Hudson Valley postcard: the Hudson-Athens lighthouse, Athens NY

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Typically the first place I expect to see lighthouses is by the ocean. So when I heard people talking about lighthouses in landlocked upstate New York, I was initially a bit surprised- but naturally, there are lighthouses on the Hudson (as on any navigable river and even some large lakes, like the Great Lakes). For anyone interested in lighthouses on the Hudson, Kevin Woyce’s book “Hudson River Lighthouses and History” is an excellent source for histories of the lighthouses along the Hudson from New York Harbor to Coxsackie.

The Hudson-Athens lighthouse was first lit in November 1874 to warn sailors away from the Middle Ground Flats, shallows in the middle of the river near the whaling city of Hudson (where, incidentally, Herman Melville learned about the trade as a teenager in the 1830s). The lighthouse included a new improvement on previously-built lighthouses along the Hudson: the north end of its granite pier is shaped like the prow of a ship, to force floating ice to flow around the lighthouse rather than piling up against it.

In 1967 NY Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller established the Hudson River Valley Commission to investigate possible uses for the Hudson River lighthouses. It was determined that the Coast Guard would deed over or lease the lighthouses to public or private not-for-profit groups which would renovate, maintain and operate the facilities for the public benefit. In 1982 the first group to seriously follow through on the recommendations of the Hudson River Valley Commission formed the Hudson-Athens Lighthouse Preservation Society, composed of a group of interested citizens from Columbia and Greene Counties. A landmark lease was signed on February 15, 1984, for a 20-year term, the first lease signed with a government agency and a private group for a Hudson River lighthouse. The Coastguard officially transferred the deed to the Hudson-Athens Lighthouse in July, 2000.

WP_20150823_15_00_25_Pro The lighthouse can be viewed from waterfront parks on both sides of the river in Athens and in Hudson. If you want a close-up view of the lighthouse, Hudson Cruises offer one-hour lighthouse cruises with tours of the lighthouse itself departing from either Athens or Hudson (easily accessible from New York City by Amtrak), as well as longer Hudson Valley Cruises. The city of Hudson also boasts a vibrant shopping district with a large number of antique shops.

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