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 Hudson (Hudson-Athens), NY    
Lighthouse best viewed by boat or plane.Lighthouse open for climbing.Interior open or museum on site.Fee charged.Photogenic lighthouse or setting.
Description: Henry Hudson was commissioned by the Dutch East India Company on January 8th, 1609 to find a passage to the “islands of spicery” that would eliminate the lengthy and expensive voyage around Africa’s Cape of Good Hope. Provided with an eighty-ton ship, the Half Moon, and a crew of twenty, Hudson embarked on his journey in early April of that year.
Aerial view of Hudson Lighthouse
Photograph courtesy U.S. Coast Guard
Over a century later, a town bearing the name Hudson was established along the river of the same name. A group of whalers on Nantucket, fearing that England would reclaim her colonies, decided to move their business inland. After sailing one hundred miles up the Hudson River, they selected a site on the east bank of the river for their new home. Directly across the river from Hudson, the city of Athens, which would become a shipbuilding town, was subsequently founded. Together, the cities became an important and busy port on the Hudson River during the nineteenth century.

Midstream between the cities was a large mud flat called Middle Ground Flats that was completely submerged at high tide. Many a ship found herself unexpectedly stranded on the flats, prompting Congress to appropriate $35,000 in 1872 for construction of a lighthouse to help ships avoid the obstacle. 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.

Keeper Henry Best performed several rescues during his service. After Henry Best retired, his son, Frank, took over as keeper and continued his father’s practice of helping vessels in distress. In 1912, as Frank Best was performing his duties, he heard a large crash near the lighthouse. He soon discovered the source of the noise - a collision between a tug and the passenger steamship Isabella. Instinctively, Frank jumped into his rowboat and rushed to help. Due to his quick response, Frank was later credited with saving the lives of eleven people.

December 28, 1946 Saturday Evening Post
Emil J. Brunner kept the light from 1930 to 1949. For the first seven years, Brunner and his family lived at the lighthouse, but as the children grew older, the family moved into a house in Athens. Each night, Brunner would then row out to tend the light. In 1946, an artist for the Saturday Evening Post had the family pose at the lighthouse for its December 28, 1946 cover. The painting shows Brunner rowing to the lighthouse with his son and a Christmas tree on board. The rest of the family (with the artistic license of a few extra children added) is shown standing on the lighthouse deck anxiously awaiting their arrival. Brunner, the last civilian keeper at the lighthouse, retired in 1949 when the light was automated.

Hudson-Athens Lighthouse Preservation Society (HALPS) was formed in 1982 to preserve and maintain the lighthouse. The U.S. Coast Guard leased the property to HALPS in 1984, while retaining responsibility for the upkeep of the beacon. On July 3, 2000, the title to the lighthouse was transferred to HALPS, a fitting reward for their dedicated efforts. HALPS has restored the interior of the lighthouse to represent life in the 1930s, when the Brunner family lived there. Many authentic pieces donated by the Brunner family are on display, and the original fog bell, which still has its clockwork mechanism, is mounted outside on the tower.

The public can visit the Hudson-Athens Lighthouse, the most northern of the remaining Hudson River lighthouses, on tours occasionally offered by HALPS during the summer months. However, to see the original fifth-order Fresnel lens, visitors must make a trek to the South Street Seaport Museum in New York City.

Photo Gallery: 1 2

References:

  1. “Hudson River Lighthouses,” Richard Tuers, New York State Conservationist, October 2001.
  2. Lighthouses of New York, Greater New York Harbor, Hudson River and Long Island, Jim Crowley, 2000.
  3. Lighthouses and Legends of the Hudson, Ruth R. Glunt, 1975.
  4. “Hudson River Lights Get a New Lease,” Elise Barry and Wayne Wheeler, The Keeper’s Log, Summer 1987.

Location: Located in the Hudson River, between Athens on the west bank and Hudson on the east bank.
Latitude: 42.25201
Longitude: -73.8087

For a larger map of Hudson (Hudson-Athens) Lighthouse, click the lighthouse in the above map or get a map from: Mapquest.


Travel Instructions: The lighthouse is visible from S. Washington Street (Highway 385) just south of Athens. Tours to the Hudson-Athens Lighthouse are offered by the Hudson-Athens Lighthouse Preservation Society on the second Saturdays, July through October. Views of the lighthouse may also be possible on other trips offered by Hudson Cruises.

The lighthouse is owned by the Hudson-Athens Lighthouse Preservation Society. Dwelling/tower open during tours.

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