|Hudson (Hudson-Athens), NY|
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.
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.
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.
Located in the Hudson River, between Athens on the west bank and Hudson on
the east bank. The lighthouse is owned by the Hudson-Athens Lighthouse Preservation Society. Dwelling/tower open during tours.
The lighthouse is owned by the Hudson-Athens Lighthouse Preservation Society. Dwelling/tower open during tours.
Pictures on this page copyright Kraig Anderson, used by permission.