Tired of strip malls and traffic, Robert Dietrich, 70, wanted something different for his retirement. After spending most of his life in Massapequa, N.Y., on the South Shore of Long Island, the former high school administrator yearned for “the country feel of the North Shore, with all the trees,” he said, and “a real town,” not a suburb with “no central location.”
He found that small-town ambience in Northport, a quaint waterfront village in the town of Huntington, in Suffolk County. In May 2016, Mr. Dietrich paid $489,000 for a four-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bathroom ranch-style house with a two-car garage, on a 0.31-acre lot. A year later, having spent $100,000 to paint, refinish the floors, update the lighting and cabinets and landscape the property, he moved in, bringing along his 93-year-old mother, Edith Dietrich, of Seaford, in Nassau County, who was no longer able to live on her own.
“Because Northport is off the beaten path, it is a lot quieter,” Mr. Dietrich said. He walks to the library, church, shops, the supermarket and restaurants along Main Street.
In the morning, he takes a 10-minute stroll to the harbor, to sit near the water and read. “It is nice and quiet and pretty to watch the water,” he said.
Northport’s 19th-century houses, waterfront parks, the town dock, scenic harbor, the vintage Northport Sweet Shop, an old-fashioned ice cream parlor, and Tim’s Shipwreck Diner “are just a hint of what makes this small town a special place,” said Catherine Zimmermann, sales manager of the Northport office of Daniel Gale Sotheby’s International Realty. Northport has managed to maintain “an old-time charm rarely seen on Long Island,” she added.
“It has a New England feeling to it,” said Anne Canadeo, a 20-year resident and author whose “Black Sheep Knitting Mystery” series is set in a fictional town much like her own.
Once home to the writer Jack Kerouac, Northport is also an arts hub, with a symphony orchestra, galleries along Main Street and the John W. Engeman Theater, where Broadway shows are performed by professional actors. There are also plays by current playwrights staged by the Bare Bones Theater Company, Ms. Canadeo said, noting that the village is “such a pretty place it attracts people who are writers and people who are interested in the arts.”
Soon after Mr. Dietrich moved in, he bought season tickets for the 400-seat Engeman Theater, and later this month, he plans to take his mother to see the romantic musical comedy “Singin’ in the Rain.”
Robert Gloria, 30, a salesman, and his wife, Inna, 26, a jewelry store manager, moved from a one-bedroom rental in Astoria, Queens, to a three-bedroom, one-and-a-half-bathroom house on a quarter-acre in Northport last June, paying $450,000.
“Compared to other parts of the island, there is a lot more action,” Mr. Gloria said, describing the bustle of joggers and dogwalkers on the 1.2-mile walk from their house to the harbor. “It was just what we were looking for.”
As Kelley Taylor, an associate broker with Douglas Elliman, put it: “You can buy a house anywhere; you can buy a lifestyle here.”
And soon you may be able to visit for the weekend, too: A 24- to 26-room inn is now in the works, facilitated by a zoning change last year.
“There were hotels in Northport a hundred years ago,” said Kevin O’Neill, an owner of the John W. Engeman Theater, who is developing the project with his partner, Richard T. Dolce. He and Mr. Dolce bought a blighted three-story building across the street from the theater and plan to transform it into the kind of “boutique place you would see in Camden, Maine,” he said.
What You’ll Find
Northport is on the North Shore of Long Island, east of Centerport and northwest of Smithtown. Along Route 25A, in its uptown commercial hub, are supermarkets, banks and restaurants, as well as the Britannia Yachting Center, a collection of marine shops, dining options and a marina on the southern end of Northport Harbor.
Branching off from 25A, Woodbine Avenue and Main Street run steeply downhill to the downtown and harbor. The 11768 Northport ZIP code extends to a potpourri of beachfront houses along the isthmus of Asharoken village, separating Northport Bay from Long Island Sound, and Eatons Neck, a hamlet of sprawling lawns and large homes. East of downtown is the sylvan hamlet of Fort Salonga.
The Northport VA Medical Center and the nine-hole Northport Golf Course are south of 25A. The private Northport Yacht Club, on Bluff Point Road, has a waiting list.
According to census data, Northport village has a population of about 7,300 and a median household income of $115,968.
