The Village of Millbrook in the town of Washington in Dutchess County is often referred to as the “low-key” version of Hamptons. It’s located north and east of Poughkeepsie, NY, about an hour and a half drive from midtown Manhattan, and is one of the most affluent towns in New York State.
The village is home to a surprising number of “A” list celebrities. Mixed in are everyday people working on farms and in businesses that support this trendy, tiny community. Most of the celebs, the likes of Liam Neeson, Jessica Lang and Rick Okasec, are weekenders who own secluded estates and properties. But unlike the Hamptons, the object here is to get away, unwind, and decompress with no need to be seen. The area is popular also for its spectacular views and its variety and quality of outdoor recreation, including hiking, biking, fishing, hunting, or shooting on one of it’s many hunting clubs.
Real estate in the Millbrook area is equally diverse price-wise, but skews toward the high end of the scale due to the many extremely high priced listings available. While a small village cottage may be available for around $180,000, the $25 million country manor, which may have a pool, spa, stables and riding track, sporting range, ice rink, motocross track, indoor basketball court and/or a movie theater, moves the average price of a home toward the upper end of the scale. Of the 26 listings currently for sale at the time of this writing, only ten were under $1 million.
The quintessential small upstate town, Millbrook is a delightful mix of the fabulous and the familiar. You can go to Marona’s Market the main food store on Franklin Avenue and find both Kraft Velveeta and twenty dollar a pound artisanal cheese locally produced at the Chisholm Family Farm Creamery on the same shelf. Get a burger at the Millbrook Diner, or savor organic sliders at one of the village’s pricey restaurants. Go to the drugstore and get a $16 Hello Kitty plush toy, or pick up a tiny pewter cat for $200 at a chi chi boutique.
Milbrook was settled by Quakers around the mid-eighteenth century as two settlements. Hart’s Village was centered around a grist mill on the east branch of the Wappinger Creek. The building still stands today but has been converted into apartments. The other development was the hamlet of Mechanic, now South Millbrook. The town of Washington was originally the Charlotte Precinct prior to the Revolutionary War. Today’s Millbrook was laid out by Issac Merrit shortly after the Dutchess and Columbia railroad train station was built in 1870.
Culture and Recreation
Part of Millbrook’s appeal to weekenders is the wide variety of quality cultural entertainment nearby. Residents can see live opera a the Bardavon Opera House in Poughkeepsie, enjoy dance, music and theater at the Center for Performing Arts at Rhinebeck and the Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts at Bard College, or take in a play at the Sharon Playhouse in Sharon, Conn.
Visitors can can ride horses, compete in equestrian events, join the Mashomack Polo Club, or shoot sporting clays at the Orvis Sandanona Shooting Grounds, the oldest permitted shotgun shooting club in the US dating back to Thomas Jefferson’s presidency. Just down the road is the Millbrook Hunt. Founded in the 1890’s, it is one of the premier equestrian organizations in the US and has been a fixture in Millbrook for over 100 years. The Hunt sponsors equestrian-related events, including trail rides, hunter paces, hunter trials and hound and puppy shows, many of which are open to the entire community. Just a few miles away, in the town of Dover, is Dover Furnace. A unique sporting clays experience awaits the avid sportsman with 22 sporting clay stations, four FITASC fields, trap and skeet 5-stand, and upland bird hunting. A little further away is the Mashomack Fish and Game Preserve Club, a 1,900-acre private sporting preserve and social club located in Pine Plains, N.Y. Also within easy reach is the prestigious Pawling Mountain Club, and Ten-Mile River Preserve, with 3,000 acres of hunting, fishing & more! With over 200 acres of lakes, and 3.5 miles of the Ten Mile River flowing through its grounds, the club is a paradise for upland bird hunters, wild hunters and fly-fishermen. Millbrook Golf and Tennis Club has a private non-equity nine hole course, with tennis courts, a restaurant and catering hall and pro shop. Golfers can also play Overlook Golf and Recreation Center, just down Hwy. 44, or the McCann Golf Course, and the Casperkill Golf Club near Poughkeepsie. Just south of Millbrook, play The Links at Union Vale, and near Hopewell Junction try the Beekman Country Club.
Shopping and Dining
The Millbrook area offers a fabulous variety of restaurants, from hot dogs to haute cuisine. Perhaps one of the most popular restaurants in Millbrook is the inauspiciously named Millbrook Cafe. The cafe has been serving American, Belgian and Mediterranean cuisines to rich and famous visitors and residents alike for over twenty years. Many of its dishes including boneless trout and lamb chops are cooked in their wood-fired oven. At this cozy cafe, dinner is always followed by a complimentary chocolate fondue over cookies and fresh fruit.
Charlotte’s on Rt. 44 often has them waiting in line for the American and French cuisine they serve. In summer, the chef fires up an outdoor stone barbecue and grills your dinner before your eyes. In winter, patrons can warm their outsides by the roaring fire in the Tap Room, and their insides with Charlotte’s large selection of beers and liquors, including locally produced ales and bourbons. Hand crafted America bourbon and rye is made year around at Millbrook Distillery where its subtle and sophisticated spirits are crafted in small batches using only the finest ingredients including natural spring water from local farms. The Millbrook Wine and Vinyard is also open all year, sampling and selling their locally produced wines and ciders.
Of course, if it’s New York, there has to be Italian. Aurelia fits the bill on Franklin Avenue. Recommended for a leisurely lunch are any of Aurelia’s salads, grilled paninis, and a delicious house-made hummus. Dinner is Italian with a Mediterranean spin – roasted chicken with mushrooms and polenta; salmon with roasted red peppers and potato-leek hash, and marinated hanger steak with winter vegetables and potatoes are perennial favorites. Enjoy it on the patio when weather permits, or by the roaring fireplace in the dining room when it doesn’t.
Shopping in Millbrook is retail therapy at its finest. The village abounds with antique shops, high fashion jewelry at boutiques like the Manic Trout and classic American clothes at J. McLaughlin, and treasures at Uncle Al’s Thrift Shop. Gift shops and boutiques abound, selling handmade soaps and lotions, cards, gifts, and rare finds. The Arrowsmith Forge in nearby Mabbettsville produces interior metal furniture and ornamental iron for designers, architects and its discerning clients.
Dutchess Day School
Millbrook Central School District
Millbrook High School, New York
Saint Joseph’s Catholic School
Upton Lake Christan Academy
Cardinal Hayes School
Millbrook Community Preschool at Grace Church
Colleges in the general area:
Bard College (Annandale-on-Hudson)
Culinary Institute of America (Hyde Park)
Dutchess Community College (Poughkeepsie)
Marist College (Poughkeepsie)
Ridley-Lowell Business & Technical Institute (Poughkeepsie)
State University of New York at New Paltz
Vassar College (Poughkeepsie)
Transportation and Commuter Information
Millbrook is served by Dutchess LOOP’s route “D” bus. It is 90 minutes from New York City, via the Taconic State Parkway or the Metro-North Railroad, Eastern Line. The nearest station is in Poughkeepsie, about twenty minutes from Millbrook on Rte. 44.