A lot of Upstate weekend visitors overlook Kingston, the Ulster County seat and one time capital of New York State. Granted, many parts of Kingston don’t have that immediate postcard-worthy charm of smaller Upstate towns, especially if you’re coming to Kingston to do your shopping at one of the big box retailers or the mall.
The suburban sprawl you find once you leave Kingston’s lovely downtown area (more on that in a second) probably isn’t going to win any converts, but if you do end up moving Upstate, and you’re not planning on becoming a homesteader, you may find you want to be within a close driver of the bog boxes as you’ll eventually end up in need of them from time to time. (On a related note, I don’t think I could overpraise Kingston’s superb local supermarket, Adams Fairacre Farms on the 9W strip. Stocked full of local produce and products at very competitive prices, it also has suburban-sized wide aisles, a great garden center and amazing selection. For Adams alone, Kingston is worth a second look.)
Founded 1661 and once a booming port town, Kingston’s has maintained much of its historic home stock in well-preserved historically protected districts. Because it’s an actual city (population 23,000, though the larger metro area counts 177,000), the center of Kingston has distinct, walkable neighborhoods with local businesses, restaurants, galleries and cafes. The newly fashionable Uptown/Stockade neighborhood is home to Fleishers, the celebrated butcher shop, as well as a burgeoning arts community. You’ll also find a relatively large quantity of seventeenth-and-eighteen-century stone buildings. The Downtown/Rondout neighborhood, located on the shore of the Rondout Creek, long been favored by artists, city refugees and second homeowners. Like Uptown Kingston, it’s full of historic homes, but has the added benefit of waterfront property and all the good stuff that comes with it.
As a “West Side” town, Kingston doesn’t have it’s own train stop, but it is just across the river from the Amtrak stop in Rhinecliff, via the aptly named Kingston-Rhinecliff bridge. It’s right off of Exit 19 on the thruway and buses regularly run from Port Authority to Kingston. It’s a little over a two hour trip, both by bus or car. In sum, Kingston is a lot more accessible than other West Side towns we’ve covered, but you’re not going to find rolling green acreage here or expansive country views. Kingston is a better option for those who want small-scale Upstate living but aren’t looking for deep country.
Home sales in Kingston are down compared to the pre-housing bust levels, but rose noticeably from 2008 to 2009, and then at more modest rates from 2009 to 2010. As this helpful Kingston real estate blog points out, many home buyers in Kingston are first-time, primary residence home buyers who benefited from last year’s home buyer tax credit, thus home sales may dip again this year. The median home price last year, $157,500, remains below the the 2007 peak of $190,000, and it doesn’t appear that it will go up much in 2011.