The Hudson-Athens Lighthouse Preservation Society (HALPS) has announced the award of a $500,000 grant by the NYS Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (OPRHP). The grant will support work to restore and protect the infrastructure of the 147-year-old Hudson-Athens Lighthouse’s primary building.
Work includes replacing its flat roof, mansard slate side roofs, gutters, and downspouts, all designed to eliminate damaging, ongoing water intrusion. In addition, a new staircase from the dock up to the building’s deck will increase and expand access and safety. Installation of an upgraded marine toilet and cistern repairs are also part of plan.
A wide range of advocates championed HALPS’s application; Hudson’s Common Council and the Village of Athens Trustees, Columbia County’s Board of Supervisors and Greene County’s Legislatures, NYS federal and NYS legislators, school districts, chambers of commerce, tourism boards, historic preservation societies, historic preservation/cultural sites, museums, and groups, and recreational boating clubs and organizations, local businesses, and individuals.
Such diverse support reinforces the Hudson-Athens Lighthouse’s historical, recreational, architectural, aesthetic, economic, educational, tourism, cultural and other benefits as a beloved icon. In addition, under HALPS stewardship, the lighthouse is now carbon-neutral with solar panels for electric power.
For the 27th year, HAL is outlined in winter lights installed by HALPS volunteers. Visible from the Hudson and Athens waterfronts and the heights in Hudson, the lights are a glowing vision of HAL floating on the Hudson River. The Bank of Greene County has financially supported the annual lighting which consists of nearly 1600 feet of lighting and 5000 bulbs.
The work under this grant will complete the first of a four-phase, “once-in-a century” strategy to completely restore and protect the architectural splendor of the Hudson-Athens Lighthouse’s 1874 lighthouse building and its underwater foundation. This multi-year, logistically complex, and expensive project will ensure the structural integrity of the Lighthouse’s for future generations. A recently completed engineering and architectural assessment report reveals that without this critical work, the Hudson-Athens Lighthouse will not survive.
True to its original mission, the lighthouse still stands in the middle of the Hudson River to warn boats against the shallows of Middle Ground Flats. But 147 years of relentless buffeting by river tides and currents, weather, dredging the navigation channel, and wakes from faster and deeper vessels have caused significant deterioration of the the Hudson-Athens Lighthouse’s building and the 200 wooden, underwater pilings that hold it up.
Maintenance of the lighthouse significantly diminished in 1949 when the U.S. Coast Guard automated the light, eliminating the need for an onsite light keeper. In 1982, concerned citizens formed HALPS with a mission to preserve the lighthouse. HALPS gained title to it in 2000. The Hudson-Athens Lighthouse is on the National and New York State Registers of Historic Places and designated in 2019 as one of Seven to Save by the Preservation League of New York State.
The lighthouse is an integral part of the mid-Hudson. HALPS ferries visitors for tours during summer months, including a climb to the lantern room to enjoy the spectacular 360 degree views of the Hudson River. Visitors learn about the rigors of lighthouse life for families living year-round at the lighthouse. Similarly, HALPS prioritizes free tours for Hudson and Athens school students to introduce them to the living history and ecological significance of the river and lighthouse. The Hudson-Athens Lighthouse is also available for seasonal special events.
The lighthouse is also a popular participant of Hudson’s celebratory summer Waterfront Wednesdays. These weekly festivals showcase free boat rides to tour the lighthouse, local merchants, cultural institutions, food vendors, music, performance art, and free rides on the historic sailing ship Appolonia.
HALPS is an all-volunteer, nonprofit. The OPRHP grant is a significant down-payment on the critically needed preservation work estimated to cost $3-4 million. To that end, HALPS plans to launch a capital campaign to raise the needed funds. Raising $180,000 of matching funds is an initial priority to effectuate OPRHP funding.
HALPS invites anyone interested in the Hudson-Athens Lighthouse’s survival to contact HALPS at email@example.com to volunteer, donate, and/or provide ideas, contacts or opportunities for potential funding support.