T Dave's Big Eddy Diner in the Delaware
Valley hamlet of Narrowsburg, N.Y., the pale green pressed-tin décor
and patterned counter stools toss visitors back in time the second
they push open the door. But then there's the pecan-crusted catfish,
the rack of lamb or the crab and crayfish cakes with chili-lime
sauce on the menu: the first clue that this town of a little more
than 400 people in a hilly swath of Sullivan County has become a
magnet for weekending actors, artists, authors, photographers and an
opera singer or two.
"Dave's is the center of the universe," said Barbara Braathen,
owner of the River Gallery, also on Main Street. "People come from
100 miles away to eat there."
Nora Eisenberg, a writer, has to walk only about a block. A
little more than two years ago, she and her husband, James Halper, a
research psychiatrist, who live on the Upper West Side of Manhattan,
paid $229,000 for a sprawling, four-bedroom, three-bath 1920's
colonial that sits at the top of Main Street. The front of her house
is in town; the back, with its swimming pool and newly terraced
garden, is pure wilderness with the Delaware River coursing through
From what she calls her "yenta perch," the writing desk at the
window of a second-story work space, she has a bird's-eye view of
life in her adoptive home, which has turned out to be about a lot
more than just buying a weekend house.
"This town has claimed my heart and soul," said Ms. Eisenberg,
who is also director of the City University of New York's faculty
fellowship publication program. "The people are so nice, and
physically, it is gorgeous."
The Delaware at this part of the valley seems to change with
every glance. Looking down over the calm of the eddy, a fisherman
sits in a small boat trying his luck. Across the way, on the
Pennsylvania side, houses are visible through budding trees that in
summer provide a protective screen of thick, lush greenery. And
there are always eagles, pairs of them, swooping and diving over the
Big Eddy was the original name for the town. That was changed to
Narrowsburg in 1840 to honor its distinction as the narrowest and
deepest part of the Delaware, said Emily Halleck of the Tusten
Historical Society. The area's main industries were lumbering and
stone quarries, and the clean Catskill Mountain air attracted ailing
city dwellers to its boarding houses in the 1950's and 60's.
The population of Narrowsburg, a hamlet in the Town of Tusten, is
about 30 percent weekenders, mostly from New York City, said Tony
Ritter, a broker and local fishing guide who is also chairman of the
zoning board of appeals. Tom Freda, a broker with Matthew J. Freda
Real Estate, said that almost all of his clients are shopping for
"I'd say 98 percent of our business is in second homes," Mr.
Freda said. "We have seen quite an increase since 9/11."
Stanley Harper, who, with his partner, Michael Eurey, owns
Narrowsburg Fine Wines and Spirits, said that for many new arrivals,
the notion of spending only two days a week in Narrowsburg quickly
"Within two years, people either move on or aspire to become
full-time residents and look for a way to do it," said Mr. Harper,
who came to visit friends one Friday in 1983 and started looking for
weekend property that very Sunday. The couple moved to Narrowsburg
full-time in 2001.
Main Street in the village is anchored at one end by the boxy red
and gray headquarters of Narrowsburg Feed and Grain and a railroad
bridge. Down the hill and under the bridge are the Flats, the
low-lying part of town dotted with small houses and an old church.
The main part of the thoroughfare sits on a bluff, where a wooden
observation deck has been built for watching eagles. On weekends, it
is manned by volunteer naturalists eager to share what they know
about the winged protagonists in the longest-running show in town.
Shopkeepers pride themselves on the tidy, but unglitzy, long
block of storefronts that now includes the wine shop, a handful of
antiques shops, art galleries and a gift shop. A building at one end
is being renovated into a restaurant, small shops and a movement and
dance center that will blend in with a vintage barbershop and the
street's other newest arrivals, high-end artisans like the weaver
Charles Blanchard of Dyberry Weavers, whose pieces in linen, silk,
wool or alpaca can sell for between $6,000 and $10,000, and Kelly
Dean whose hand-made Mole Island teddy bears start at $1,000 and can
go up to $8,000. Most go to collectors, not children.