Leaving Philly: Starting a New Life in the Adirondacks

Sharon Barr
5 min readJan 20, 2020

Shortly before I left Philadelphia for good, I found myself in a crowded noisy courtroom in City Hall. On one side, the Painted Bride, a venerable art center, and its community of supporters (including me), seeking approval to sell its building, a performance space festooned with an exuberant mosaic by the artist Isaiah Zagar. On the other side of the courtroom — opponents of the sale and friends of Zagar seeking to preserve the building and mosaic. The case had ignited intense feelings about art, community, the built environment and historic preservation.

As I entered the courtroom, Kitty, an acquaintance of mine and friend of Zagar approached me and said, “You’re on the wrong side of this case. And, by the way, why the hell are you moving to the Adirondacks? You won’t have any of this” as she gestured with her hand, taking in a sweep of the courtroom, bristling with the passion and tension.

This”. I knew what she meant.

I have traded a city for a home in a forest with a view of pine trees and mountains. If I step outside my house, I hear only wind. On this day in January, the dark green pines are dusted with gleaming white snow. A rare plane may pass overhead. The only cars to drive by are headed to the Siamese Ponds Wilderness Area to hike or hunt or snowshoe or ski the backcountry.

For the first few months, my friends in Philadelphia would ask “Do you still feel like you are on vacation?” Few could imagine that I would actually choose to live in a place where city people go on vacation, to “unplug” — but only for a while — so they can then return to “this”.

Truth be told, I wasn’t entirely certain that I would be able to give up “this” for what lies before me. You spend your first month or two focused on the paperwork of a move, the drivers licenses and voting, and the finding of doctors and dry cleaners and hair cutters and electricians.

Then, one day, you’ve filled out all the forms, unpacked the boxes and suitcases and rearranged the closets. You’ve left the world of daily work behind and your new life stretches out in front of you, past the trees and the lakes toward the mountains and wilderness.

Sharon Barr

Urbanist who lives in the wilderness. Planner + Strategist. Real estate consultant to nonprofits. Attorney. Traveler (both near and far). Yoga teacher. Writer.