Meredith Hyland’s story reads a bit like a modern fairy tale. While working for Citibank in Paris in 2008, she met Brahim Sadouni. Six months later, they honeymooned in Provence. A year later, they moved to Clinton, New Jersey, where Ms. Hyland had lived as a teenager and was considering a home, and bought a small house on the city’s most sought-after street.
By 2013, the couple had opened Fourchette, a cheese and olive oil shop on Main Street. They expanded into linens and housewares and bought a downtown building to house their store. In 2015, they sold their house and bought the one three doors down, a four-bedroom 1830s home that backs up to the Raritan River, for $520,000. Soon after, they learned that the woman they bought it from had also lived in their previous home, 40 years earlier.
If you’re wondering why anyone would leave the City of Lights for a 1.3 square mile town in central New Jersey, it makes perfect sense to the couple.
“A lot of people are looking for that type of lifestyle,” said Ms. Hyland, 44, who left banking in 2021 to focus on Fourchette, which now has a second store (and will soon have a third). “Clinton is a small but elegant town where everyone is interested in the good things in life.”
Mr Sadouni, 55, who grew up on a farm in Algeria, also hugged Clinton, she said: “He is passionate about the people here and has a lot of fans. People bring their kids to see the cheese man.”
While Ms. Hyland knew Clinton, many people first encountered this bucolic Hunterdon County town as tourists, visiting the eclectic shops on Main Street and the two 19th-century mills-turned-museums that face each across the river. Some will end up staying.
“People move here from all over the country,” said Brian Glynn, 78, a Berkshire Hathaway agent who lives just outside the city. “It’s quaint, historic and the people are really friendly.”
Kierra and Anthony Grippa were living in Westchester County when they discovered Clinton after searching the Internet for “cute towns in NJ” to find a middle-of-the-road place to meet a friend from Pennsylvania for lunch. “When we first came, I said, ‘I want to live here,’ I never thought we’d actually end up here,” recalls Ms. Grippa, 41, a special education teacher in New York who grew up in Southern California. .
When Mr. Grippa, now 41, got a job at the Rutgers University Foundation, in New Brunswick, NJ, two years ago the couple started thinking about buying their first house. They looked in Westchester and Central New Jersey before making an offer on a 1998 Clinton townhouse with three bedrooms and a finished basement. They closed in December and paid $405,000.
“It was unnecessary,” said Mrs. Grippa. “We were getting everything we were looking for – living in a beautiful area, close to my husband’s work and yet only an hour from the city. And we paid about half of what it would cost for the same kind of house in Westchester.
She wanted her family, including a three-year-old and a one-year-old, to experience the sense of community that comes with living in a small town and to have access to the nature that surrounds Clinton. “I love the idea of being somewhere in the suburbs and in the country. We go to farms and visit an alpaca farm,” she said. “They get a taste of art and culture, but within a five- or 10-minute drive, you’re on a farm or in nature.”
What you will find
The city of Clinton is small and historic – not to be confused with the 34 square mile suburban Clinton Township that surrounds it. It lies next to limestone cliffs and the Spruce Run Reservoir and is bisected by Interstate 78 and the South Branch Raritan River. The 175-acre Clinton Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1995, runs east-west along Main and Center streets and north-south along Leigh Street.
Two of the oldest buildings are the Red Mill, an 1810 structure in the Center of Red Mill Museum Village, one of the most photographed sites in the state, and Dunham’s Mill, an 1836 stone mill that is now home to the Hunterdon Art Museum. Nearby is the Clinton House, one of New Jersey’s oldest continuously operating restaurants.
Center Street slopes uphill from the downtown business district and offers numerous examples of Colonial, Federal, Italianate and Victorian architecture, although homes on this highly desirable street rarely come on the market, Mr. Glynn said: “When people get these places, I don’t want give them up.”
Beyond the historic core are residential neighborhoods with more modest mid-20th century homes and newer pocket developments south of I-78. Halstead Place, a 35-unit apartment complex that opened in 2017, is located near the city’s northern border. Another apartment complex, View 22, will soon open on the site of the A. & P. supermarket at 22 Old Road, offering 120 apartments, 24 of which are classified as affordable.
