Should I Stay or Should I Go? Big Thoughts on Small Towns

  |  August 6, 2012

This weekend brought us up to the old hometown of Saratoga Springs, the site where our fascination with architecture, urban planning and upstate New York — and the intersection of the three — was born. Now that there’s going to be a movie theater downtown, for the first time in almost 40 years, it’s really beginning to seem like Shangri-La. A painted lady there goes for at least twice as much as restored Victorians in the Catskills sell for, so the chance of picking up something for a serious bargain seems small. But there’s so much to do, and it’s so close to the Adirondacks, and it has most of the ingredients we covet in our towns: porches and walkability and small yards and a city park and a state park. Life seems good there, if a little on the cold side in the winter for our taste.

On the way up, we stopped in Newburgh, a town that gets regular spotlight here on Upstater. It reminded us of the Saratoga of 40 years ago, when the town was a star of faded beauty, full of unmet potential. Of course, Newburgh has far more hurdles to jump through than Saratoga ever did — there’s a lot more crime and poverty, and far less industry — but the beauty is undeniable. And the prices of homes, well, to a jaded, real estate-obsessed New Yorker (there are many of us), they sound practically free. Two hundred grand for a perfectly polished brownstone? Where do we sign?

Well, we’re contemplating our next moves. Will we finally be lured north, not to a country house but a house in town, a primary residence, in a place we can actually afford? Stay tuned. We were pondering this on the way home, looking up at the darkening sky, when this magnificent pink hole opened up in the middle of the clouds, a bit of ghostly, iridescent light to help guide us home. It’s a sign, we said. Although of what, we still don’t know.

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