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 Committee, Inc.
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.
Keepers of the Hudson/Athens Lighthouse
1874 – Henry D. Best
1893 – Frank Best
1918 – Nellie Best
1918 – William J. Murray
1922 – August Kielberg
1932 – Emil Brunner
1949 – G.E. Speaks
1957 – Perry Peloubot
1966 – William Nestlen
Historic American Buildings Survey Drawings
These images are reproductions created by the Library of Congress as part of its American Memory Series, an ongoing effort to document important historic structures. Use of this material is potentially subject to copyright despite having been created for the National Government.
- Northeast Elevation
- Basement Plan
- Southwest Elevation
- Southeast Elevation
- Northwest Elevation
- Architectural Details
- Section Drawing
Visiting the Lighthouse
Please call 518-828-5294 to make arrangements for private tour or for information about public tours.
United States Coast Guard Description & Photo
- MIDDLE GROUND FLATS/HUDSON RIVER
- Station Established: 1874
- Year Current Tower(s) First Lit: 1874
- Operational? YES
- Automated? YES 1949
- Deactivated: NO
- Foundation Materials: GRANITE CAISSON
- Construction Materials: DRESSED STONE/BRICK
- Tower Shape: SQUARE
- Markings/Pattern: RED BRICK W/BLACK LANTERN
- Relationship to Other Structure: ATTACHED
- Original Lens: FIFTH ORDER, FRESNEL 1926
- Height of Tower: 30
- Height of Focal Plane: 46
Lighthouse Contacts & Address
Hudson-Athens Lighthouse Preservation Society
Athens, NY 12015
The Hudson/Athens Lighthouse Preservation Society, Inc. is a private not-for-profit organization of individuals from Columbia and Greene Counties, including neighboring counties and states for the educational and cultural interest of the public. The Society is responsible for the restoration, preservation, maintenance and operation of the Lighthouse; the lighted beacon remains the responsibility of the US Coast Guard.
Ways in which you may become active in maintenance and preservation of this historic structure in our community are:
- Become a member of the society. Your dues help pay for the cost of museum acquisitions, maintenance seminars/lectures.
- Encourage others to join as members.
- Volunteer; there are always plenty of activities and projects in which volunteers are invaluable to an organization such as this one. We need volunteers for: committees; docent work; maintenance; donate time, talent and resources for fundraising activities; provide transportation; collect furnishings, artifacts and other donated items.
- Develop an interpretative center for the handicapped, elderly and school children.