When Wild Horses Settle by the River
Close your eyes and picture a horse. Now imagine that horse situated alongside a river. What do you see? What do you hear? Is it a wild stallion galloping across rough waters? Or do you see a tame horse gently walking by a quietly flowing stream, grazing along the riverbed, as it makes its way into the sunset?
Now open your eyes and meet Alan, who is a confluence of both types of characters. When we discuss horses, it’s like talking to Clint Eastwood and when the conversation turns to music it is more as though I am engaged with Bruce . . .you know, the Boss.
Alan and I sit on his deck, just above the Delaware River, in the back yard of his Riverfront Apartments and suites. His connection to the river is undeniable. This is where his past and future and his home and business all collide. “The suites are for rent to long term tenants, but with the Airbnb boom and other online rent-a-place technologies, the rental business is changing” Alan explains. “Being right on Main Street, so close to all of the bars and restaurants, even local people that live a 10-minute drive from here, are staying in the suites.” Today, Riverfront Suites is a thriving business, but it took over 30 years for Alan to get it to this point.
All horses celebrate their birthday together
Alan was born and grew up on the banks of the river in Trenton, NJ, 15 miles downstream from where we are sitting on his deck. As a child, he had two passions: the river and horses. He dreamt of riding a horse on the riverside paths. But it was only when Alan was a young man that his simple dream actually came to fruition. As soon as he was old enough, he found a job caring for and training horses to prepare them for a career in harness racing (a form of horse racing in which the horse’s race at a specific pace). “I was taking care of some of the best horses in the country” Alan reminisces. The job included grooming, training, and taking care of all of the horse’s needs, grooming them for their racing future.
After a decade on the road, having spent most of his time in Florida, Alan felt it was time to come back North to the area he grew up in and live by the river he loved so much. He found a place to rent in Lambertville. But when the horse racing season started and it was time to get the yearlings (young horses on their second year) ready, he could almost hear the horses calling his name and Alan would put on his boots, saddle up and hop on a charter flight to Florida, Kentucky, or any big track, to assist in breaking in the horses and getting them ready for racing. “All horses have their birthdays together on January first. The one-year-olds turn two, the two-year-olds turn three . . . that’s just the way it is,” Alan explains, “and it was hard for me to miss that birthday party.”
Settling down was the next big challenge for Alan. Prices in the area were rising, especially by the water and Alan was ready to give up on his dream of living by the river. Until one day as he was kayaking downstream, he noticed an old building, “it was a complete dump. Garbage, old tires, a broken deck and an old shed that was falling apart, enclosed the property from all sides.” But this rundown beat up property was a start that Alan could afford. Recognizing the perfect location on S Main Street, Alan knew it was right.
Thirty-three years have passed since Alan purchased that property, cleaned it and rehabbed it. First the southern part and only a decade later, the northern part of the property. By the year 2000, he added an entirely new section. Three decades of architectural evolution have given the place a unique charm. The proximity to a thriving town makes the apartments and suites an attractive overnight destination for both Airbnb and for long term residents.
WHEN IN NEW HOPE, DO AS THE LOCALS
Alan’s guide to local living
Best pastime activity
Get a kayak or a canoe and get on the river, but don’t get too close to the wing dam, south of town, it can get rough around there.
What not to do
Don’t drink and drive, especially if you are riding a heavy motorcycle. Instead, find a nice place to stay in town for the night.
If you are into art – look for paintings and murals by William “Billy” Selesnick, an old friend who left his mark in town before moving to Florida, including the mural on Karla’s wall.
Sit Down & Relax
The Lambertville Station – A great place with great atmosphere to sit, relax and get a bite to eat.
A great place to chill, have a drink and hear some live music is http://www.franspub.net/
Top notch food, right here in the center of town http://www.marshabrownrestaurant.com/
Living on the banks of the river can bring additional surprises and challenges. The flood risk to the property is always present as on any waterfront property; a strong sudden tide can sweep away boats and equipment left untied. But there are some good surprises too, like the deck that the Riverfront has that sits right on the water. It just drifted there one day during a storm from Treasure Island, miles away up the river where it used to belong to a boyscouts camp. The scouts had no idea how they could possibly pull the deck upstream all the way back to the island, so Alan ended up buying it from them and keeping it, providing his guests with the perfect spot from which to launch their boats or to relax with a drink and tan in the summer.
Alan loves sitting on the deck and playing the blues on his guitar. He performs in a band that plays classic rock covers. I start to wonder if being a musician is a requirement for living in New Hope.
As the time approaches for me to wrap up and leave, I ask Alan my standard question, “If you could invite anybody in the world to stay at Riverfront, who would you choose? Alan answers without hesitation, “Bruce Springsteen! He is around town a lot, and I would love to sit and jam together with him, right here on this old deck”.
When I left Alan, there was a song stuck in my head that I couldn’t shake for days.
River Studios New Hope, PA