Sunday, August 8, 2010

A Port and a Lighthouse...Far From The Sea

Saturday Evening Post 12/28/1946
"In his fantastical tale, Rip Van Winkle, Washington Irving told of how the ghosts of Captain Henry Hudson and his crew appeared once every twenty years in the Catskill Mountains, across the river from here. According to the story, the Captain could then "...keep a guardian eye on the river and the great city called by his name." Hudson Riverside Park sign

Early in 1609, Henry Hudson was commissioned with the task of finding a northern route to the “islands of spicery” that would avoid the very dangerous African Cape of Good Hope. After checking out several other inlets, the Half Moon and her captain sailed up the river that one day would bear his name. He did not find the spices he sought but he did discover a mighty river that would, a century and more later, become a great center of commerce. In 1784, a group of whalers from Nantucket, afraid that England would reclaim their coastal land, moved their operations inland and established the port of Hudson, NY, followed by the ship building town of Athens just across the river. In the nineteenth century, this city of Hudson, named for the explorer, would become one of the nations busiest seaports, at the time rivaling even NYC to the south.

But navigation of the Hudson, with it's swift tides and currents and many shallow areas was not without it's problems. One such spot, the cause of the grounding of many ships, was the "middle ground flats" located between the the two cities of Hudson and Athens. Although today it is a visible island, at the time the shallow spot that was totally covered at high tide and therefore very dangerous to unsuspecting ships. So it was that in 1872, after many appeals, that Congress appropriated $35,000 for the construction of a lighthouse at that site, a lighthouse that would become the northernmost lighthouse on the Hudson River.

From" Work on the lighthouse, officially called the Hudson City Light, began in 1873. Pilings were driven fifty feet into the riverbed and then capped by a granite pier. To protect the foundation from winter and spring ice floes, the north end of the base was shaped like the prow of a ship. A two-story, Second Empire style brick structure, similar to the Stepping Stones Lighthouse, was completed atop the granite foundation, and Henry D. Best lit the beacon for the first time on November 14 , 1874. The light shown from a focal plane of forty-six feet above the river and was upgraded to a fifth-order Fresnel lens in 1926."

In the basement were rooms for storing the oil used for the light and a boiler room. The first floor contained the keepers room, the dining room and a kitchen and there were four bedrooms for the keeper's family on the second floor.  In the tower is a narrow, winding stairway that leads first to a room containing a fog bell and than finally up to the lantern room, of course, the heart of a lighthouse.Originally there was a fixed light in the tower that was changed to a flashing, fifth order fensel lens, the smallest type, in 1926. Today the light is automated, solar powered and maintained by the Coast Guard, even though ownership of the lighthouse was given over to the Hudson-Athens Lighthouse Preservation Society. The society, which was formed in 1982, oversaw the restoration of the interior and exterior of the light and today maintains it.

Throughout the summer, the society runs several boat trips to the lighthouse and it can also be viewed from Hudson River cruise boats and from land at the cities of Hudson and Athens.


  1. Beautiful! I love lighthouses and would love to take this tour! :-)

  2. Oh...I see a trip in the planning....this one I don't have stamped in my lighthouse passport. and your Lighthouse encyclopedia in your LT library looks pretty interesting too....I sure would NOT want that one on a kindle! Thanks for making the weekend beautiful.

  3. Hi..!!
    Its soo beautiful..
    really wonderful..



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