The Hudson-Athens Lighthouse is among seven historic sites in the state identified by the Preservation League of New York State as threatened.
Built in 1874, the Hudson-Athens Lighthouse is one of the original 14 Hudson River lighthouses, of which seven remain. The lighthouse is threatened by deterioration, a lack of public awareness and a loss of visual and architectural integrity, according to a report by the league.
The lighthouse is maintained by the nonprofit Hudson-Athens Lighthouse Preservation Society, while the U.S. Coast Guard maintains the actual light.
“We are delighted with the designation of the Hudson-Athens Lighthouse as one of the Seven to Save by the Preservation League of New York State,” Hudson-Athens Lighthouse Preservation Society President Carol Gans said. “This recognition will be a big boost to our efforts to build awareness of the need for structural repairs, new volunteers and new donors for the future of the lighthouse. Our objective is to build on this icon’s role in the history of our communities by giving it a new and more connected role for today and the future.”
Decades of being in the elements have taken their toll on the lighthouse, Gans said.
“With any structure that is 150 years old there is a constant maintenance of it,” she said. “When you put that structure in the river it’s a whole different ballgame. You have the tides, you have the current, you have the weather all affecting it.”
Other sites include the state’s barge canal system, Richard Lippold’s Orpheus and Apollo in New York County, Central Technical High School in Syracuse, Parrot Hall in Geneva, Elmhurst African American Burial Ground in Elmhurst and Sag Harbor Hills Azurest & Ninevah Subdivisions (SANS) in Sag Harbor.
“These Seven to Save selections bring attention to fascinating diverse aspects of the Empire State’s rich, eclectic built history,” Preservation League Seven to Save Committee Chair Caroline Rob Zaleski said. “Each threatened site represents a particular approach to engineering and architecture, as well as specific public purpose and sociology.”
The sites mark aspects of what makes New York special, Preservation League President Jay DiLorenzo said.
“Our 2020-21 Seven to Save list helps tell the story of the many people who made our state unique,” DiLorenzo said. “A sacred burial ground, a vulnerable lighthouse, a reimagined high school, a susceptible beachside enclave, an iconic canal system, a para-architectural installation, an imperiled research center. Each site speaks to what makes our state special.”
The Hudson-Athens Lighthouse Preservation Society described the news as “amazing” on its Facebook page.
“This designation, which was awarded in a competitive application process, will help us to boost awareness about the critical funding needs of the Hudson-Athens Lighthouse,” according to the post. “We here at HALPS spend hundreds of hours every year in a volunteer capacity to search for funding, do public outreach and open the lighthouse to visitors, all with the goal to keep our beautiful lighthouse standing as a cherished and celebrated landmark of the upper Hudson Valley. We are deeply indebted to the Preservation League of New York State for recognizing the importance of the Hudson-Athens Lighthouse as part of the fabric and identify of our region.”
Gans is hopeful that the designation will bring renewed awareness to the lighthouse, as it embarks on the next phase of its restoration.
“We need to conduct another underwater study to check the condition of the pilings that were replaced 11 years ago,” she said. “The next step will be to restore the rip-rap to protect the pilings.”
Another challenge facing the lighthouse is restoration of a more stable power supply, Gans said.
“We lost power in September,” she said, adding that the lighthouse is historically lighted for the holiday season. “In order to have lighting, we had to have emergency solar installed which took almost 800 hours of volunteer time to have minimal lighting.”
The holiday lighting is supported by the Bank of Greene County each year, Gans said.
The lighthouse will be open to the public for tours in 2020 on July 11, Aug. 8, Sept. 12 and Oct. 12. Tours start from both the Henry Hudson Riverfront Park in Hudson and the Athens Village Riverfront Park.
“As visitors arrive at the lighthouse, they climb the metal stairs and enter the interior of the lighthouse where they are welcomed by tour guides, a docent, or Emily Brunner (the last civilian lighthouse keeper) herself, through video clips,” according to hudsonlighthouse.org.
Fees in 2019 were $25 for adults and $15 for children under 12. For members, the cost is $15 for adults and $10 for children. Reservations can be made at Hudsoncruises.com of by calling 518-348-8993.
The lighthouse can also be used for school trips and for private events, according to hudsonlighthouse.org.
The Hudson-Athens Lighthouse will also be working to increase its membership and volunteer base, while actively pursuing grant opportunities, Gans said.
“We will have a presence on Warren Street,” she said, adding that volunteers would be sharing space with Historic Hudson.
The Preservation League has been identifying at-risk historic sites on a biennial basis since 1999. A designation on the Preservation League’s Seven to Save” list can help reduce a site’s risk through press conference, tours, grants and new legislation.
“The League also collaborates with advocates, elected officials and other stakeholders to craft preservation strategies and put these plans to work,” according to the report.
Established in 1974, the League works to demonstrate the important role historic preservation plays in community revitalization, sustainable economic growth and the protection of historic buildings and landscapes, according the report.
Anyone interested in helping the Hudson-Athens Lighthouse Preservation Society and their mission can mail a donation to HALPS, P.O. Box 145, Athens, N.Y. 12015.