By Robert Kimmel–
Much needed repairs to Sleepy Hollow’s iconic lighthouse are set to begin soon after the July 4th weekend, according to Village of Sleepy Hollow officials. The work will keep the structure closed to visitors for at least another 10 months. The announcement comes a year after Westchester County officially allocated $3.4 million from the County’s capital project budget. In announcing the financing last July, County Executive George Latimer declared, “This long overdue work will breathe new life into an iconic Westchester landmark.”
“The project will restore the lighthouse, stabilize the structure and prevent further deterioration,” the village stated. “Work consists of repairs and repainting to the exterior cast iron, replacement of windows and doors, repair of cracks in the cellar, cleaning and re-pointing of the foundation masonry, restoration of the interior plaster & painting finishes and repairs to and restoration of all the wood floors. The work will also include reconstruction of the intermediate landing between the bridge and gangway, a new security gate on the mainland and new electric and exterior lighting.”
Disrepair of the lighthouse has kept it closed for several years. Prior to that, it was a destination for sightseers and tours as well as local residents. Latimer described it as “…a backdrop on many County communications early in my Administration.”
While the lighthouse itself will be closed for visits, Kingsland Point Park and the RiverWalk will remain open.
“Sorry for the inconvenience,” the village wrote. “We look forward to visiting a refurbished lighthouse sometime next year.” Sleepy Hollow manages the lighthouse, under an agreement with the County, which officially owns the structure. The need for work on the Lighthouse has been evident for many years, but it was not until 2011 that County legislators approved design work for its renovation.
The original lighthouse construction was completed in 1883 after years of complaints by steamship owners about navigational concerns stemming from dangerous shallows along the river’s shores. However, its present location is a few miles downstream from the spot originally designated by Congress, which authorized its building back in 1847 at a location just north of Sing Sing prison. That location was eventually scrapped and the current spot a few miles downstream known as Tarrytown Point was chosen.
Legislation in 1849 by New York State read, “The United States has hereby authorized to erect, or cause to be erected, in the Hudson River, at a point in the vicinity of Tarrytown Point, at such distance from the shore that the water at time of ordinary low water mark, shall not exceed two feet in depth, a beacon light for the purpose of securing the safety of vessels navigating the said river.” Shortly thereafter, testimony from the captains and steamship pilots pushed to relocate the light at nearby Beekman Point. More delays followed because the cost of the construction was more than Congress had authorized.
The land’s owner at the time, Gerard Beekman, was originally reluctant to sell the necessary two acres at the river’s edge because he had envisioned building nearby residences, and believed the construction of the lighthouse would lessen the value of his land. He finally agreed to sell the land at the outer end of the point, but the $3,000 price constituted too great a share of the $4,000 total amount allocated for the lighthouse. That caused more delays.
Decades later, in 1881, the U.S. government finally conceded and apperorpiated $21,000 to build the offshore lighthouse. Upon its completion, officially known as the Tarrytown Lighthouse, Captain Joseph Ackerman lit its light on October 1, 1883. He served as its keeper for 21 years, living there with his wife, three cats and a dog, along with a couple dozen chickens. The last keeper of the lighthouse, Richard Moreland, who served from 1955 to 1958, lived there with his wife and two daughters.
With the expansion of the General Motors plant in 1923, the course of the Pocantico River was altered. Over time, the shoreline grew to within about fifty feet of the lighthouse. The construction of the Tappan Zee Bridge in 1955 rendered the Lighthouse obsolete. Its candlepower was reduced in 1957, and it was deactivated in 1965. Disrepair followed. The federal government’s General Services Administration turned it over to Westchester County in 1974. On its hundredth anniversary, October 1, 1983, the lighthouse officially opened to the public. It had been listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979.
Westchester County and the Village of Sleepy Hollow joined forces and allocated $800,000 for repair work in 2013; however, the lowest bid received for the work was $1.2 million, and the project was put on hold until more funds could be raised. In 2015, a new lens was placed atop the Lighthouse. At its installation ceremony, Sleepy Hollow Mayor Ken Wray hailed the event as, “…a first step towards our intended goal of full restoration of this historic lighthouse.” Barring delays, that will occur next spring.Read or leave a comment on this story...