Sitting in a little crook of the river, 20 miles south of Albany, Coxsackie was originally settled in the mid-17th century and incorporated as a town in 1788. While those not from the area probably mostly know it for the eponymous virus first isolated here, locals know it as a vibrant if quiet town, encompassing a lively waterfront village of the same name and several hamlets. The name, pronounced “cook-sock-ie,” is adapted from an Indian word; the most commonly accepted translation being “Owl’s Hoot.”
Along Route 9W, you’ll find the two correctional facilities that have long been the economic mainstay of this part of Greene County, along with a few cool features lost to the changing times in more gentrified places: a drive-in theater, a 500-acre produce farm, a couple of soft-serve ice cream stands, an antique art warehouse. But head either east, into the village or west, toward the hamlet of Climax, and you’ll find a fresh story unfolding.
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Coxsackie’s village mayor of 14 years, Mark Evans, spent his childhood on the waterfront splashing in the Hudson and exploring vacant 19th-century brick buildings. “Growing up, we all always thought somebody would come along and buy those places and fix them up,” he says. “For years it kept not happening.”
Now though, according to Evans, a “very interesting woman from the city” has refurbished the old firehouse into UnQuiet, an antiques shop, and is adding an intimate bar in the next room. There’s a specialty grocer, Mansion + Reed General Store, Shipwrecked News, Books & Café and the Reed Street Bottle Shop. The Yellow Deli, a beloved breakfast and lunch stop right by the water, stays open late on farmers’ market evenings each Wednesday, when people bring lawn chairs to the revamped pavilion and lawn to picnic and enjoy the live music.
The New York State Parks Department recently funded major improvements to the waterfront park, and the state’s Main Street program has awarded the Coxsackie Reed Street Historic District $347,000 for protection and preservation of its numerous classic facades. Improvements, thanks to a $3.2 million grant, were designed to increase river access and include a state boat and kayak launch, expanded docks, and even a boat washing station, plus a playground, basketball court, bathrooms, and EV charging station.
Evans is thrilled to be refreshing the riverfront. But one of his favorite projects will always be the big new playground up the street at McQuade Park, planned Coxsackie style. “Before the pandemic, I took catalogs to the second grade classes and asked the kids for input,” he says. Civic engagement was strong in the youth population. “Two weeks later, I had a letter from every student, and we got them the top seven or eight items on the wish list.”
A new playground in the works for the grownups, the James R. Newbury Hotel and Wire Event Center, has hit a few more snags along the way. The $15 million dollar project was approved in 2019 as a 45 foot-high structure on an existing footprint. During the pandemic, developer Aaron Flach opted to tear down the existing structure, add almost 2,000 square feet to the footprint and top what had been permitted as a four-story structure with a rooftop bar, triggering a stop-work order and public outcry from neighbors concerned about traffic, noise, and obstructed views. He’s now been told he can proceed with other parts of the project and button the hotel up tight before winter while the alterations wind their way through the Zoning Board of Appeals, which has been presented with something of a fait accompli.
“The village board is not the permitting agency on this, although our attorney and engineer are at every planning and zoning meeting helping work through it all,” says Evans. “I’ve known Aaron for 20 years; he has a wonderful track record of local renovations.” Flach’s project will refurbish the 19th-century Dolan Block and the beloved Patrick Henry’s Tavern; he’s publicly apologized to everyone for the confusion caused by his “informal response” to the process.
Time will tell what modifications Flach will have to make to get his hotel and event center open to the public, but he is not the first to recognize the draw of Coxsackie as a destination for special occasions and celebrations. Three miles inland in West Coxsackie, Kerri Corrigan’s Owls Hoot Barn opened for weddings and events in 2014 after a painstaking two-year renovation. A wedding planner in Hudson for 15 years, she fell in love with a wildly overgrown 10-acre property that had been farmed for generations by the Broncks, Coxsackie’s original settlers. (The Bronck House, believed to be the second-oldest home in Upstate New York, was built in 1663 and is maintained as a lively museum by the Greene County Historical Society.) Now, along with Gather Green and Windrift Hall, Owl’s Hoot is a showplace helping drive the area’s new hospitality economy.
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“We have multiple Airbnbs and cabins that offer sustainable, friendly lodging and bring quite a few dollars into town,” Corrigan says. “I get a lot of people from afar, Europeans and Californians, often with some kind of Hudson Valley roots that draw them back, and the area still has that old-world, old-school feel. Then you find things you wouldn’t expect— did you know Coxsackie has a giant antique barn with 60 or 70 vendors? It’s a picker’s dream; normal people can still afford treasures.”
Corrigan hopes that Coxsackie can keep its balance, the “old Coxackie” collaborating with newer residents on projects that restore and renew more than they gentrify. “People are jazzed, excited, and hopeful, and there’s definitely investment happening, yet it seems intelligent. Measured,” she says. “People care greatly about this place. I had some strange, out-of-town investors contact me during the pandemic boom, and I said ‘no thanks’ and kept my head down. I’m home.”