Living In: Sharon, Conn.: A Calm, Quiet Town, 15 Minutes From the Train
In 2016, Tracey and Brian Abut bought their first home in Sharon, a bucolic town in northwest Litchfield County, Conn. A year later, they opened The Edward, a wine bar near the town green. This past February, they bought another house in town, which they are renovating. Yet despite owning property and a business in Sharon, the Abuts spend the bulk of the week in Manhattan, where they have full-time jobs and rent a one-bedroom on the Upper West Side.
Like more than a third of Sharon’s approximately 2,700 residents, the Abuts are weekenders. On weekdays, Mr. Abut, 51, works in software sales and Ms. Abut, 47, is a human resources executive. Fed up with sweltering city summers, they decided to look for a weekend place. “We wanted a quick getaway that we could enjoy for the entire year,” Mr. Abut said.
After they searched unsuccessfully in upstate New York, a friend suggested Connecticut and recommended a broker in Sharon. There, the Abuts were drawn to the pastoral surroundings and the deep sense of history.
Mudge Pond Town Beach
N. MAIN ST.
The Hotchkiss Library
“Sharon is a picture-perfect New England town,” Mr. Abut said. “But it’s right on the New York border and only 15 minutes from Metro-North.”
For their first house — a 1,600-square-foot, three-bedroom Craftsman, built in 1962 on an acre and a half — they paid $425,000. For their second — a 2,100-square-foot, four-bedroom midcentury modern house, built in 1966 on a more remote 1.6 acres — they paid $160,000. “It’s a fixer-upper,” Mr. Abut said, “a midcentury enthusiast’s dream.”
With its postcard vistas and country roads, the 59.6-square-mile Sharon is the third-largest town in Connecticut, but one of the least densely populated. It adjoins the towns of Kent, Cornwall and Salisbury, and is bordered by the Housatonic River to the east and Dutchess County, N.Y., to the west.
Brent M. Colley, Sharon’s first selectman, touted the town’s demographic mix: “We have a bit of everything: part-timers; full-timers; people who have been here for generations; retirees; farmers; artists, writers and architects who work from home; large estate owners; people employed by the large estate owners.” Some residents, he said, work at Sharon Hospital, the town’s largest employer.
Mr. Colley noted an interdependence between part-timers and full-timers, with weekenders sustaining the town’s economy and locals providing services. “It’s a partnership,” he said. “The weekenders tend to have higher-end homes and larger properties, which allows people in the middle class to enjoy lower taxes. Without the weekenders, we wouldn’t have what we have.”
What Sharon has is a character that blends a Yankee work ethic with a cosmopolitan sensibility, and a commitment to preserving the town’s history, fostering its artistic community and protecting its natural beauty.
“There’s a small-town simplicity here that caters to a wide range of interests,” Mr. Colley said. “All kinds of people live here for all kinds of reasons, but everyone appreciates the calm and quiet.”
What You’ll Find
Sharon is rich with rolling hills and rocky woodlands. Stacy Deming, the Housatonic Valley Association’s geographic information system manager, said roughly 35 percent of the town — more than 13,400 acres — is permanently protected by organizations like the Sharon Land Trust, Housatonic State Forest and Housatonic Meadows State Park.
Sharon’s heart is its town green, one of the largest in New England at over a mile long. The green is home to the town hall, the Sharon Historical Society, the elegant Hotchkiss Library of Sharon and a stone clock tower erected in the 1880s.
Aside from a small shopping center and a handful of working farms, the rest of Sharon is residential. House hunters will find assorted styles, among them colonials, farmhouses and, lining the green, well-maintained 18th- and 19th-century antique homes. Patricia Braislin, Sharon’s assessor, said there are 1,457 single-family homes, 14 multifamily homes, 30 condominiums in three complexes, 13 rental apartments in one building and 32 affordable-housing units.
What You’ll Pay
Chris Garrity, a broker and vice president of Bain Real Estate, said that depending on size, acreage and condition, homes in Sharon can range in price from under $200,000 to the millions. “And those houses might be on the same road,” he said.
He added that when you cross the border from New York into Connecticut, “your taxes decrease considerably.”
