Wednesday, May 17, 2023

Help for the Hudson-Athens Lighthouse

This morning, a frontpage headline in the Register-Star warned "Hudson-Athens Lighthouse in danger of collapsing." While the headline is a tad alarmist and sensational, the beloved landmark in the middle of the river needs the commitment and support of the community if it is to survive.

A press release from the Hudson-Athens Lighthouse Preservation Society (HALPS) explains the situation:
Six federal and state legislators have committed to work collaboratively to secure $7.5 million in federal funding to repair, restore, and protect the damaged underwater foundation of the Hudson-Athens Lighthouse (HAL). . . . If work does not start soon to the HAL's foundation, engineers forecast that within five years, the building will likely begin to tilt towards collapse. The legislators are Senator Charles Schumer, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Representative Marc Molinaro, State Senator Michelle Hinchey, Assemblymember Didi Barrett, and Assemblymember Chris Tague.
The Hudson-Athens Lighthouse is listed in both the State and National Registers of Historic Places, was designated as one of the Seven to Save for 2020-2021 by the Preservation League of New York State, and was described by Architectural Digest as "one of the country's boldest . . . and most beautiful lighthouses." Not only is the light a necessary navigation aid in the upper Hudson River, but this architecturally significant 1874 icon is an important part of the identity of its communities, the Upper Hudson Valley, and New York State, providing historic, cultural, and public service values. . . .
The Hudson-Athens Lighthouse, which is owned and maintained by the small, volunteer, nonprofit Hudson-Athens Lighthouse Preservation Society (HALPS), is now in trouble. Its huge above-water limestone blocks do not go down into the riverbed. Amazingly, the lighthouse is held up by 200 underwater wooden pilings pounded 50 feet into the riverbed and protected by packing mud and rip rap. In 1874, the foundation was engineering marvel.
In 2021, an underwater survey using LiDAR (Light Detection And Ranging) revealed alarming and accelerated foundation damage. River currents, tides, and weather have taken their toll, but the existential threat to HAL is the unintended consequence of the close-by commercial navigation channel dredged the the Army Corps of Engineers to accommodate larger, faster, and wider vessels. The passing commercial vessels displace a huge volume of water that rams into HAL's foundation. When this water recedes, it scours away boulders and the protective packing mud, increasingly exposing and damaging the wooden pilings. Some pilings are so damaged that they no longer connect to the building. The damage to the foundation is also threatening the lighthouse itself.
Work supported by a $500,000 grant from the NYS Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation received in 2021 is repairing and protecting HAL's exterior infrastructure. HALPS has raised more than $200,000 from community members and grants from personal foundations, the Preservation League of NYS, the US Lighthouse Society, the Bank of Greene County, the National Bank of Coxsackie, Hudson River Bank & Trust Foundation, New Athens Generating, State Tel, and the Athens Community Foundation. . . .
The critical foundation work is ready to go, "shovel ready" in an underwater way. Proper & O'Leary Engineering, which produced the 2021 Structural Engineering Report, has generated Restoration Concept Plans. HALPS also continues conversations with other lighthouses, marine contractors, and local suppliers of materials. . . .
Kristin Gamble, president of HALPS, said, "I urge everyone who cares about the lighthouse to add their voice to the campaign by submitting a message of support on the legislators' "Contact" page of their websites, or call their offices. Petitions to sign will soon be available in area shops.". . .

1 comment:

  1. There are three things you can do if you're interested in helping the lighthouse.

    Sign the petition by gouing here and clicking on the link:

    Come to the fundraiser on July 16th. You can get tickets here:

    Donate by going here: