Now that you know how the Balsam came to be – a few words about Livingston Manor.
THE DARLING OF UPSTATE RENAISSANCE
The Manor: Think rusticity combined with sophistication, hikes and yoga, blissful remoteness and craft beer. Fly-fishers have long valued the local rivers, but the word is now out for a much wider variety of both visitors and permanent transplants, as per the steady drumbeat of articles in New York Times, Travel and Leisure and Financial Times, to name a few.
A RICH HISTORY
As with many towns that have “arrived”, the history is interesting and varied. Originally called Purvis, the tiny settlement changed its name to Livingston Manor in the late 1880s. Or we should rather say the Manor, the locals’ affectionate moniker for the hamlet. But besides affectionate it has also been resilient, tough, no-nonsense.
It had to be. The town welcome sign as you exit route 17 — “Small Town, Big Backyard” — captures the ethos well. Its 1,221 inhabitants by last count are indeed surrounded by thousands of acres of pristine Catskills wilderness, with uninterrupted vistas and hundreds of lakes and streams. And water played an important role in the Manor’s history, good and not so good, with the latter being periodic floods. Every decade or so Main Street would turn into a river, washing away much of what has been created and built since the last deluge. Hardy locals, many multi-generational families, simply learned to live with it.
More recently, right after the financial crisis in 2008/2009 much of Main Street found itself boarded up, courtesy of financial problems of a Wall St currency trader who first purchased multiple buildings here, only to fall behind on mortgage payments and taxes, with the buildings ending in foreclosure. In the process his troubles shook up the entire financial system of New Zealand but that’s another story. And about two years later The Lazy Beagle, a hip restaurant just off of Main Street, blew up at night due to a propane leak.
A BLOSSOMING PRESENT
That is roughly when your correspondent bought a house nearby and fell madly in love with the region. And what a transformation he has seen! The rapid revitalization of the Manor and its surroundings is as unrelated to his arrival as it is profound. It started with the Army Corps of Engineers putting in place effective flood mitigation measures, forever saving the hamlet from its regular washouts, thereby making investment in the area an entirely different proposition. Soon Main Street Farm store and café opened, serving farm-to table deliciousness. Shortly thereafter the Catskill Brewery started attracting beer-heads from far and wide due to its regularly award-winning craft brews. A slew of other businesses followed: you can eat at The Kaatskeller, Smoke Joint, the Walk-In, Brandenburg bakery (now renamed Neon Croissant) or Ba & Me; Upward Brewery is now rivaling its earlier neighbor in the number of medals it captures annually for its ales; you can visit Nest or Homestedt for boutique items for your home upstate or in the City; or you can visit the Catskill Art Society for first-rate programming ranging from exhibits to performances.
AND AN INSPIRED FUTURE
With a new business or eatery opening every time you visit this trend is here to stay and evolve forever. And we haven’t even mentioned other local hotspots such as Roscoe, Callicoon and Narrowsburg, creating true buzz in Western Catskills. More about those in future postings. So come here and be a part of the ride, it’s good for the soul and it’s also simply fun. See you around somewhere on Main St, a mere 10 minutes from a house in The Catskill Project. I am heading for a grass-fed burger and an IPA myself.