Only one of two Hudson River lighthouses still under the supervision of the US Coast Guard, Esopus Meadows Lighthouse is suffering from years of neglect and indifference. Long abandoned as a navigational aid, the lighthouse has begun the fast paced sequence of decay and disintegration. Only recently has the lighthouse been shored and placed back into correct horizontal alignment. Now the major work of saving and restoring the lighthouse has begun. First the lighthouse must be turned over from the Coast Guard to the hands of a not-for-profit corporation established to receive the lighthouse and undertake its restoration.
In 1838 the US Government appropriated $6,000 to erect a lighthouse at the Esopus Meadows to warn shipping of the dangerous shallows and mud flats laying between the lighthouse and the shore. The lighthouse was constructed as a near identical match to the neighboring lighthouse then in use at the Rondout Creek. By the late 1860s the lighthouse was in ruinous condition and funding was approved to rebuild the lighthouse. This time a more substantial foundation with a facing of cut stone was created to protect the lighthouse from winter ice and flooding.
As the lighthouse was and is only accessible via water, it was created as a “family lighthouse” with the keeper and his family living within the structure. The keepers house consisted of seven rooms with a kitchen, dining and sitting room on the first floor and bedrooms on the second. The Esopus Meadows Lighthouse is the only existing lighthouse built with a wood frame and clapboard exterior. All the lighthouses of similar construction on the river have long ago dissappeared.
The Coast Guard took over operations in 1939 and the light was eventually closed in 1965 when an automated navigation aid was erected outside.
Visiting the Lighthouse
The Esopus Meadows Lighthouse is not open for visitation as it is structurally unsafe. To see the lighthouse your best bets are:
- From the Great Lawn on the west side of Mills Mansion, or from Norrie Point State Park, located in Staatsburg, Dutchess County. The lighthouse is located just to the north.
- From Wilderstein Perservation’s Great Lawn looking south, located in Rhinebeck in Dutchess County.
- From Esopus Meadows Environmental Center located on River Road in Ulster Park, Ulster County. This is probably the best view of the lighthouse available. Located at the Environmental Center are several trails that take you out into the estuary providing unparalled views of the lighthouse.
United States Coast Guard Description & Photo
- WEST SIDE OF HUDSON RIVER
- Station Established: 1839
- Year Current Tower(s) First Lit: 1872
- Operational? NO
- Automated? YES 1965
- Deactivated: 1965
- Reactivated: May 2003
- Foundation Materials: GRANITE PIER
- Construction Materials: WOOD
- Tower Shape: OCTAGONAL ON SQUARE HOUSE
- Markings/Pattern: WHITE HOUSE W/RED MANSARD ROOF
- Relationship to Other Structure: INTEGRAL
- Original Lens: FIFTH ORDER, FRESNEL 1872
- Tower Height: 52