The authenticity of the term “uncharted territory” is lost on us today. With the internet, we can map nearly any location on earth. The mystery of new, undiscovered territory is null and void, save for the far reaches of outer space.
This reality is a far cry from that of Henry Hudson, the adventurous English sea captain employed by the Dutch East India Company. In 1609, Hudson and his crew sailed the Halve Maen (Half Moon) nearly 150 miles north on a river in New York in search of an easterly passage to Asia. Though unsuccessful, his voyage of discovery establshed his place in history. His name was bestowed upon the river that still captivates us, but is no longer unfamiliar.
Hudson’s voyage established a Dutch presence in the region, and the Hudson River became a lasting corridor of commerce. To commemorate the 400th anniversary of this event, a quadricentennial celebration, Explore NY 400, is planned for 2009, sponsored by the Hudson-Fulton-Champlain Quadricentennial Commission (HFCQC). The event will take place over several months as a collection of celebrations spanning New York, Vermont and Canada.
Eight lighthouses remain standing on the Hudson River, each with its own history of navigational aid to the sailboats, steamboats and sloops which once depended on them. Several of these, as historical symbols and tourist attractions, will participate in Explore NY 400 with their own events.
In addition to standard tours, visitors will be treated to special exhibits, art shows and musical performances. Some highlights follow.
(Note: This information was accurate at press time, but is subject to change.)
Hudson Athens Lighthouse
The Hudson-Athens Lighthouse Preservation Society, as a “Community Ambassador” for the Explore NY 400 committee, has planned several events to coincide with the July arrival of the Half Moon (a replica tall ship) in the town of Hudson.
During the first week in July, the entire façade of the 1874 lighthouse will be lit, in addition to other historic buildings in Hudson. A series of four special lighthouse tour dates has been scheduled with a special exhibit and informative speakers.
The local antique boat club will dock a historic sailboat at the lighthouse that month, and a commemorative Quadricentennial coin will be issued which features the lighthouse on one side and Hudson’s Half Moon on the other.
The Saugerties Lighthouse
The 1867 Saugerties Lighthouse is within view of one of the anchorage sites of Henry Hudson’s ship at Turkey Point. This lighthouse will participate in the effort by the entire Village of Saugerties to plant tulips throughout the village to honor Dutch heritage. The museum in the lighthouse will house special exhibits highlighting Hudson’s voyage.
The Saugerties Lighthouse Conservancy will host the annual “Between the Tides” Music Festival on Sunday, August 16, 2009. The festival is scheduled during low tide so that the 1/2-mile trail to the lighthouse is passable throughout the event.
This will be a family-friendly, all-ages event that supports the continued preservation of the lighthouse. In recognition of the Age of Sail, sailboats are invited to the festival. The celebration will also include lighthouse tours, live music, dancing, food and drinks.
The largest and last ‘family’ light built on the Hudson River, the Rondout Lighthouse was first lit in August 1915. In addition to offering its regular public tours, this lighthouse will be part of the Hudson 400 Art Celebration sponsored by the Ulster County Quadricentennial Committee (www.ucqc.org). It will be one of several installation locations for a linear outdoor art exhibit.
As the birthplace of the Hudson River School art movement, the communities surrounding the Rondout Lighthouse will hold numerous arts events from April to September. An “Explorer’s Map” will provide locations and other details.
Esopus Meadows Lighthouse
The 1829 Esopus Meadows Lighthouse is the only remaining wooden lighthouse on the Hudson River, re-lit in 2003 and deemed a “working navigational aid.” The summer of 2009 marks its re-opening to public tours, following renovations and the capping of its granite base.
This lighthouse owns a 44’ boat, the r/v Estuary Stewart, which will transport visitors from several different points to where it sits in the middle of the Hudson River. Special frequent tours will be offered of the lighthouse, nicknamed “Maid of the Meadows,” which will include a one-hour guided, narrated trip through the Estuary, describing its role in Henry Hudson’s voyage.
June will also bring the grand opening of the Esopus Meadows Lighthouse Bed & Breakfast, a unique lodging experience inside the lighthouse. The two guest rooms, available June through October, will be designed in the period of the late 1920’s and 30’s, complete with a claw-foot tub.
Stony Point Lighthouse
The 1826 Stony Point Lighthouse, the oldest on the Hudson, sits within the Stony Point Battlefield State Historic Site. The Battle of Stony Point was one of the last major Revolutionary War battles in the northeastern colonies. The site features a museum, which offers exhibits on the battle and the lighthouse, as well as interpretive programs and reenactments.
The site is also home to the stone castellated Memorial Arch, which was built for the 1909 Tricentennial Celebration of Hudson’s voyage. In 2009, the Explore NY 400 events will focus on this structure, and will include a gallery of photos from the 1909 event.
In 2009, guided tours of the lighthouse will be offered on weekends in September and October, following the nesting season of resident eagles. The 30-minute tours are suitable for adults only, and involve climbing ladders to reach upper floors. Although subject to change, the tours will run from 12:00-4:00 p.m., depending on the weather.
This story appeared in the
September 2008 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.
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