Graham T. Klemm, president of Klemm Real Estate (and the Abuts’ broker), said the market in Sharon is strong. “We have plenty of buyers coming in. What we are lacking is inventory, at all the price points.”
According to SmartMLS, as of April 8 there were 56 single-family homes on the market. The least expensive was a one-bedroom, 795-square-foot log cabin, built in 1935 on a half acre, listed for $145,000; the priciest was a five-bedroom, 8,900-square-foot restored colonial, built in 1800 and part of a 51.3-acre estate, listed for $20 million. There were also three two-bedroom condominiums on the market, priced at $185,000, $191,000 and $197,500, and a four-bedroom multifamily house listed for $339,900.
The median sale price for a single-family home during the 12-month period ending April 8 was $320,750, down from $420,000 during the previous 12 months.
While Sharon is a sleepy place where residents — especially weekenders — relish the peacefulness of their homes, those looking for recreation have options. Water lovers can swim at the Mudge Pond Town Beach, launch a small craft from the Silver Lake State Park boat launch, and fish and raft in the Housatonic River. Hikers can explore more than 50 miles of trails, including a stretch of the Appalachian Trail.
The town green continues its tradition as a gathering spot, holding events such as a summer concert series, an arts-and-crafts fair and a holiday tree- and menorah-lighting ceremony. An annual Art Walk features stops at open studios, galleries like Standard Space, and exhibitions inside the library, town hall and historical society.
Sharon Playhouse, now in its 60th season, stages year-round events, including its popular summer productions in a 353-seat theater. This season, “Crazy for You” opens in June.
A spirit of giving galvanizes both the Sharon Classic Road Race, which supports Sharon Day Care, and Trade Secrets, a garden-themed weekend benefiting Women’s Support Services in town.
In addition to tapas at The Edward, diners can order barbecue at When Pigs Fly South, breakfast and lunch at J.P. Gifford’s Café, and Italian food at Dining Alfresco. There are more restaurants in neighboring towns and a cinema in Millerton, N.Y., six miles northwest.
Sharon is served by Regional School District No. 1, which also serves the towns of Salisbury, Cornwall, Kent, Falls Village/Canaan and North Canaan. Each town has its own school for kindergarten (and, in some cases, prekindergarten) through eighth grade; this year in Sharon, 113 students in kindergarten through eighth grade attend Sharon Center School.
Karen Manning, the principal, said the school is facing declining enrollment. “Many young families can’t afford to live here, and weekenders don’t use the school system,” she said. “It is our biggest issue.”
On the 2018 Smarter Balanced assessments, Ms. Manning said, 61 percent of fourth-graders met or exceeded English language arts proficiency standards and 50 percent met or exceeded math proficiency standards, compared to 55 and 51.3 percent statewide.
District students converge at Housatonic Valley Regional High School, in Falls Village. According to data from the Connecticut Department of Education’s EdSight, mean SAT scores for the 2019 graduating class were 522 in evidence-based reading and writing, and 492 in math; statewide equivalents were 516 and 503.
Notable private schools in the area include Hotchkiss, Kent and Marvelwood.
About 100 miles northeast of Manhattan, Sharon is not usually considered a commuter town. Those heading to the city can take the Taconic State Parkway or Route 22 to Interstate 684. Alternatively, they can catch Metro-North Railroad at Wassaic, the final stop on the Harlem line, in Amenia, N.Y. Through trains take a little over two hours; round-trip fares are $52.50 peak, $39 off-peak and $536 monthly.
Between the mid-18th century and the close of the 19th century, Sharon was a hotbed of industry. The now-quiet Sharon Valley, at the town’s western edge, was a hub for the production of iron, thanks to an abundance of necessary resources: water to provide power; trees to make charcoal; limestone, quarried nearby; and high quality iron ore, mined and smelted with chunks of limestone. Sharon was also a manufacturing center for wrought- and cast-iron products, from household and farming tools to railroad wheels and munitions used during the Civil War.
Today, across from Webatuck Creek, a cube-like stone structure stands around 20 feet tall. Once the foundation of the Sharon Valley Lime Kiln, constructed circa 1880 to convert limestone into calcined lime, it is the town’s most intact vestige of an earlier era.
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Published at Wed, 17 Apr 2019 09:01:23 +0000