What You’ll Pay
On April 20, there were 126 houses on the market. The highest priced, at $3,395,000, was a four-bedroom, four-and-a-half-bathroom waterfront house built in 2009, on 1.6 acres; at the low end was a three-bedroom, one-bathroom 1967 ranch house on a quarter of an acre, listed at $419,000.
For the year ending April 20, sale prices were up 8 percent over the same period a year earlier, said Oksana Foster, an associate broker with Signature Premier Properties, who attributed the increase to a lack of inventory.
The median sale price was $647,500, compared to $599,999 during the same time period a year earlier, Ms. Foster said, citing Multiple Listing Service data. Some 225 houses were sold — 48 more than in the previous year. They also moved more quickly, she said, with an average of 86 days on the market, or 10 days fewer than a year earlier.
In early April, there were 28 offers on an 1890 Victorian, which eventually sold for $100,000 over the $569,000 asking price, said Dee Donovan, a saleswoman with Daniel Gale Sotheby’s International Realty. “Houses priced properly are getting multiple offers and selling right away.”
Real estate in the village has always had “a premium” of 5 to 15 percent, Ms. Taylor of Douglas Elliman said. But in recent years, more couples from the city have been buying weekend and summer homes in Northport, said Lynda Olita, an associate broker with Douglas Elliman. And those who grew up in town are returning, she said: “It’s a lot of recycling back.”
On the weekends and in the summer, Northport bustles with visitors and locals angling for pastries, coffee and a spot with a water view at the Copenhagen Bakery or for tables at Maroni Cuisine or the Ritz Cafe.
Boats pull up to the 403-foot public dock at the end of Main Street, between Cow Harbor Park and the Village Park (docking is free in the afternoon, $20 from 5 to 10 p.m., and $2 a foot overnight). Nearby, Seymour’s Boatyard has 500 moorings, including 20 transient spots available for a minimum two-hour stay, for overnight or for the season.
Kayaks, canoes and small boats can be launched at Scudder Park’s boat ramp (village residents can buy a permit sticker for $15, while residents of the town of Huntington pay $100). A $40 seasonal permit gives town residents access to Crab Meadow, Asharoken and Hobart beaches; Steers Beach is open only to village residents, who need a $15 sticker.
A weekly farmer’s market is held on Saturday mornings, from June through mid-November. In August, residents gather for Thursday evening concerts at the bandshell in Village Park, and there are Family Nights held on Main Street.
The annual Great Cow Harbor 10K Run takes place in September, followed the next day by the annual Cow Harbor Parade and festival, commemorating years past, when cows grazed in the meadow that is now waterfront parkland.
The Northport-East Northport Union Free School District has 5,338 students from the Northport and East Northport communities, plus a few from neighboring Greenlawn. Those in kindergarten through fifth grade attend one of six elementary schools: Bellerose Avenue, Dickinson Avenue, Fifth Avenue, Norwood Avenue, Ocean Avenue or Pulaski Road. Students in sixth through eighth grade go to either East Northport Middle School or Northport Middle School, before moving on to Northport High School.
The mean SAT scores for the class of 2017 were 580 in reading and 590 in math, compared with 528 and 523 statewide.
The district offers an International Baccalaureate program as well as Advanced Placement courses.
Drivers to Manhattan, 45 miles southwest, can take the Northern State Parkway and the Long Island Expressway. Commuters can also pick up the Long Island Rail Road’s Port Jefferson line at the Northport station, in East Northport. The 6:18 a.m. direct peak train pulls into Penn Station an hour and two minutes later; trains that require a transfer in Jamaica take longer. The monthly fare is $350.
Beginning in the 18th century, coastwise sailing vessels plied the waters of Northport’s sheltered deep harbor to bring farm products and timber to New York City and other destinations, said Steven King, the village historian. In 1798, a public landing was established to boost commerce. Shortly afterward, several shipwrights began working along the eastern shore, and by 1840, shipbuilding had become the community’s dominant activity, prospering for the next three decades.
As metal hulls and steamships replaced wooden vessels powered by sail, the shipyards faltered. For a while, they built oyster boats and pleasure yachts, but by 1920 the yards were being used for coal and lumber storage. Hoping to revitalize the area, the town fathers bought the land in 1928, and the Northport Village Park, with its community bandstand, was dedicated in 1933.
A slide show with an earlier version of this article included a photo caption that misstated the number of productions mounted at the John W. Engeman Theater since it was opened. 65 productions have been mounted, not 53.
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