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 Stony Point (Hudson River), NY    
A hike of some distance required.Active Fresnel Lens
Description: The wind howled through the dark night along the Hudson River on July 15, 1779, when at midnight, American troops, under the command of “Mad” Anthony Wayne, sprang a surprise attack on the British fort at Stony Point. This last major Revolutionary War battle in the North was victorious for the Americans, and though Washington abandoned the fort just three days later, it was a lasting victory for American morale.

Stony Point Lighthouse and second dwelling circa 1910
In 1826, the first lighthouse on the Hudson River was constructed at historic Stony Point to mark the southern entrance to the Hudson Highlands. The completion of the Erie Canal the previous year, which linked New York City to America’s heartland, increased traffic on the Hudson River dramatically, and the need for navigational aids was paramount.

The thirty-foot-tall octagonal Stony Point Lighthouse, built of blue split stone, was constructed by Thomas Phillips of New York City, at a cost of $3,350. The tower has three stories and a basement, originally used to store whale oil.

Keeper Cornelius W. Lansing lit the light for the first time on December 1, 1826. In 1838, it was recorded that the light consisted of seven lamps with spherical reflectors. The fixed-white light was projected over an arc of 270 degrees and was visible primarily from the south and east. In 1856, a fifth-order Fresnel lens, which also beamed a fixed-white light, replaced the array of lamps and reflectors. A more powerful fourth-order Fresnel lens was installed in 1902.

A wooden fog bell tower was added to the station in 1857, and this served until 1876, when the bell was removed from the decayed tower and suspended from a bracket affixed to the lighthouse. In 1890, another fog bell tower was built, this time 200 yards east of the lighthouse and near the water’s edge. In 1902, a lens lantern was mounted on the roof of the bell tower to display a fixed red light, known as Stony Point Lower Light.

There have been three keeper’s dwellings at Stony Point. The original six-room stone dwelling was torn down in 1879 and replaced by a dwelling on the flat land just west of the lighthouse. The second house was razed and replaced by another structure, built closer to the river in 1938.

Stony Point with fog bell and light tower near river
The Parkinson family is closely intertwined with the history of Stony Point, beginning with Jacob Parkinson who was wounded in the Battle of Stony Point. Fifty years later, in 1829, his grandson, Robert Parkinson, was appointed the second keeper of Stony Point Lighthouse. In 1853, Alexander Rose, whose wife Nancy was Robert Parkinson’s niece and Jacob Parkinson’s great-granddaughter, was placed in charge of the light.

Just four years after he took over as keeper of Stony Point, Alexander Rose was carrying timber for the construction of the new bell tower when he ruptured a blood vessel and then passed away a few weeks later, leaving his wife Nancy alone to look after their six children.

Nancy rose to the challenge of caring for the Stony Point Lighthouse as she raised her children, but sadly, only two of her six children survived to adulthood. Once during a dense fog, Nancy Rose remained at her post in the lighthouse for fifty-six hours, half frozen and without food, while she faithfully tolled the fog bell every thirty seconds.

A newspaper article in June 1903 reported that the seventy-something Nancy Rose was “attacked while alone by an Italian lunatic, who began to tear up carpets and smash furniture.” Nancy sized a poker and struck the intruder on the head. The man fled, and locked the door on the outside. Nancy tolled the fog bell to attract attention, and the man was soon apprehended.

Having the longest tenure of any keeper at Stony Point, Nancy Rose served forty-seven years until her passing in 1904 in her eightieth year. Shortly before her death, she was asked in an interview for a local newspaper if she had any interesting experiences from her years serving as keeper. She replied, “Nothing ever happens up here. One year is exactly like another, and except for the weather, nothing changes.” Her daughter, Melinda, shared her sentiments, stating, “I can’t remember anything that has ever happened, except once our cow died, and several times it’s been bad years for the chickens. But even the one wreck wasn’t really what you might call a wreck, for nobody was hurt, and it wasn’t mother’s fault anyhow, for both the lights were beaming as brightly as ever.”

Melinda must not have thought the lighthouse business too boring for in 1904, after her mother’s death, she applied for the keeper position. She was told, at age fifty-three, that she was too old, but Melinda would not be deterred and sought help from her Congressman. Melinda served one year as keeper and then resigned because the annual pay of just $560 was too little for the amount of work and responsibility attached to the job. When the pilots on the Hudson River learned Melinda Rose was leaving her post, they would hail the faithful keeper and send their regrets through megaphones as they passed the station.

Metal tower and dwelling on Stony Point in 1963
The one wreck recorded at Stony Point was the grounding of a passenger ship, the “Poughkeepsie” that left forty to fifty people stranded in the middle of the night. Seeking shelter from the driving rain, they knocked on the door of the keeper’s dwelling, and Nancy Rose graciously took them in and served them hot coffee and sandwiches and helped them dry their clothes before they caught a train to New York.

Keeper Millard Caler extinguished the beacon atop the lighthouse for good in 1925, when a steel tower built near the shoreline replaced the lighthouse. The steel tower was manually operated until 1973, and was the last manned light on the river.

Through the efforts of the Stony Point Battlefield State Historic Site, the Palisades Park Interstate Commission, and NYS Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation, restoration of the lighthouse began in 1986. The exterior was repaired and painted and the lantern was reglazed. On October 7, 1995, restoration was complete, and the light was activated for the first time in seventy years. The automatic light, operated by solar power, beams a flash of light once every four seconds.

The lighthouse is open to the public with exhibits, restored interior, and a period fourth-order Fresnel lens.

Head Keepers: Cornelius W. Lansing (1826 – 1829), Robert Parkinson (1829 – at least 1834), Leonard K. Baker (at least 1835 – at least 1839), Benjamin S. Coe (at least 1841), James Miller (1842 – 1845), Thomas Ackerson (1845 – 1849), James Miller (1849 – 1853), Alexander Rose (1853 – 1857), Nancy Rose (1857 – 1904), Melinda Rose (1904 – 1905), Frank Guyette (1905 – at least 1917), Millard W. Caler (1919 – at least 1940), Sidney Gross (1944 – 1947), John Kerr (1955 – ).

References

  1. Annual Report of the Lighthouse Board, various years.
  2. “Fifty Years’ Work,” New York Daily Tribune, June 20, 1903.
  3. “Stony Point Battlefield, State Historic Park,” Pamphlet, April 2002.
  4. Women Who Kept the Lights, Mary Louise Clifford and J. Candace Clifford, 1993.
  5. Lighthouses and Legends of the Hudson, Ruth R. Glunt, 1975.

Location: Located in Stony Point Battlefield State Historic Site, on the banks of the Hudson River in Stony Point.
Latitude: 41.24134
Longitude: -73.97174

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


Travel Instructions: Stony Point Battlefield State Historic Site is open Mid-April through October, Monday through Saturday from 10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m., and Sunday noon - 5:00 p.m. Winter hours are Monday through Friday from 10:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.

To reach the park, take the Palisades Interstate Parkway to exit 15. Go east on Route 106/210 for 2.4 miles to Route 9W. Turn left on Route 9W and proceed north through the village of Stony Point for 0.8 miles and then turn right on Park Road. Stay to your left at the bottom of the hill, and the site entrance is straight ahead. Call (845) 786-2521 before your visit to confirm the hours and to see if the lighthouse can be opened for tours.

The lighthouse is owned by the Palisades Interstate Park Commission. Grounds open, tower open during tours.

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