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Narrowsburg, N.Y.

THE CROSSING A bridge over the narrowest and deepest part of the Delaware River connects Narrowsburg, N.Y., with Pennsylvania.
Alan Zale for The New York Times
THE CROSSING A bridge over the narrowest and deepest part of the Delaware River connects Narrowsburg, N.Y., with Pennsylvania.


Published: April 8, 2005

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. Lay of the Land: A Tiny Getaway on the Delaware (April 8, 2005)



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AT 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 it.

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 water.

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 weekend properties.

"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 changes.

"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.

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