48 Hours in Port Jervis

Park Avenue Observatory, Port Jervis - Photo by Jared Kofsky
Park Avenue Observatory, Port Jervis – Photo by Jared Kofsky

“One of America’s Coolest Small Towns!” says Budget Travel, an apt description of this city along the gently flowing Delaware River. Port Jervis is the gateway to New York State’s Upper Delaware Scenic Byway (Route 97), a beautiful stretch of road following the Delaware along its pristine shores. Once a Lenape Indian settlement, the city is noted for its Victorian and Gilded Age architecture made possible by its prosperity as a transportation hub. Train buffs still visit regularly to see the longest operating turntable in the east.

The “River City,” Port Jervis, is a true crossroads. It was later inhabited by Dutch and Huguenot settlers who many believe were traveling America’s first 100 mile road as they passed along what is now East Main Street. Victorian and Gilded Age prosperity made its mark during the construction of the Delaware and Hudson Canal and the NY and Erie Railroad.

Friday Evening
Whatever time you arrive, count on a delicious dinner at 9 Jersey Avenue, The Erie Restaurant. The kitchen at this popular spot inside the 1890 Erie Hotel is open until 10pm on Fridays. Sit at the beautiful wooden bar, carved over 100 years ago, surrounded by historic railroad themed décor. Beer lovers will delight in the 18 different drafts and 20 varieties of bottled beer. There’s often live music or a DJ on Fridays after 8pm, drawings residents as well as visitors. For super convenience and affordability, book one of the 10 cozy rooms right there in the Erie Hotel, within walking distance of many notable sites.

Stretch your legs. Just a half-mile from the Erie Hotel, Roy’s Café at Homer’s Corner at 2 East Main is perfect for morning coffee and more local flavor. Open 7 days a week from 6am to 9pm, this landmark spot offers breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Afterwards, head to some of the sites described in the Minisink Valley Historical Society’s “Delaware River Heritage Trail Guide.”

A 2-minute walk southeast will bring you to 19 East Main Street, once the home of the youngest brother of American author Stephen Crane. It’s a private business now, but you can just imagine Crane penning The Red Badge of Courage on the front porch in 1891. Undoubtedly, the nearby 1902 Carnegie Library, is well acquainted with Crane’s work. During the Gilded Age, philanthropic contributions from steel industry magnate, Andrew Carnegie, helped build 1,679 libraries across America. Port Jervis’ one of the few that still exists and is used for its original purpose. It’s open from 10 to 5 on Saturdays.

Around the corner from Pike Street, across from the First Presbyterian Church, walk to Veteran’s Memorial Park at Orange Square. The 45-foot high Soldiers and Sailors monument at the center of the square was dedicated in 1886 to the veterans of the Civil War. Many details in The Red Badge of Courage are based on accounts Stephen Crane heard firsthand at this site from these local war veterans. Not far from the square, drive past Fort Decker, a Revolutionary War site and very attractive 18th century home on the way to Gillinder Glass at 39 Erie Street (about a 5-minute ride from the Erie Hotel). This is one of America’s oldest glass companies.

Today, almost any airport you fly out of will have Gillinder runway lights, a specialty of the company, but they continue to make the beautiful collectibles they’ve been crafting for more than 150 years. Factory tours are only available on weekdays, but the gift store has an interesting display about their history and is open 7 days a week. Several times a year, special glass blowing demonstrations with factory tours are available on Saturdays. Check the events schedule on their web site calendar. The gift store is open from 9:30am to 4:00pm on Saturday, and noon to 4pm on Sunday.

For lunch, take a walk down memory lane at a restored 1950’s ice cream parlor. Just a mile from Gillinder at 5 Water Street, lunch is served at the Riverside Creamery on the banks of the Delaware River. Try an egg crème or something more decadent from the antique soda fountain.  Try their quesadillas and paninis, or the more traditional pizza, and hot dogs. If you don’t have room for their wonderful ice cream, just come back later. They’re open from noon to 10pm on Saturdays.

Walk off the calories at historic Laurel Grove Cemetery where marvelous monuments and mausoleums line the carriage roads leading to Tri-State Rock.  You’ll be standing in 3 states at this landmark meeting point of New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. Take in views of the Delaware and Neversink Rivers, and you might even see an eagle! This picturesque park was designed by renowned landscape architect Howard Daniels in 1855. It has also earned a place on the Haunted History Trail of New York State.  Look around and you might glimpse a woman dressed in a flowing white gown who suddenly appears from behind a mausoleum, runs from river to river, then disappears.

Spend the rest of the afternoon browsing the antiques, art, and consignment shops downtown.

Whimsical, practical, one-of-a-kind recycled furniture and art are the specialty at the spacious Twenty Seven Gallery located at 27 Front Street. Just minutes away, in another historic building, Maricel’s Attic features an enormous selection of antiques and collectibles at 47-49 Front Street.  Around the corner at 31 Jersey Avenue, explore the works of local emerging artists at the Upfront Exhibition Space Art Gallery. They’re open from noon to 5pm on weekends from March through December. Check their Facebook page for special reception events.

If you didn’t have pizza for lunch, head over to 186 West Main Street and Len & Jo’s. Its old school, not fancy, but this family business, rated #1 by the locals, has been in business for more than 65 years. Their unique pie is renowned for its rectangle shape, thin crunchy crust, and delicious blend of cheeses. Be forewarned, it’s been known to lure people back repeatedly to satisfy their pizza cravings. There are other tasty items on the menu, but the pizza rules! Taste it fresh from the oven Saturday nights from 4 to 10pm. Top it off with a nightcap at the Erie Hotel’s Tiki Bar.

How about some homemade muffins and pastries to go with your morning coffee? They’re on thel diner menu at Arlene & Tom’s Restaurant at 265 East Main Street, a quaint locawith a country feel.  Have a hearty breakfast before you set out for a Sunday sightseeing drive or outdoor adventure. You might even want to try one of their famous “meany” burgers.

Head northwest on East Main Street to NY ”“ 42N/NY 97N, the beginning of the Upper Delaware Scenic Byway.  Approximately 1½ miles ahead, turn right and follow Skyline Drive as it wends its way up the mountain to Elks-Brox Memorial Park.  You’ll have a panoramic view of the Tri-State area including the City of Port Jervis, the Delaware and Neversink Rivers, and the Shawangunk and Kittatinny Mountains. Back down the hill, turn right on Route 97 and continue about 4 miles to the famous Hawk’s Nest section of the scenic byway. This snakelike portion of the road is frequently used in TV commercials. Take it slow and enjoy the view. You may want to explore the entire Scenic Byway, or find a turnaround spot and travel back to Port Jervis for some fun on the water.

Port Jervis is a playground for canoeing, rafting, and fishing enthusiasts. If you have a fishing pole and need a NYS fishing license, stop at J’s Mobil gas station. Raft, canoe, and kayak rentals are the specialty at Silver Canoe. Let them transport you to one of their upstream Delaware River bases for a fun-filled scenic float back downstream. Be sure to arrive no later than 12:30 pm on weekends to allow enough time to complete the trip. If you’d just like to relax by the river, West End Park at Ferry and Water Street is free and open daily from 11am to 7pm from mid-June through August. Bring a picnic! (Note: no swimming this year and they changed the name from “beach” to “park”)

Port Jervis radiates a hometown atmosphere throughout its small city. Walkable streets, eateries named after the owners, beautiful scenery, and a diverse assortment of things to do add up to a friendly place to visit. It’s an old-fashioned river city with modern sensibilities!

Erie Hotel & Restaurant. 845-858-4100, www.theeeriehotel.com
Roy’s Café at Homer’s Corner. 845-858-7828

Port Jervis Free Library, Carnegie Library. 845-856-7313, www.portjervislibrary.org
Minisink Valley Historical Society, www.minisink.org
Gillinder Glass Factory. 845-856-5375, www.gillinderglassstore.com
Riverside Creamery. 845-856-8560, https://www.facebook.com/riversidecreamery
Laurel Grove Cemetery. 845-858-4000 ext. 4029.

Haunted History Trail of New York State. www.hauntedhistorytrail.com
Twenty Seven Gallery. 845-856-2727,  https://www.facebook.com/pages/Twenty-Seven-Gallery/54345563725
Maricel’s Attic.  845-672-3554, www.maricelsattic.com
Upfront Exhibition Space Art Gallery.  845-754-5000, https://www.facebook.com/pages/UpFront-Exhibition-Space/54573742806
Len & Jo’s. 845-856-8021, https://www.facebook.com/pages/Len-Jos/109700455732437
Arlene & Tom’s. 845-856-8488, https://www.facebook.com/Meanyburger
Upper Delaware Scenic Byway / Hawk’s Nest. 866-511-8372. www.upperdelawarescenicbyway.org
Elks-Brox Memorial Park. 845-856-6694. www.portjervisny.org
J’s Mobil. 845-856-4676

Silver Canoe. 845-856-7055. www.silvercanoe.com
West End Park. 845-858-4045. www.pjrec.com

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