Stony Point Lighthouse, a beautiful octagonal structure, is the oldest lighthouse on the 315-mile long Hudson River, marking the entrance to the Hudson Highlands.
Built in 1826, the Stony Point Lighthouse helped steer the increased river traffic created by the opening of the Erie Canal the previous year away from danger. The beacon marked the narrowing of the river above Haverstraw Bay and helped ship captains approaching from the south distinguish between the rocky point and the mountains behind it. A fog bell was added in 1857. Of the 14 lighthouses built along the Hudson River, only 8 remain.
During the 1800s, industries grew along the shores of the Hudson River. Brickmaking, quarrying and even ice harvesting became lucrative. The commercial ships that served these industries depended upon lighthouses such as the Stony Point Lighthouse for navigation as they sailed or steamed up and down the river.
In 1925, the U.S. Lighthouse Service decommissioned the lighthouse. A steel light tower, now automated and still providing aid to navigation, replaced the old lighthouse. Having acquired the lighthouse property in 1977 — completing the state’s acquisition of the Stony Point Battlefield — the New York State Park system repaired and painted the lighthouse and reglazed the lantern in 1986.
The Keepers of Stony Point Lighthouse
The keepers of the Stony Point Lighthouse — 12 men and women — performed the various tasks related to maintaining the lighthouse, ensuring the lantern was lit and the fog bell ringing in stormy weather. The lighthouse and its keepers did their job admirably. In the 100 years of service, only one incident was recorded: the steamer Poughkeepsie ran aground in March 1901, but no one died from that accident, thankfully.
Between 1853 and 1905, members of just one family, the Roses, kept the light. Alexander Rose began keeping the light in 1853, but died in 1857. Alexander’s wife, Nancy, succeeded him, and managed the light until she died in 1904. Her daughter Melinda took over for the following year.
Maintaining a “good light” offered lightkeepers enough work for two people — not a problem for married lightkeepers. In fact, their duties included:
- lighting the lamps
- polishing the lens
- refilling the fuel reservoirs
- cleaning soot from the lantern
- hanging daytime curtains
- winding the fog bell mechanism
- keeping weather records
- greeting visitors
That’s all in addition to managing a household and the chores related to that, including planting and raising vegetables, feeding children, caring for livestock and maintaining the lightkeeper’s cottage.
Know Before You Go
The lighthouse shares the land with the Stony Point Battlefield, the location of the 1779 Battle of Stony Point during the American Revolutionary War; the lightkeepers cottage is no longer there. The Stony Point Battlefield State Historic Site cares for both the lighthouse and the historic battlefield.
Getting there: 44 Battlefield Rd, Stony Point, NY
Hours: April – October Wednesday- Saturday 10 a.m.- 4:30 p.m.; Sunday 12 – 4:30 p.m.
Website: Stony Point Battlefield State Historic Site
Read about other lighthouses in the midatlantic! And be sure to check out the following articles about other lighthouses along the Hudson River: