One afternoon a few years ago, Veronica Mcilraith and her husband, Chris Mcilraith, headed north for an afternoon of hiking outside the city. After they wound up spending more time sitting in traffic than walking in the woods, it wasn’t long before they decided they were ready to leave Manhattan.
“We wanted to be in nature,” Ms. Mcilraith said. “We wanted to step outside and be surrounded by trees.”
Town of Lewisboro
New York City
They found what they wanted in Lewisboro, N.Y., a 28-square-mile town in northern Westchester County, and bought a home there in March 2018. Ms. Mcilraith, 38, is an estate-planning lawyer with a home-based practice; Mr. Mcilraith, 47, is a certified financial planner and vice president at Brix Partners, near Grand Central Terminal.
They had begun their house hunt six months earlier from the co-op apartment they owned in the city. They started in Bedford Hills and Katonah because of those towns’ proximity to the Metro-North Railroad. But “everything in our price range was a fixer-upper,” Ms. Mcilraith said. “Then we discovered that Lewisboro offered more value.”
In April 2018, they moved into their 3,174-square-foot, four-bedroom colonial, built in 1986 on 3.68 acres, complete with a pool. They paid $685,000 for the house, which they now share with their 1-year-old daughter. They look forward to sending her to the town’s highly ranked schools.
And those trees: “Have you heard of forest bathing?” Ms. Mcilraith said. “That’s what it feels like every time I walk down our driveway.”
Lewisboro is more rural than suburban, with more than 4,000 acres of protected land. Its elongated shape, which has been likened to a boomerang, chevron, shotgun or candy cane, extends from Interstate 684 east and south to the Connecticut border. Its quiet roads, some unpaved, meander past horse farms, rocky outcroppings and wooded preserves, becoming hillier and narrower as they wind around seven bucolic lakes.
Ask some of the approximately 14,000 residents where they live, and they may not respond with Lewisboro, but with the (often more familiar) name of one of six hamlets within the town: Goldens Bridge, where the train station is; Cross River, home to the middle and high schools; South Salem, the historic and municipal center; Waccabuc, with its grand homes and designated historic district; the eponymous Lewisboro, bordering Ridgefield, Conn.; or Vista, a commercial hub at the southeastern end of town. Others may answer with the name of a lake community: Lake Kitchawan, Truesdale Lake, Lake Katonah, Waccabuc, Twin Lakes (encompassing Lakes Rippowam and Oscaleta) or the Colony (around Timber Lake).
The hamlets and lake communities offer neighbors a sense of connection, but Peter H. Parsons, Lewisboro’s supervisor, hopes to foster more townwide synergy. He said officials are formulating a new master plan with a goal of welcoming establishments that will draw people from across the hamlets. Recent rezoning, for instance, permits wineries, microbreweries and mini-distilleries — “exactly the kind of places that will help this town,” he said. “The aim is to change our zoning to allow for a broader community.”
What You’ll Find
Lewisboro has shopping plazas in Vista, Cross River and Goldens Bridge, each with a grocery store, pizzeria and other small businesses. Scattered throughout the town are 20 parks and preserves, including the northern quarter of the 4,315-acre, county-owned Ward Pound Ridge Reservation. The rest of Lewisboro is mostly residential, its housing a mix of colonials, some in subdivisions; ranches and raised ranches; lakefront homes, among them former summer-only cottages; antiques dating to the 1700s; contemporary homes and country estates.
Lise Robertson, Lewisboro’s assessor, said the town has 4,038 single-family houses and roughly 70 two-family houses in a specially zoned section of Goldens Bridge. There are also two condominium complexes with 488 units, 40 designated as affordable, and one cooperative building with 48 one- and two-bedroom apartments. There are no rental buildings.
What You’ll Pay
Nancy LaCavalla, an agent at Ginnel Real Estate, said that before the outbreak of Covid-19 and the ensuing statewide prohibition of real estate showings and open houses, homes in Lewisboro started in the $200,000s and ran into the millions. Many of the higher-end properties are in Waccabuc; waterside homes in the lake communities were hovering around $1 million. As for sales, she said, “the sweet spot has been between $600,000 and $800,000.”
Susan Stillman, an associate broker at Houlihan Lawrence, said prices had been stable and activity had been picking up over the past year: “We were seeing a slight uptick, with an increase in demand — and occasionally multiple bids — for lakefront houses.”
Then came the pandemic. A consequence has been a rise in the number of rentals. Along with properties that were already on the rental market, some are houses that were previously for sale, while others are furnished second homes whose owners are staying put elsewhere.
Anxious renters are basing their decisions on high-resolution photos, video walk-throughs and drone footage. “Short-term, long-term,” Ms. LaCavalla said, “people will take anything to move their families out of the city.”
