As pastoral as it is, Purchase offers easy access to highways, trains and the Westchester County Airport. “Everywhere you need to go is 12 to 15 minutes away,” Ms. Vahabzadeh said, singling out her beach club in Rye and the Westchester, a shopping mall in White Plains. When traffic is light, she can be at the top of Manhattan in a half-hour, she said.
A hamlet in the town of Harrison with about 5,400 residents, Purchase is known as a sanctum for power brokers and celebrities. Herbert H. Lehman, the former New York governor (1933-42) and senator (1949-57), owned a 1918 half-timbered house with 10 bedrooms that is on the market now for about $3 million. Its seller is the ABC News legal analyst Sunny Hostin, who is a regular on “The View.”
The area blends residences, corporations and educational institutions, which came about as 20th-century landowners sold off big properties to diverse interests. For instance, 500 acres of farmland that belonged to the Chisholm family, who made their money in paper manufacturing, were transformed into SUNY Purchase. The estate of the Reid family, who owned The New York Herald Tribune, became the campus of Manhattanville College, as well as several office sites and housing developments.
The corporations drove down real estate taxes, while the colleges brought world-class culture. Both commissioned important architecture, including Edward Larrabee Barnes’s 1967 master plan for SUNY Purchase and I. M. Pei’s 1980 glass-and-travertine building, currently used as Mastercard’s global headquarters.
But development has long been a sore point. Purchase unsuccessfully tried to secede from Harrison in the 1960s and 1970s to control its growth. Today, some community members are seeking to overturn an amendment to zoning laws that would allow a 165,000-square-foot senior living center to be built at a former granite quarry in West Harrison, another hamlet. The new zoning, they fear, may usher in overscale construction in the open spaces they cherish.
What You’ll Find
Purchase lies 27 miles northeast of Manhattan, where the Hutchinson River Parkway intersects Interstate 684.
It is a place of enclaves, with housing complexes, golf clubs and office campuses swelling off the two main avenues, Purchase Street and Anderson Hill Road. Homes are in the style of English Tudors, French manor houses and American center-hall colonials and raised ranches. According to Maureen Skrilow, a broker with William Raveis Real Estate in Rye, most of the homes were built in the past 50 to 60 years, with several new developments built in the past 10 to 20 years.
“It’s really a very family-friendly and warm community,” despite the fact that many homes are on large parcels that buffer residents from their neighbors, Ms. Skrilow said. She noted that Purchase can be a hard sell for people from Manhattan and Brooklyn accustomed to walking to shops and transportation. A few restaurants and a small food market line a section of Anderson Hill Road, but Purchase has no real commercial center. The nearest train station is in White Plains, about an eight-minute drive.
The century-old Purchase Community House, which shares a building with the town library, runs an after-school program at the nearby elementary school. In the summer, locals take advantage of its four swimming pools and day camp.
The Performing Arts Center at SUNY College at Purchase presents drama, dance, films and music concerts in four theaters. It is steps from the college’s Neuberger Museum of Art, with more than 6,000 works of modern, contemporary and African art.
On PepsiCo’s campus, visitors can ramble thorough the 168-acre Donald M. Kendall Sculpture Gardens, which reopened in April after a four-year makeover. PepsiCo also sponsors a farmers’ market on Anderson Hill Road every Wednesday.
What You’ll Pay
As of Monday, 57 houses in Purchase were listed for sale on Zillow. The least expensive was a two-bedroom home in the Crossing, a 1980s gated community that appeals to people who are downsizing; it was priced at $849,000. The most expensive was a seven-bedroom house built in 2009 at 5 Sarosca Farm Lane with a regulation-size basketball court, a tennis court and a soccer field, listed at $10.95 million.
Vickie Cox, a broker with Julia B. Fee Sotheby’s International Realty in Rye, said Purchase’s lack of density translates to lower inventory compared with nearby towns. Houses sell for about 95 percent of their list price and average 120 to 140 days on the market, she said.
According to Sotheby’s website, as of June 1, the median sale price of a single-family home over the previous 12 months was $1.9 million, a year-over-year increase of 150 percent, based on 33 properties. Seven of those homes cost $1 million or less.
On a bright summer Sunday, Purchase had the well-groomed, relaxed air of a country club. Cyclists sped along the roads. Parents slathered with sunscreen formed amiable clusters at the community house. And the Manhattanville College campus, with its stone buildings, forested patches and birdsong, was emptied of students and filled with peace. The only jarring element was a plane skimming overhead in its descent to Westchester County Airport. With plans afoot to privatize the nonprofit airport, some residents are concerned about increasing flight traffic and noise.
Purchase is in the Harrison Central School District, which includes four elementary schools, one middle school and one high school.
The Purchase School enrolls about 315 students in kindergarten through fifth grade. On 2015-16 tests, 62 percent of students met standards in English, versus 39 percent statewide; 74 percent met standards in math, versus 43 percent statewide.
In Harrison, the Louis M. Klein Middle School enrolls about 815 students in sixth through eighth grades. Fifty-two percent of students met standards in English, versus 37 percent statewide; 62 percent met standards in math, versus 40 percent statewide.
Harrison High School enrolls about 1,090 students in ninth through 12th grades. The mean SAT scores of the 2016 graduating class were 528 for reading and writing, compared with 483 statewide; and 569 for math, compared with 501 statewide. The school offers an intensive two-year curriculum for juniors and seniors that culminates in an international baccalaureate diploma.
The Keio Academy of New York is a private boarding school with a Japanese-language curriculum that serves about 360 students in ninth through 12th grades. The academy is affiliated with a group of universities in Japan and prepares students for higher education in that country. The tuition is $24,800 a year.
Trains on the Metro-North Railroad’s Harlem Line run about every half-hour from White Plains to Grand Central Terminal. The trip takes 37 to 55 minutes. One-way peak fares are $12.25; monthly tickets are $268.
Trains also run from the Harrison station, about 15 minutes by car, but the service is less frequent and the station parking less accessible.
In 1695, John Harrison, an Englishman from Flushing, Queens, along with four partners, bought a stretch of landlocked territory from the Siwanoy Indians.
The parcel, which corresponds to the present-day town of Harrison, was known as Harrison’s Purchase. Purchase Street was originally a section of a footpath connecting Rye Lake to Long Island Sound.