|Jeffrey's Hook, NY|
Description: The Little Red Lighthouse stopped being used as a functional lighthouse long ago, but over the years, this forty-foot-high structure has become a beacon of another kind.
Long ago, Native Americans known locally as the Wiechquaesgeck, part of the Lenape tribe, inhabited much of upper Manhattan and eastern New Jersey. The Wiechquaesgeck, and later the Dutch and English colonists, fished and hunted along the banks of the Hudson River. The Hudson was also an important route for travel, connecting upstate cities such as Albany to New York City and the Atlantic Ocean. As traffic increased along the river, so did the number of shipwrecks at Jeffrey’s Hook. In an attempt to reduce accidents, a red pole was placed at Jeffrey’s Hook jutting out over the river to warn travelers of danger. In 1889, two ten-candlepower lanterns were placed on a pole to aid navigation. Much of the land surrounding the lighthouse, including the riverbanks of Jeffrey’s Hook, was acquired by the city in 1896, and became known as Fort Washington Park.
In the early 20th century, barge captains carrying goods up and down the Hudson demanded a brighter beacon. The Little Red Lighthouse had originally been erected on Sandy Hook, New Jersey in 1880, where it used a 1,000-pound fog bell and flashing red light to guide ships through the night. It became obsolete and was dismantled in 1917. In 1921, the lighthouse was reconstructed on Jeffrey’s Hook in an attempt to improve navigational aids on the Hudson River. Run by a part-time keeper and furnished with a battery-powered lamp and a fog bell, the lighthouse, then known as Jeffrey’s Hook Lighthouse, was an important guide to river travelers for ten years. The George Washington Bridge opened in 1931, and the brighter lights of the bridge again made the lighthouse obsolete. In 1948, the Coast Guard decommissioned the lighthouse, and its lamp was extinguished.
On July 23, 1951, the Coast Guard gave the property to the City of New York, and on May 29, 1979, the Little Red Lighthouse was added to the National Register of Historic Places. It did not receive much attention over the years, until City Comptroller Harrison J. Goldin worked with Parks Commissioner Henry J. Stern to find funding for its restoration. In 1986, Parks and Recreation hosted a party in honor of the lighthouse’s 65th anniversary and to celebrate a $209,000 renovation to the lighthouse that included reconstruction of the concrete foundation and the installation of new steel doors. In the year 2000, the lighthouse received a fresh coat of red paint that is true to its original, historic color, along with new interior lighting and electric lines. Today, the Little Red Lighthouse remains a stalwart symbol of the area’s heritage, lighting the way into the city’s past.
An annual festival, held at the lighthouse in September, typically includes celebrity readings of The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge and other activities geared towards children. Past readers have included such notables as Isabella Rossellini, Dee Dee Conn, and James Earl Jones. The light was reactivated on September 19th, 2002, just before the 10th annual festival.
Located under the eastern end of Interstate 95's George Washington Bridge, which connects New Jersey with Manhattan at
178th Street. The lighthouse is owned by New York City Department of Parks & Recreation. Grounds open, tower open during special tours.
The lighthouse is owned by New York City Department of Parks & Recreation. Grounds open, tower open during special tours.
Pictures on this page copyright Kraig Anderson, used by permission.