Weekend Escape: Hillsdale, N.Y.

  |  May 31, 2011

A tiny house in Hillsdale NeighborsWe’re very lucky to have friends with a house in the Hillsdale Neighbors development in Hillsdale, N.Y. The 130-acre property, shared among 13-families, is the rare combo of community and privacy–your own country house and land, plus a communal pond, tennis courts, nature walks. (Check out the NY Times article about it here.)  More a compound for Upper West Side literati, artists and academics than a bungalow colony, it has individually architect-designed large private homes, all spaced very far from each other.

The place was started in 1971, when the land was purchased for $80,000 and subdivided in a very special way–everyone owns their houses outright, but the land is owned communally. The founders managed to convince those in town wielding the red tape to allow them to parcel out the land this way, something harder to do in today’s world of strict zoning policies. Probably the closest to a modern version is “cluster zoning,” which allows higher density in some parts of subdivisions in exchange for keeping large parts of the land forever free of development. Hillsdale Neighbors is a wonderful model of country house development, something I hope others can figure out how to replicate (12 interested families, please contact me!).

Their configuration sometimes adds a few problems to paradise–a little like dealing with a co-op board far out in the country (minutes to past neighborhood association meetings are available here. It includes some amazing photography by our friend Bruno, who also runs the site.). But I’ve been here many times, and have only experienced the good–folks stopping by for dinner, but otherwise keeping to themselves. We looked at a home for sale last year–a three-bed, tree house-like place asking, and apparently getting, $295,000. Many folks in the community were surprised that it could fetch that much, especially during the downturn, but the specialness of the community, and the fact that you can rent it out during ski season, apparently made it worth it.

If you’re considering Hillsdale for a country home, see our Towns page for its pros and cons.

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