Hawley, PA...

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Hawley! ........As reviewed by the New York Times !
Published: June 3, 2005... New York Times Real Estate Section

BINGO is played at the Ambulance Building, and Bingham Park is home to the local Little League. Comic books and cap guns are for sale at the Trading Post on Main Avenue, and Paul Finan clips haircuts in the same barber shop his father opened in 1920, while his son Ron works by his side. That's life in Hawley, a small town in the Poconos, just north of Lake Wallenpaupack and about 20 miles west of the New York border.

There's nothing pretentious about this town and its working-class roots, and that's part of the appeal to an increasing number of New Yorkers who are choosing it as a weekend retreat. From their location on the Delaware & Hudson Canal and gravity railroad, Hawley's original residents helped to transport anthracite coal as it made its way from Pennsylvania mines to New York markets in the mid-1800's. The town was named for Irad Hawley, the first president of the Pennsylvania Coal Company. These days, Hawley, a borough in Wayne County, is better known for its old-fashioned charm and for having Pennsylvania's third-largest artificial lake in its backyard.

"It's a great escape up here," said Jonathan Cohen, a freelance cartoonist from Manhattan. "There's so much greenery and oxygen. It just fills up your lungs when you're here." Mr. Cohen and his wife, Regina, who works in product development for Kate Spade, bought a three-bedroom, two-bathroom A-frame on one and a half acres for $110,000 in May 2004. "One of the things we loved about it was that it came with a boccie-ball court in the backyard," said Mr. Cohen, who spends every weekend at the house.

The borough of Hawley itself is small, but people who live in adjacent Palmyra or Paupack Townships usually have a Hawley mailing address. Real estate agents show potential buyers a variety of "Hawley" properties, from multimillion-dollar lakefront homes to rustic houses on gravel roads in the hills to quaint Victorians in the center of town.

As Route 6 curves down a hill into town, a billboard for Church's Hardware ("Since 1857") a church steeple and a patchwork of roof colors appear. Hawley's business district is modest: Main Avenue runs for only about four blocks. Beneath the roofs are a mix of sandwich shops, auto parts stores, beauty salons and antiques and gift shops. Toward the end of Church Street, the Victorian gables and fretwork of the beautifully painted First Presbyterian Church and restored 100-year-old homes grace one end of town. Spacious Bingham Park, with its quaint band shell, anchors the other end, with hills rising up beyond. In between, some less tended homes and stores peel paint.

Certain storefronts stand out as evidence of change to come. Sheelah Kaye-Stepkin is the proprietor of Torte Knox, a cooking school and restaurant in the imposing former First National Bank of Hawley. She bought the building, along with a parking lot and another building on Main Avenue, for $168,000 in 1997. Last week, she was offering demonstrations in creating wedding-cakes, serving five-course "Theater on a Plate" dinners for $100 each and planning Extreme Martini Makeover events on Thursdays in the summer. "We get many visitors from New York here," said Ms. Kaye-Stepkin. "No one can believe we're in Hawley."

Andrea Hartenfels opened the East Coast Herb & Spice Company three months ago, dispensing blends from chipotle to chamomile. And across the street, the Corner Tea Shop offers a traditional English afternoon tea, topped off with a selection of decorated hats to don while sipping.

To be sure, 18-wheel flatbed trucks rumble through town on a regular basis, and plenty of the sidewalks are cracked. But even that may be remedied soon. The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation recently awarded Hawley a $525,000 grant to finance new sidewalks, plantings and period lamps in the downtown. "This will make one of our dreams come true," Mayor Ann R. Morgan said.

The Scene

"It's quirky here, but that's what I like about it," said Mark Roszko, who bought his 1,500-square-foot modernist house in 2001 for $300,000. Mr. Roszko, who lives in the Flatiron district of Manhattan and works in trading support for Credit Suisse First Boston, uses his house eight months a year. "I've had colorful contractors who show up and tell me exactly what's on their minds," he said. Friends drive up for his dinner parties about once a month. They call his home a cabin, but he calls his three-bedroom, two-bathroom home with a wraparound deck something else: a bargain. "The lake is 40 feet away," he said. "I was very lucky."

"Quirky" also aptly describes a landscape in which million-dollar homes are a half-mile up wooded hills from bait shops.

