Friday, June 7, 2019

Nine Not to Ignore: No. 9

This post concludes the series, which started back in April, intended to bring attention to at-risk historic buildings in Hudson. It was learning about this building's current situation, which is quite different from that of the other eight, that inspired the entire series.

9   The Hudson-Athens Lighthouse

Photo: Jonathan Simons
Although today it is called the Hudson-Athens Lighthouse, its official name is the "Hudson City Light." Of the seven lighthouses on the Hudson River, this lighthouse is the northernmost. Construction of the lighthouse began early in 1873, and the light was put into operation on November 14, 1874. For the first seventy-five years, the light required a keeper, whose responsibilities are described in a brochure about the lighthouse published by the Hudson-Athens Lighthouse Preservation Society:
[T]he keeper would have to keep the light shining. Every night he would have to light the lamps and make sure that they burned brightly and did not run out of oil. This usually meant several trips a night up and down the stairs. During the hours of darkness, the "light" was never to go out and if the Lighthouse Service received complaints that the light was not lit or that it was poorly lit, the lightkeeper would be in danger of losing his job. In the morning he would have to clean the soot from the lantern room, clean the lens, polish the brass, and make the lamps ready for the following night. This had to be done every day.
The Hudson-Athens Lighthouse was automated on November 10, 1949. Today, the light is solar powered and turned on at night by means of a light sensor.

On December 28, 1946--three years before it was automated--the Hudson City Light was featured on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post, in an illustration by Mead Schaeffer.

The plight of the light today is different from that of other endangered historic buildings in Hudson. Since it was decommissioned in 1984, the care and keeping of the light has been assumed by the not-for-profit Hudson-Athens Lighthouse Preservation Society, but after thirty-five years, the Society is becoming superannuated. Membership has dwindled to double digits, and the board currently has no president because nobody wants the position. The most stalwart members of the Society recognize that over the years they failed to groom a younger group of people who can carry on the task of preserving the lighthouse. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that many people think, because it is still a functioning lighthouse, that it is a government building, maintained by the Coast Guard or some such entity, and don't give much thought to how it is cared for or how it comes to be decorated with white lights every year for the winter holidays. They enjoy seeing it on the river day after day but take it for granted.

Photo: Jonathan Simons
There is another way in which the Hudson-Athens Lighthouse is different from the other buildings featured in this series: There is something everyone can do to help ensure its continued maintenance and preservation. The Hudson-Athens Lighthouse Preservation Society needs new blood, new energy, and new ideas. So, if you appreciate looking out onto the river and seeing this landmark, visit the HALPS website to become a member of the Society and discover how you can become involved in the care and keeping of the Hudson City Light. 

Other posts in the Nine Not to Ignore series:  
  1. The Robert Taylor House
  2. The Charles Alger House
  3. Hudson Upper Depot   
  4. 432 Warren Street
  5. 402-404 Warren Street and 10-12 North Fourth Street
  6. 501 Union Street
  7. The Gifford-Wood Building
  8. The Dunn Warehouse

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