Homes and businesses near the Raritan River are in a flood zone and some were damaged during recent storms. Clinton mayor and lifelong resident Janice Kovach said she is keenly aware of her city’s appeal to tourists and her role in maintaining that relationship while responding to her constituents. “We are a community driven by museums and small businesses, and we want to ensure their continued economic viability,” Ms. Kovach said. “But our larger goal is to preserve what we have — the charm and beauty of this place.”
What will you pay?
Few homes are currently on the market in this town of approximately 2,700 residents. In the second week of March, there were just four: a three-bedroom 1870 Victorian for $450,000, a 1953 three-bedroom ranch for $495,000, a three-bedroom townhouse for $410,000 and a two-bedroom townhouse for $153,320. . Two quarter-acre lots were also for sale at $170,000 each.
In 2022, 27 single-family homes sold for a median price of $500,000, up 13.6 percent from 2021, when more than 35 homes sold for a median price of $440,000, according to New Jersey Realtors data. During the same period, the median price of townhomes increased by 15.5 percent: 11 sold in 2022 for a median of $381,000, while 15 sold in 2021 for a median of $330,000.
In the second week of March, three apartments were listed for rent at Halstead Place, ranging from $1,840 for a one-bedroom to $4,225 for a large two-bedroom.
The Main Street Bridge, a steel truss bridge built in 1870 that seems better suited for carriages than cars, leads directly into Clinton’s vibrant shopping district, where colorful and architecturally appealing buildings house quirky spots like Karen’s Dollhouse Shop, Kilhaney’s Pickles, Charlie’s Booter and Designer Hot Dog Shop Dawgs.
On one corner is popular hangout Citispot Tea & Coffee, where owner Mark Zhutianli brews specialty coffees and works on the script for his next film, a documentary about the city. “We have a lot of very talented and artistic people here, and this documentary is meant to highlight that,” said Mr. Zhutianli, 53, who moved to Clinton 22 years ago from New York.
Many of the city’s cultural activities take place in the two museums, while the river attracts sporting crowds for the opening day of trout fishing in early April and the annual rubber duck races in early July.
It is attended by students in pre-kindergarten through eighth grade who live in Clinton or neighboring Glen Gardner Clinton Public School. During the 2020-21 school year, the school enrolled 426 students, of whom 71 percent identified as white, 18 percent as Hispanic, 6 percent as Asian, and 4 percent as black.
In high school, Clinton and Glen Gardner students can choose to attend North Hunterdon Regional High School in Annandale or Voorhees High School in Glen Gardner, where they will be joined by another of the 10 municipalities.
Both schools are highly rated and offer 23 Advanced Placement courses. In 2020-21, North Hunterdon enrolled about 1,350 students; the average SAT score was 598 in reading and writing and 602 in math. In 2020-21, Voorhees High School had about 816 students; the average SAT score was 578 in reading and writing and 576 in math. (The state averages were 578 in reading and writing and 576 in math.)
36,000 square feet polytechnic facility is currently being built at North Hunterdon Regional High School to expand vocational programs.
Private school options include Immaculate Conception School, a Catholic school in Annandale for students in pre-kindergarten through eighth grade, and Hunterdon Preparatory School, an Annandale school offering individualized instruction for students in grades seven through 12.
Commuters can reach New York City, about 52 miles east, on I-78, a trip of about 75 minutes. Most choose to catch the Trans-Bridge Lines bus on Center Street, which takes just over an hour to get to Manhattan’s Port Authority and costs about $35 one way or $495 for a 30-ride ticket.
New Jersey Transit offers train service from Annandale; the journey takes less than two hours and requires a transfer in Newark. Tickets cost $16.25 one way or $463 for a monthly pass.
in In October 1891, a fire raged several days on the high street. Because the town did not have its own fire department, the mayor called in neighboring towns for help, and more than a dozen businesses and structures were lost. Six months later, Clinton Steam Engine Company No. 1 was incorporated; many of its 40 founding members were merchants who lost their businesses in the fire. Her first venture was the purchase of a hand or horse-drawn steam engine, with which the river was to be supplied with water.
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