Data from the Hudson Gateway Multiple Listing Service indicated that, as of March 20, there were 84 single-family homes on the market. They ranged from an 810-square-foot, two-bedroom colonial, built in 1956 on 0.11 acres near Lake Kitchawan and listed for $189,900, to a 1,400-square-foot, three-bedroom cottage, built in 2005 on a 62-acre equestrian estate, for $7.5 million. There were 11 condominiums on the market, from a 970-square-foot one-bedroom for $267,900 to a 2,967-square-foot three-bedroom for $995,000. Two cooperative apartments were for sale, both two-bedrooms, for $125,000.
The median sales price for a single-family home during the 12-month period ending March 20 was $615,000, down from $650,500 for the previous 12 months. For condominiums, the median was $365,000, up from $292,500 the previous 12 months, and for cooperatives, it was $95,000, up from $85,000 the previous 12 months.
Residents include young families moving from New York City and other parts of Westchester, as well as weekenders and empty-nesters who have stayed. Ms. Mcilraith described Lewisboro as “not stuffy.”
Mr. Parsons called it socioeconomically diverse. “Yes, there’s wealth, but we’re a varied community,” he said. “When it comes to classifying the town by money, you can’t do it.”
While those who live in the lake neighborhoods can enjoy swimming, boating and fishing near home, all residents have access to adult and kiddie pools, ball fields, sports courts and walking trails in the 60-acre Lewisboro Town Park. The town-owned Onatru Farm and Onatru Preserve has ball fields, tennis courts and walking trails, and holds annual events like Fourth of July fireworks and the Lewisboro Library Fair.
When not on lockdown, diners have a few options, including La Vista Ristorante Italiano, in Vista; Bacio Trattoria, in Cross River; and, in South Salem, the Horse and Hound Inn, which opened in 1749.
Riders can explore more than 25 miles of trails maintained by the Lewisboro Horsemen’s Association. And soon, thanks to the Lewisboro Garden Club’s Golden Roads project, the town will be abloom in daffodils — tens of thousands of them.
Lewisboro lies within the 55-square-mile Katonah-Lewisboro School District, which also serves parts of the adjacent towns of Bedford, North Salem and Pound Ridge. In normal circumstances, Lewisboro students in kindergarten through fifth grade attend either Increase Miller Elementary, in Goldens Bridge, or Meadow Pond Elementary, in South Salem, two of the district’s three elementary schools (the third is Katonah Elementary, in Bedford). District students converge at John Jay Middle School for grades six through eight, then move on to John Jay High School. The middle and high schools are on abutting campuses in Cross River.
On the 2019 state assessments, 81 percent of the district’s fourth-graders were proficient in math and 79 percent were proficient in English language arts; statewide equivalents were 50 and 48 percent. Mean SAT scores for John Jay High School’s 2019 graduating class were 626 in evidence-based reading and writing, and 630 in math; statewide means were 531 and 533. Of that class’s 247 students, 98 percent continued on to higher education.
Commuters to Manhattan, 50 miles southwest, can catch Metro-North’s Harlem line at the Goldens Bridge or Katonah stations; a rush-hour shuttle bus between Ridgefield and Katonah stops at a commuter lot in South Salem. Peak trains between Goldens Bridge and Grand Central Terminal take 62 to 81 minutes, and between Katonah and Grand Central, 58 to 77 minutes; round-trip fares for both stations are $26.50 off-peak, $35 peak and $383 monthly.
Those who live in the Vista and Lewisboro hamlets can catch Metro-North’s New Haven line at New Canaan or Talmadge Hill. Peak trains to and from Grand Central take 58 to 81 minutes; round-trip fares are $23 off-peak, $30.50 peak and $335 monthly.
Drivers can make their way to Interstate 684 and the Saw Mill River Parkway or, farther east, the Merritt Parkway. The trip to the city takes an hour or more, depending on traffic.
On Sept. 24 and 25, 1780, in the heat of the Revolutionary War, British Major John André was detained as a spy in Jacob Gilbert’s house in Lewisboro (then called Salem). A few days earlier, André had met with General Benedict Arnold, who committed treason by handing André secret military documents, including a map of West Point. Arnold also gave André a pass stating that he was John Anderson, doing business for Arnold.
That didn’t fool three colonial militiamen in Tarrytown. On Sept. 23, they stopped André and discovered the papers stuffed into his boot. He was arrested and brought north. During his confinement in Gilbert’s house, André penned a letter to General George Washington requesting to be shot as a soldier rather than hanged as a spy. His plea was denied; he was taken across the Hudson River to Tappan and, on Oct. 2, he was hanged.
Today, the Gilbert house has been replaced by a newer residence, but a roadside plaque commemorates André’s fateful stay.
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