Lake Wallenpaupack is a huge draw for visitors who fish, swim, boat and drive snowmobiles on it as the seasons change. Pennsylvania Power & Light, owner of the lake, maintains four public-access launching areas, and there is a public swimming beach in Palmyra Township. Want to do more than cruise around on an Aqua Patio pontoon boat? Mary Rivardo, who works at the front desk at the Settlers Inn in Hawley, moved to the area from Queens. Now, she sometimes commutes to work by canoe on nice days, paddling down the Lackawaxen River, which flows behind the inn. Outdoor enthusiasts can also keep busy with hiking, horseback riding, fly-fishing, tennis on lighted public courts or teeing off at the Cricket Hills Golf Club 15 minutes away. For nonathletes, hunting for antiques at emporiums like the Castle, hitting the local flea markets, checking out fairs like the Audubon Art & Craft Festival (July 23 and 24) and visiting neighboring towns are typically the order of the day. Pros The short drive from New York is appealing to prospective buyers. So are the property taxes, which tend to be 20 to 25 percent lower than those in New York towns a half-hour drive away. Because Pennsylvania doesn't tax pensions, many retired police officers and firefighters buy vacation homes in the area, said George Irish of Re/Max Lake Wallenpaupack-North. Family-style restaurants and casual spots are standard. The Hawley Diner's jumbo Belgian waffles are a local institution. More upscale choices are the blue-and-white Boat House, with a view of the lake; and Cora's 1850 Bistro, a former hotel now run by Cora Jones and Patrick Shelton, two Culinary Institute of America graduates. The Settlers Inn was planning an evening of wines from the Pacific Northwest one recent weekend. Evening entertainment includes bar bands at the Boat House and a 500-seat nightclub-theater at the Woodloch Pines Resort. The Ritz Company Playhouse, a 1930's movie house now a nonprofit community theater, stages five shows each summer, including one that is featuring its junior performers, the Ritz Bitz Players. The crime rate is extremely low. Mr. Irish doesn't lock his door and even if he did, he said, "Everyone knows where I hide the key." Cons "To spend time here in the winter, you have to like winter activities or be very, very friendly with your spouse," said Mark Korman, a produce buyer who completed a house in town last year. Snow is heavy and roads are hard to navigate in the pitch black. For winter weekenders, three ski areas are less than an hour from Hawley: Tanglewood is eight miles away; Ski Big Bear is 15 minutes away; and Shawnee Mountain is 35 minutes away. In the summer, even real estate agents acknowledge, traffic is becoming worse. And lake traffic is heavy too. "There can be 5,000 boats on the water on a Saturday," said Mr. Irish. Noise from motorized water scooters is irksome to some lakefront weekenders, and littering is becoming a problem. The nearest movie theater is in Honesdale, 20 minutes away. That's also where you'll find Kmart and Wal-Mart stores. The closest major shopping mall is in Scranton, a 45-minute drive. The Real Estate Market Twelve properties were listed for sale this week in the immediate Hawley area. "There is a very thin market up here," said Milt Roegner, owner of the Roegner Appraisal Group in Honesdale, who has been appraising properties in Hawley for 30 years. "No one wants to sell. Before the ink is dry on the appraisal, the price has gone up, so everyone is holding on to them. We've had 60 home sales in the entire borough in the past two years." He estimates that prices have doubled in the last five years, with a huge leap after the World Trade Center attacks. "You should have been here in 1981," he said. "People walked into my office and offered to give me lots." Those days are over. That said, the properties for sale at any given time can fall into a wide price range: from a small one- or two-story fixer-upper for $70,000 to an older home in good shape for $145,000 to a restored Victorian at the $350,000 mark. Many weekenders choose to buy or build homes in private developments like Hidden Lake Estates that feature amenities like small private artificial lakes and clubhouses.

On the market this week from Re/Max of Lake Wallenpaupack-North were a three-bedroom, two-bathroom 1840 house in need of work, with 16-foot ceilings, hardwood floors and a brick fireplace, for $139,900 and with taxes of $1,400 and a 19-acre property with a 4,000-square-foot contemporary house with three bedrooms and two and a half bathrooms, for $949,000 and with taxes of $2.943.

Davis R. Chant Realty in Honesdale was offering a 2,600-square-foot four-bedroom, two-and-a-half bathroom contemporary house on six acres in Hidden Lake Estates for $480,000, with taxes of $3,946 and association dues of $600.

A three-bedroom, one-and-a-half bath ranch with an attached garage on 1.2 acres with a view of the Lackawaxen River was available from Coldwell Banker Lakeview Realtors of Hawley for $239,000 with taxes of $2,256.

A seven-acre wooded parcel in the Milestone Estates development was for sale by Century 21 Select Group-Hamlin for $57,900, with taxes of $400.

SIZE 0.6 square mile.
TRAVEL TIME About two hours.

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The Hawley Skynet Page HawleyWood Well Association Hawley Antique Exchange
Dorflinger Glass Works Wayne County Historical Society
The News-Eagle paper The Wayne County Fair The Looking Glass Art Gallery