A House Is A House, But A Home Is A Community

  |  July 1, 2015

Roundout Harbor as the sun sets

In recent months via UpStater I have touted the merits of life in the Hudson Valley. I have discussed the beauties of the natural landscape, the bountiful recreational opportunities along with the merits of the area’s history. I have discussed the real estate stock and have showcased many stunning homes. Though one aspect which I truly feel defines the region are its people. Living in the NYC, it is easy and often desirable to become slightly isolated. While you may chat with a neighbor in a building elevator, or say hello to familiar faces in the park, how often do you actually engage with people? During our time in Manhattan each of our buildings had doormen, porters, concierges and maintenance people, individuals we saw on a daily basis. Though we shared conversations, jokes, & etc., the relationship still maintained a level of distance. In the Hudson Valley, the barriers of distance and isolation are difficult to sustain. It’s not that area residents are overbearing or too familiar. Instead, after a matter of time you realize you have become part of a larger dynamic, a community.


Familiar to many in the region, the Rondout Lighthouse looks beautiful as a night’s sail with friends draws to a close.

Through the many communications I have had with UpStater readers from throughout New York and New Jersey area, I have realized what was once a buzz about Kingston has become a very loud drum beat. Every day commercial and residential properties are selling at a rapid pace. Everywhere you turn there is a kinetic energy which excites. As I see these developments I reflect upon our arrival in Ulster County, eight years ago on July 5. We arrived to close on our former home, to a City slightly barren of restaurants, shops and music venues. The sidewalks literally seemed to fold after 7 pm. Stopping by a local venue for a drink on a Monday or Tuesday night was nearly impossible. In the last eight years the revitalization has been initially slow, and has more recently accelerated. Beyond the landscape, the blue skies and beauty in every season, one of the assets of the area are the people.


My friend Curtis N. Nixon had a private tour of the Jervis McEntee Exhibition currently on view in the Friends of Historic Kingston Gallery in Uptown Kingston

Recently (and rather unexpectedly), my friend the Manhattan Realtor Curtis N. Nixon, texted me, “I am coming up! Which day is best?” Always thrilled to see Curtis, I rapidly replied “come up on Monday!” Then I realized it was Saturday, Monday’s weather forecast indicated rain and I had not concocted a plan for our day. “Good grief, Curtis has just returned from two weeks touring the great houses of England, now he will be here in two days,” I thought. Within hours I secured restaurant reservations, invited friends to join us for lunch, arranged a private museum tour, a tour of a friends’ home, and arranged for a small cocktail party in our home. Wham-bam-done.


The infamous Gary Swenson shares a laugh with our great friend the author, Deborah Meddenbach on the Hudson

A few days later, Gary and I found ourselves escaping the toils and perils of house renovation by sailing on the Hudson laughing, dining, and giggling with two terrific friends, whose infectious smiles and conversation were as alluring as the cool evenings’ breeze on the Hudson. Later in the week we found ourselves hosting another cocktail party for visiting friends from Manhattan, friends who were following the buzz to Kingston. Staying in John Krenek and Jamie Niblock’s guest houses (listed via Home Away), our friends were able to explore the region at their own pace. Saturday evening our friend the antiques dealer Ron Sharkey hosted a party in his Black Barn In the Center of High Falls, New York. The party celebrated the inclusion of Ron’s home in the July Issue of the Shelter Magazine “The World of Interiors.” Interior Designers Brian J. McCarthy, and Brad Ford joined food stylist Roscoe Betsill, and photographers Robin Holland and John Dugdale conversed with artists Kathy Ereteman and Deborah Erhlich. Author and Editor Linda O’keeffe laughed at Gary’s jokes, while Susan Hereth proudly presented Ron with honey recently harvested from her hives. Throughout the evening countless individuals celebrated their friends’ success.


Ron Sharkey’s Black Barn was the locale for a delightful party celebrating the inclusion of his home in the July Issue of The World of Interiors

Along the path throughout these days I dragged Gary to an endless number of estate, moving and tag sales. At every turn we chatted and joked with friends and acquaintances. In each restaurant we visited during these days we were greeted with warm embraces and friendship. As a perfect round of nine days concluded, I posted on FaceBook what a marvelous time we had experienced. As I wrote that post I realized, what makes the Hudson Valley and Ulster County so appealing are its’ people. When Gary and I arrived in Ulster County in 2007 we arrived knowing no one. Though some of our dual-resident friends lived within blocks of our former Central Park West apartment, we never met until our move to Ulster County. The diversity of people, the casualness of events, and the laughter and warmth at every turn makes the area welcoming. You may arrive a stranger but that will not last for long. Chic events in the surrounds are not cattle calls of the same people from Manhattan, personalities simply transplanted in different attire. Instead there is a casual relaxed elegance of people coming together to enjoy one another’s company. It’s not exactly Andy Griffith’s Mayberry but it is certainly becoming pretty darn close.


Swag from combing weekend estate, moving and tag sales

Next time you are in the elevator with one of your neighbors or waving across the park to a semi-stranger, perhaps you might reflect upon my words. In the technological age, telecommuting is a breeze. Ninety minutes from Manhattan, you rarely encounter a stranger. Who knows you might even become friends with a local farmer or two. How much more enjoyable it is to dine on the produce, enjoy organic eggs or grass feed meats when those who produced the foods are your friends. The summertime is an excellent time to visit exit 19, or to take the water taxi to Kingston from the Rhinebeck Railway Station, or to dock your boat in the Rondout Harbor. You may arrive searching for a house, but you will quickly find a house becomes a home when you find a community.


About Haynes Llewellyn

Haynes Llewellyn, an interior designer, preservationist and accomplished party planner, relocated to the Hudson Valley city of Kingston from Manhattan’s Central Park West neighborhood in 2007. During Haynes’s almost nine years in the Hudson Valley, he has been featured in numerous television, radio, magazine and newspaper interviews. Haynes’s first Kingston restoration project was of a Historic 1840’s Greek Revival home, featured in the recently released Rizzoli Interior Design book Heart and Home: Rooms that Tell Stories by Linda Okeeffe. Haynes has served on a number of boards of directors, event committees and commissions since arriving in the Hudson Valley. Haynes, along with his two Scottish Terrier Rescues and partner Gary Swenson, is currently in the process of renovating his second Kingston home, a 1939 Colonial.

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