If you’re looking for a great place to live, you may want to consider one of upstate New York’s quaintest towns: Goshen. Named after the Old Testament “land of plenty,” the town of Goshen is in Orange County, fifty-some miles from New York City. Its 44 square miles of rolling hills and farmland are populated by 8,200 people. Its name was in reference to the fertile land in Old Testament Palestine. The Goshen area is still a farming community, with horse farms, dairy farms and onion fields accenting its green rolling hills. It was the first dairy center to ship milk to New York City, and Goshen butter was famous in the late 1800s.
Central to its success as a farming region is the area’s rich soil, or black dirt. This soft, black and loamy land is perfect for growing onions, and Goshen grows them by the ton. It seems this “dirt” contains high amounts of sulfur, and is rich in pyruvic acid, the chemical responsible for the onion’s pungent aroma. Those medium sized yellow onions you see on your grocer’s shelves are most likely an example of Goshen’s most important agricultural commodity.
The town of Goshen contains a village, also called Goshen, which is the Orange County seat. The village is quaint and cute, right out of a Currier and Ives painting. It’s a throwback to the days when “upstate” meant cows and contentment. But the larger town of Goshen is a thriving community, with a busy Chamber of Commerce and many unique and unusual features.
Goshen’s main claim to history is its association with harness racing. Known as the “Cradle of the Trotter,” the Goshen area was once the home to the most important harness-racing tracks in the country. This history is preserved in Goshen’s Harness Racing Museum and Hall of Fame. An integral member of American harness racing is the horse Hambletonian, which was born in nearby Sugarloaf and is buried in Goshen. Known as the greatest trotter to never run a race, Hambletonian was a sought-after stud horse, siring 1,331 foals in 24 years, many of whom went on to become champion trotters. Hambletonian’s bloodline has now virtually eliminated all other horse families in the sport.
Harness racing is still a popular sport in the area. The Fourth of July “Great American Weekend” celebrates with harness racing, concerts and sidewalk sales. Another notable event is the Orange County Fair at the nearby Middletown Fairgrounds in late July.Goshen was founded before the Revolutionary War, and a home from that era still stands in the town. The Bull Stone House was built in 1722 by by William Bull and his wife Sarah. Theirs was the first recorded marriage in Goshen in 1719. Today the home is a living museum, on the National Register of Historic Places. The home offers tours to groups and families, and holds an annual reunion attended by upwards of 300 Bull family members.
Things to do
The biggest event in Goshen’s annual calendar is its Great American Weekend, arguably upstate’s best Fourth of July celebration. This year is its 32nd annual, held on Saturday and Sunday, July 6 and 7. The event annually attracts upwards of 20,000 people each day to roam the nine acre village green under the towering spire of the historic Presbyterian Church. Visitors sample food and drink from local vendors, visit 150 or so artisan’s and vendor’s booths, and enjoy entertainment from a variety of local performers.
When it’s not the Fourth of July, there’s still plenty to do in and around Goshen. The Farmers Market is open at the end of May and stays open weekends throughout the summer and fall, offering loads of local seasonal produce and foods. Goshen is near many of the upstate wineries, which offer tours, tastings, live entertainment and locally produced gourmet food and wines.
Nearby Sugar Loaf is a popular weekend stop for visitors and residents. The village is home to a large community of artisans and craftspeople who sell their creations in shops and stands throughout the quaint village. Also nearby is the Woodbury Commons Designer Outlet, the world-famous home to over 200 designer retail stores. Also worth the short trip is the town of Newburgh, if for no other reason than the gourmet restaurants that have popped up on its newly re-invigorated waterfront walk.
Goshen is surrounded by woods and parklands amongst the farms. Hunting, fishing, hiking and cycling are popular activities among the many who visit year around. The Thomas Bull Memorial Park has tubing, skiing and other winter sports, and has a large arboretum. For the fully natural experience, Goose Pond Mountain State Park is a 1,500 acre reserve that is completely undeveloped (including no toilets!). Hikers and mountain bikers can take numerous trails in this sparsely populated area and see local flora and fauna in their natural habitat. For aquatic enthusiasts, Tomahawk Lake is just eight miles east of Goshen, and provides boating, swimming and fishing. There are numerous streams in the area for fishing and hiking.
The Goshen Central School District covers the village and most of the town, as well as parts of the towns of Hamptonburgh and Wallkill. It has about 3,000 students in four schools: Scotchtown Avenue Elementary School for kindergarten through Grade 2; Goshen Intermediate School for Grades 3 through 5; C. J. Hooker Middle School for Grades 6 through 8; and Goshen High School, which serves 955 students in Grades 9 through 12.
Goshen is about 50 miles from Manhattan by car. Those with jobs in New York, or White Plains in Westchester (50 miles to the south and east), are close enough for daily commuting. By car, it’s minutes to Hwy. 17, the main arterial highway to the Thruway (Hwy. 87).
Coach USA/Short Line buses depart from three locations in Goshen and arrive at the Port Authority Bus Terminal in Manhattan up to 90 minutes later, with a 7 a.m. commuter bus leaving Matthew Street Park and arriving at 42nd Street by 8:15.Goshen is only 16 miles from Stewart International Airport in the towns of Newburgh and New Windsor. These days even travelers en route overseas have the option of using it — and thereby avoiding the congested highways leading to Kennedy or La Guardia airports in Queens or Liberty International in Newark.