Even with fashion, this Hudson River town puts art first.
By Todd Plummer
Photography by Julia Clark for THE MOUNTAINS
The town of beacon, NY is as historic as it gets in the Northeast. It has been a focal point of the region for centuries—as a logging, farming and hunting area in the 1680s (then known as the Rombout Patent), and then as a trading hub after several business ventures by one remarkable businesswoman Madame Brett—the OG girlboss?—created opportunities for trade in the early 1700s. Later, Mount Beacon played a major role in Gen. George Washington’s system of log and brush pyramids—beacons—atop the nearby mountains to alert local militia of British movements in the area.
The town also has deep fashion roots. By the 1800s, Beacon reinvented itself as a factory town, at one point boasting the title of “Hat Making Capital of New York,” with a dozen millinery factories operating at its peak (only Danbury, CT gave it a run for its money). But with the end of the Industrial Revolution, Beacon, like so many other towns, grew quiet. By the end of the 20th century, Beacon was a glorified ghost town, with a number of its large factory buildings lying empty. That’s when NYC city slickers started to move in. 2003 brought the opening of Dia Beacon, a sprawling contemporary museum which brought one of those abandoned factory buildings (Nabisco) back to life. First came the artists, then the collectors and before long, this once-forgotten town sprang back to life.
Weekdays are still a sleepy affair in town, but on weekends, all paths lead to the charming Main Street for gallery hopping and vintage shopping (Beacon easily has the best vintage shops in the region), where you’re as likely to bump into a big-time artist as you are a local farmer. With the warmer months comes the town’s popular Second Saturday series, when Main Street’s shops stay open extra late, and downtown’s restaurants and bars vibrate with energy late into the night.
Beacon’s style is a study in contrasts where historic meets modern, and crunchy meets refined. Here, you’re as likely to see a person dressed in Patagonia as you are one in PUCCI. In a region where there’s no shortage of historic riverside towns, Beacon manages to stand out with an eclectic flavor all its own. Hats off to Beacon!