In the late 1880's, hazards created by the Middle Ground Flats opposite the City of Hudson made navigation of the Hudson River at that point extremely risky for the busy shipping route. After much petitioning to the Congress of the United States, a survey was completed and an appropriation of $35,000.00 was approved by Congress in 1872 to build the Hudson City Lighthouse.
Construction began in early 1873. Pilings were driven some fifty feet into the riverbed and then surrounded by a granite pier. The keeper's dwelling was then constructed on top of the man-made pier. The north end of the lighthouse base was designed like a bow of a ship. This was done to protect the lighthouse from the frequent ice flows in winter and spring.
Built in the Second Empire architectural style, the two story brick and granite structure sits majestically in the middle of the river between Hudson and Athens. The lighthouse was put into operation on November 14, 1874 with Henry D. Best as its first keeper and automated on November 10, 1949 almost seventy-five years to the date on which it was first lighted. Today, the lighthouse still serves as an aid to navigation, guiding ships safely around the Middle Ground Flats.
Since its opening, the Hudson/Athens Lighthouse has been operated and maintained by the United States Coast Guard. However, in 1967, then Governor, Nelson A. Rockefeller, established the Hudson River Valley Commission to explore possible uses for the Hudson Lighthouses. The Commission recommended that the Coast Guard deed over or lease the facilities to public or private not-for-profit groups. These groups would then rehabilitate, maintain, and operate the facilities for public benefit.
Not until 1982 did any local group seriously attempt to follow through with the recommendations of the Hudson River Valley Commission. At that time, a group of citizens from Columbia and Greene Counties formed the Hudson/Athens Lighthouse Preservation Society.
In 1989, H.A.L.P.S. was awarded a matching grant by the N.Y.S. Historic Preservation Office. The restoration work was completed in 1990. Today, through the efforts of former congressman Gerald Solomon the Lighthouse title was transferred as part of the Congressional Appropriations Act of 1999. The US Coast Guard has officially transferred the deed as of July 3, 2000.
For more information please visit: www.hudsonathenslighthouse.org