Taft Street Tours | A Guide to the Eclectic, High Falls NY
by Dylan Taft
on Wednesday, March 16th, 2016 at 3:41pm.
High Falls, located roughly 90 miles north of New York City in scenic Ulster County is a small, colorful hamlet straddling two awesome towns, Marbletown and Rosendale (as seen on the map below). Although very tiny in stature, this hotspot comes with some fairly deep historical roots. The past few years have seen the hamlet of High Falls as a stand out in the local real estate market, with lots of new faces being drawn to this postage stamp sized hamlet. The area's eclectic character welcomes many city dwellers who are looking to break out of the concrete jungle to a more serene, calming, but still totally hip location.
The hamlet of High Falls is pretty small and quiet, despite it’s wildly growing popularity, making it the perfect place to get away from it all, without feeling like you’ve put yourself in the middle of nowhere. The historic stone buildings, cute specialty shops and quaint cafes in the center of the hamlet feel as if they are welcoming you home. Neighboring hamlets of Accord and Stone Ridge extend this welcome and also have similar characteristics and vibes about them. While Stone Ridge offers a little more prestige, High Falls makes up for it by having super convenient access to the Rondout Creek and other natural attractions like the Mohonk Preserve and Minnewaska State Park. The gorgeously picturesque Clove Road connects High Falls out to the New Paltz and Gardiner area, following the Shawangunk Ridge, up into the Mohonk Preserve where there are an abundance of hiking trails, swimming holes and other outdoor activities to partake in. With an interesting history, some great unique eateries, beautiful scenery and links to many outdoor activities, High Falls will keep you busy.
Living in High Falls (or visiting!) is an experience. Once as you’re there, you’ll understand why so many people have such big feelings about this little hamlet. But why should you come to High Falls? Let us take you on a little Taft Street Tour to explore what makes this area a must see!
High Falls in the History Books
If you want to understand High Falls, you should start at the beginning- well, at least a few hundred years should do. In the early stages of the Industrial Revolution, a new means of cost effective and rapid transportation was necessary to be able to transport raw goods (predominantly coal and other fuels) across the country. Pennsylvania coal mines sought an economical way to move their coal to the east coast, avoiding the Port of Philadelphia, but still by using existing waterways and thus, the Delaware and Hudson Canal was created.
The D&H Canal was the first private million dollar enterprise in American history. When it was completed in 1828, the 108 mile long canal, containing 108 locks, could transport large amounts of anthracite coal from Honesdale, Pennsylvania to the deep water port of Kingston, New York in only 7 to 10 days (making it much more efficient than other available means of the time). However, as the Industrial Revolution came into full swing, the canal quickly became obsolete thanks to rapid technological advances and specifically, the modern steam engine. Presently, much of the canal has been drained and filled in, but you can still explore some of the locks in High Falls and learn more about the canal and it’s history at the D&H Canal Museum (although be on the lookout- the museum is soon set to move to the former Depuy Canal House in the near future!).
High Fall’s other parent town, Rosendale, also has a large, yet to some degree unknown claim to fame. In the early 19th century a naturally occurring cement was discovered and mined in the town from deposits of dolostone rock. Because this newfound natural cement was more durable than any other of its kind, the cement mined in Rosendale was used to construct some of the most well known American landmarks in recent history, including the Brooklyn Bridge, the base of the Statue of Liberty, the Capitol Building and various other buildings. In fact, this type of cement is commonly referred to as simply, Rosendale Cement, regardless of whether it was mined here or across the country. As time has passed and because of the lengthy, month long curing time required of Rosendale cement, it’s popularity has since declined, but you can still see much of the original cement plants preserved in the Snyder Estate Natural Historic District, also located in Rosendale.
The Good Eats
If the history of High Falls doesn’t suck you in, the food options surely will! High Falls is home to some unique eateries, offering a selection of uncommon, yet scrumptious dishes, being served in restaurants that are full of personality and charm. One such example is the Eggs Nest restaurant. The Eggs Nest, located in the heart of High Falls off Route 213, has been a culinary institution for 40 years. The restaurant, which was originally a church at the time it was built in the 1800s, is now one of the most well known restaurants in the area and is considered to be a “living canvas” by owner and artist Richard Murphy, who continues to put his artistic stamp on the building. The food itself is just as eclectic as the decor and contains a variety of different cuisines to fit all taste buds, all at super affordable prices. Much to the dismay of local residents, the Eggs Nest shuttered their doors earlier this summer as Murphy transitioned into his next project: retirement. But luckily, the withdrawals won't last that long- the restaurant sold in November and new owners plan on reopening doors in the spring of 2017 and keeping all of Murphy's eclectic artwork, in addition to the existing menu and the name!
The Depuy Canal House was another popular High Falls restaurant, housed in a 1700’s era stone building, but it looks like some new beginnings are on the horizon for this cornerstone. Chef and owner John Novi, who won multiple awards from Time Magazine and Food Network in the late 1980s and 1990s titling him the “Father of American Eclectic Cooking,” has been at the helm of the Depuy Canal House restaurant since the late 1960’s. In December 2015, the Canal House was purchased by the D&H Canal Historical Society and the building will soon become the home of the D&H Canal Museum, leaving the fate of John Novi’s restaurant up in the air at the moment. Big changes are coming and we are excited to see them come to fruition! ** As of late 2016, it appears that the Depuy Canal House is now a registered National Historic Landmark, thanks to chef John Novi. Current plans seek to have the kitchen reopened as the new museum's restaurant kitchen, among other big plans for the site as a whole!
If you’re looking for a quick bite to eat for breakfast or lunch, but refuse to hit up the drive thru of a typical fast food joint, there’s no better place than The Last Bite, located right off Main Street, next to the Post Office. This quirky little cafe is raved over by locals (ourselves included- check out our review of The Last Bite, previously featured on the blog) who are looking for some great homecooked food at a steal of price. Stop in for a coffee and breakfast sandwich to see what all the hype is about! Or, if you’re feeling ambitious and want to show off your own chef skills at home, High Falls is a great location to make sure your pantry is stocked with the freshest local ingredients. The High Falls Co-Op is located on Route 213 and is a year round grocer selling only local products, grown within 50 miles of High Falls.
High Falls is also home to some great cafes, kitchenettes and places to stop in for an affordable and delicious meal, with that eclectic menu that High Falls restaurants seem to be known for. The High Falls Cafe, Hopped Up Cafe, and Kitchenette are just some of those popular lunch time destinations. It’s only a short drive into some neighboring towns to get even more culinary options- Rosendale is home to the 1850’s Inn and Tavern, Bywater Bistro, and Red Brick Tavern just to name a few and driving just a bit further extends those dining options exponentially. The neighboring hamlet of Stone Ridge has some great culinary options to explore as well that will suit anyone’s tastes and cravings. The Roost offers up homemade American comfort foods, or if you’re feeling more adventurous, stop by Momiji Sushi and Grill for great fresh Japanese delicacies. If you’re on the run, Bodacious Bagels in Stone Ridge whips up homemade bagels daily and Davenport’s farmstand has some great, healthy on-the-go lunch options.
Welcome to the Great Outdoors
High Falls is a dream for those seeking an active outdoor lifestyle. You are only minutes away from some of the best hiking trails and rock climbing in the area at Mohonk Preserve and Minnewaska State Park. If you’re seeking a truly different and challenging hiking experience, check out the Lemon Squeeze at Mohonk. The trail snakes through mountains of massive boulders, but we will admit that this trail is not for the claustrophobic- in some areas you are literally (and aptly named) squeezed between massive boulders or have to scale ladders to make your way up a fallen rock cliff face. If you can make it through the trail though, you’re rewarded with the most stunning view from the mountain top.
If climbing fallen rocks seems to be a bit much for you, High Falls has other, less extreme paths for you to tread. Instead, try the more leisurely half mile walk along the Five Lock Walk to tour what remains of the refurbished historic D&H Canal. The Marbletown O&W Rail Trail also crosses through the center of High Falls as it stretches from neighboring Stone Ridge into Kingston. Walk in history’s footsteps as you stroll down the path of the once great Ontario & Western Railroad, which replaced the D&H Canal as the popular means of transportation in the area in the early 1900s.
If you’re drawn to water, High Falls will not let you down. The Rondout Creek serves as the northern boundary line of the hamlet and was the historical lifeblood of the community in the early 1800’s. Today, you can take advantage of the same clear, flowing waters at some of the best swimming holes in Ulster County. Located directly in the center of town (across from the Post Office and The Last Bite Cafe) is the High Falls waterfall. While swimming at the waterfall itself is not permitted, there are areas downstream where you can cool off and take a dip.
