1 Scenic Waterfront
Without the Hudson River, there would be no Hudson, New York. The city’s founders, Nantucket whalers, were drawn to the locale because of its port. For 200 years the city grew and prospered as the direct result of its access to the river, which provided 1½ miles of shoreline on the city’s western border. The Proprietors’ designed a grid plan that allowed the city to expand away from the river and remain connected to the waterway. The Hudson River still serves as a major shipping lane for large ships traveling between Albany and New York City.
High above the river, on the west side of Front Street, is Promenade Hill. Designed by the Proprietors in 1785 as a public space, it still provides a bird’s-eye view of the site where Henry Hudson first dropped anchor in September 1609. According to Historic Hudson, the Promenade is one of the earliest examples in the U.S. of a park area established for the viewing of scenic vistas. In addition to its spectacular view, the Promenade is also known as the home of St. Winifred, at 12-foot bronze statue by the sculptor George E. Bissell, commissioned by and donated to the city by General William De Peyster in 1896.
Directly west of Hudson is the Village of Athens. The first man to create a business helping people across the river from Athens was Conrad Flaack. In 1778, he used one canoe for passengers and two boats with a platform joining the two for carriages. In the 19th century, George Power, a prominent and wealthy Hudson resident, owned and operated the Hudson and Athens Ferry and the New York and Hudson Steamboat Company. Completion of the Rip Van Winkle Bridge in 1935 eventually ended all ferry enterprises. But that didn’t stop Hollywood from resurrecting the Hudson-bound transport. In the 2005 version of “War of the Worlds,” (filmed on location in Athens) refugees escaping the wrath of the attacking Martians attempted to flee using the long-retired boat.
The newer Waterfront Park, located at the water’s edge, is a well-used venue for festivals and celebrations of all kinds, an annual concert series and a popular locale for weddings.
Planned future improvements to the Hudson waterfront include a new playground for Promenade Hill, completion of a new trail from the North Bay to the neighboring Greenport Conservancy area and the improvement and expansion of the city-owned dock in Waterfront Park.
The Hudson City Lighthouse, now known as the Hudson-Athens Lighthouse, was completed and put into operation on November 14, 1874. It served as a manned lighthouse until 1950s, when it was automated. It still serves as an aid to navigation, guiding ships around the Hudson River’s Middle Ground Flats.
In 1982 a group of citizens from Columbia and Greene counties formed the Hudson-Athens Lighthouse Preservation Society, Inc. In 1984, a 20-year lease was entered into by HALPS and the U.S. Guard. In 2000, the Coast Guard officially transferred the deed, making the members of HALPS sole owners of the lighthouse.
The society offers tours of the lighthouse (on July 10, August 14, September 11 and October 9; call 518-822-1014 for reservations), in addition to other special events. For more information on the lighthouse and the work of HALPS, go to www.hudsonathenslighthouse.org.