and performing artists. Community involvement is the key to the heart of the 6,000-square-foot Victorian, says Hix. "It's hard [for artists] to find opportunities like this outside of a university setting," she says. "Artists will be able to try things out and get feedback from the community." As for how the arts space will work, according to 11 Jane Street's PR rep Jen Dragon, "We still have some kinks to work out." There are plans in the works for a soft opening in early spring 2019, says Dragon, which will include "invited artists in residence, who will be working in the space, creating installation art—large-scale environments using sculptural elements as the main medium—and performance. They will also be giving artist talks, classes, and ticketed events and [will collaborate] with other artists and performers to create new work." Dragon and Hix plan to hold this soft opening to coincide with International Sculpture Day on April 27.

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