A short drive down the beautifully scenic Clove Road will lead you to the Gunks and to Mohonk to your next watering hole. Split rock, located off the Coxing Trailhead parking lot in the Mohonk Preserve, is a great place to pack a picnic lunch, cool off in the natural pools and spend a day sunning yourself on the giant rocks surrounding the Coxing Kill stream (which flow from the mountain back down into High Falls where it meets the Rondout Creek).
If you’re drawn in by all the great access to these outdoor activities, then High Falls may be the perfect place for your home base. Newly listed 2426 Lucas Turnpike is a gem of a home; private with beautiful mountain views yet also minutes from the shops and restaurants at the heart of High Falls. The large expansive decks allow you to watch the sunrise over the Mohonk Tower, and it’s the perfect location to marvel at the 4th of July fireworks from the privacy of your own deck. In the chilly New York winter months, cozy up to the grand stone fireplace inside. This sun-filled country cape on almost 5 acres of enchanting woodland will not disappoint and direct cleared access to the local rail trail makes this home a perfect location for hikers, bikers and dog lovers. You can get more details about this home here: MLS # 20160915
More Places To See and Things Do in High Falls
High Falls is a great place to explore because of it’s unique and artful town vibe. Every Sunday from April to October, High Falls hosts a Flea Market in the town center, where vendors offer an ever changing selection of antiques, art, collectables and handmade treasures. Once a year, High Falls also plays host to a major, more modern arts and crafts fair called Field and Supply. Held at Black Barn’s field, this new mix of modern crafts and antique fair has achieved lots of positive press in the New York Times, Vogue and other major publications since it’s inception in 2014 and is set to return to High Falls this autumn once again! More details and exhibitor information will be released on their website, Field + Barn, as the event weekend nears.
Farmers markets are also quite popular within the areas surrounding High Falls (New Paltz and Rosendale have weekly farmers markets in town centers, aside from always being able to stop at your favorite local farms and get your products direct). As we mentioned earlier, The High Falls Co-Op is also a great one-stop shopping location to get all your favorite local fares for your home pantry.
Of course there are many farms in and around High Falls where you can pick-your-own and enjoy their locally grown products year round. Mr. Apples is a small, non-commercial, pick-your-own apple orchard that prides itself on being low pesticide/low spray. You can pick your own apples until mid November, but the orchard is open year round. Saunderskill Farm, in neighboring Accord,NY, has a variety of homegrown fruits and vegetables and has an extensive market (closed for the season until April) with products featuring their produce and other goodies. They also have a large greenhouse with all the seasonal flowers, wreaths and plants you could desire. If you’re interested in checking out more local farmers markets (and there are numerous here in Ulster County), check out some of our past blogs to see more spots to go!
The hamlet of High Falls is also home to some one-of-a-kind specialty shops featuring hard to find goods. Shops like Nectar, the Kaete Brittin Shaw Pottery Showroom,Fred, and Green Cottage all contain high quality and artisan goods that you won’t be able to find at any mall. The Green Cottage is a well known shop and florist whose store will wow and amaze your senses with jewelry, gifts and fresh fragrant blooms. Just across the street from the Green Cottage is the Wired Gallery, another popular destination within High Falls. This art gallery showcases the pieces of many Mid-Hudson Valley artists, (in their physical gallery, online gallery and also in connection with other exhibitions located throughout the county) with a focus specifically on Ulster County artist’s work. This year, the gallery will be opening up on April 9th to showcase a selection of work from the artists in the historic Shirt Factory located in Kingston, NY.
Despite it’s small size, High Falls has a ton of character. From its specialty restaurants and shops, it’s stunning scenery, ideal location and abundance of outdoor and aquatic activities, High Falls does not disappoint. If you’re interested in seeing all that High Falls has to offer, take a short drive (or train or bus) 90 miles up from New York City to feel like you are miles away from the ordinary.
Thinking about relocating to the beautiful High Falls? Taft Street Realty consists of local area residents and expert Ulster County NY real estate advisors who can help guide you through your home search until you find the house that's just right for you! Call us at your convenience at 845-687-9292 to start your search!