Village Living: Second Home Delights

By: 2ndhome Journal

If you long for life at a slower pace, where friendly neighbors interact against a backdrop of classic village settings, we have some suggestions about places to visit and perhaps to live. Our review of great vacation and second home spots ranges from western Massachusetts, to the shores of Lake Champlain in Vermont and New York, the Upper Valley of New Hampshire to the Rhode Island seashore. We'll begin our tour in the Berkshire Mountains of western Massachusetts.

Stockbridge, Massachusetts
Stockbridge is a small village nestled in a quiet valley, in the heart of the rolling hills of the Berkshires. Its sun-dappled streets and classic architecture have made it emblematic of the quaint New England village. It is fitting that one of the artistic chroniclers of life in Stockbridge was Norman Rockwell, whose romantic portrayal of small town life evokes a simpler time, unhurried and neighborly.

The small-town center seems a Rockwell painting come to life. With small, locally owned shops, tidy, wide streets and sidewalks, kids on bikes, beautiful churches, and numerous examples of well maintained and diverse New England architecture, Stockbridge offers a welcomed respite from the hurried pace of 21st century America.

The Berkshire hills that surround Stockbridge offer a wide variety of four season activities. There are more than 90,000 acres of recreational land, over 90 lakes and ponds, parks, golf courses and ski areas. Cultural touchstones of Stockbridge include the world-renowned Tanglewood Music Festival and the Berkshire Theatre Festival.

While home prices in the area are relatively high, there are still some bargains available from time to time. Visit the Massachusetts 2ndhome State Page at

The next two towns on our tour of villages and village life in the Northeast share a special connection, even though they are in different states. Essex, New York and Charlotte, Vermont are separated, some say joined, by a 20 minute ferry ride across beautiful Lake Champlain.

Charlotte, Vermont
The Town of Charlotte sits on a series of hills and ridges overlooking Lake Champlain, about ten miles south of the bustling city of Burlington. Vermont Magazine has said '...This is a town dominated by rural landscapes, by farmland, hills, and orchards; it is also - quietly, to be sure - part and parcel of Vermont's Gold Coast.'

Charlotte is a town with multiple attractions. It's close enough to Burlington to access great shopping, dining and nightlife, yet it is a bucolic, pastoral place possessed of a strong sense of community spirit, manifested by a commitment to excellent schools, a new town hall, and a great local gathering spot, the Old Brick Store. Its residents bridge the spectrum between multi-generational farmers, artists, writers and professionals of all stripes.

Charlotte has been a rural escape for second homeowners for many years. It's comprised of several villages, including East Charlotte and Thompson's Point, a largely summer community. Visit the Vermont 2ndhome State Page at

Essex, New York
Essex is located on the shores of Lake Champlain and in the foothills of the Adirondack Mountains. It is sometimes referred to as New York's most historic hamlet. Why this designation? Among other reasons, Essex has one of the finest collections of pre-Civil War architecture in the country. Framed by a beautiful lakefront and New York's majestic Adirondacks, Essex has welcomed visitors and second homeowners for many years. Another special feature of this charming place is that across the blue waters of Lake Champlain lies the vista of Vermont's Green Mountains.

There are many four-season activities available in and around the town, including first class trout fishing on the Boquet or Salmon Rivers or on the broad, deep waters of Lake Champlain. Biking, canoeing and kayaking, hiking and birding are popular in spring summer and fall. And of course sailing and power boating on Lake Champlain are some of the best to be found in the Northeast. There are many high mountain peaks, trails, rivers and streams within a half hour of the village. The closest hiking trails are in nearby Split Rock Reserve, a 3000-acre tract where numerous trails hug the shore of Lake Champlain. Golfers will find 10 challenging courses within a half hours drive. Summer theatre, concerts and special events round out the warm weather activity list. Winter activities include great backcountry and downhill skiing, or for the more adventurous, ice climbing. Visit the New York 2ndhome State Page at

Lebanon, New Hampshire
In the heart of an area referred to by locals as the Upper Valley, Lebanon is located about mid way up the State of New Hampshire.

The town is laid out in the traditional New England fashion, with a two-acre square, with a band shell at the center. The square is fronted on by a collection of impressive traditional civic buildings with handsome facades, including the town hall, a library and a wonderful gem, the Lebanon Opera House. It's an 880-seat facility with superb acoustics and is the largest proscenium theater in the Upper Valley. After more than eighty years of presenting quality musical and theatrical performances, the Opera House remains a key component of the cultural life in and around Lebanon.

Lebanon is just a short drive south of Hanover, the home of Dartmouth College, which offers many year round cultural events in the multi performance hall venue of the Hopkins Center. Films, musicals and dramatic productions, including opera, are staged throughout the year.

Much of the housing stock in the historic district is comprised of stately Colonial, Federal and Victorian style homes, a legacy of the wealth of mill owners of the 19th century. The town has ranked highly, (often in the top four), in Prentice Hall's '100 Best Small Towns in America', a guide to the communities that offer the best in small town living. It mingles the quiet of small town rural life with cultural opportunities not commonly associated with rural life.

Outside the historic district, a wide variety of housing can be found in the area, from 18th century farmhouses, to ranch-style homes and increasingly, high-quality modular homes, in many traditional and contemporary designs.

In short, if you are looking for a second home, Lebanon and the surrounding area offers a unique blend of rural lifestyle and urban amenities. Visit the New Hampshire 2ndhome State Page at

Narragansett, Rhode Island
The town of Narragansett hugs the Atlantic Ocean along 26 miles of shoreline (including Pettasquamscutt Cove and Narrow River). This long and varied shoreline has drawn New Englanders to second homes in the summer since the early 1900's. During the summer season, the population triples. The year round population has also been growing in recent years.

A principal attraction for these seasonal residents is easy access to miles of varied beaches. The busiest is the Narragansett Town Beach, right in the center of town. Known for quality surf, it has been described as one of the top surfing destinations in the country. Nearby Scarborough State Beach, which is more than a mile long, has fewer undertows and a more gradual slope than the town beach and is the choice of many area families. Roger Wheeler Beach, fronting on the harbor, is well protected and is best suited for small children. Salty Brine State Beach is a small crescent of sand that abuts the nearby port town of Galilee, where many sightseeing, whale watching and fishing boats lie at anchor, plus the ferry to Block Island, which lies12 miles offshore.

In the middle of Narragansett, there is a stunning parallel pair of stone arches spanning Ocean Road, anchored on either side by curved towers. The Towers are what remains of the Narragansett Pier Casino that once stood on the site. Designed in 1883 by the renowned architect Stanford White, the 3-story granite Towers, topped by conical roofs, are connected by one long gallery room. Sadly, the main Casino building burned in 1900. The light-filled, 130-foot long Great Hall, built with fieldstone walls, with windows on three sides, still offers a spectacular vantage point to take in the views of the Atlantic and suggests the beauty and opulence of the long vanished Casino.

If you want to find a great seasonal home, Narragansett offers many styles of existing homes and cottages, including new construction, single-family homes, condominiums and adult living communities, plus land, waterfront properties and multi-family investment properties. The surrounding areas offer a wide choice of lifestyles, from summer cottages to grand oceanfront estates, including old New England farmsteads and other country properties.

In upcoming issues of 2ndhome® Journal, we'll continue our coverage of New England villages where many second home owners have happily
settled.

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