The house by the old sycamore tree

This evening, I answered a dinner invitation from Bill and Carol Meeker. Before sunset, I kayaked about a mile up the creek to where they live. The Meeker’s are a retired couple that split their year between Saugerties and Florida. Their house on the waterfront is the old Tallymaster’s Quarters, once part of a bluestone yard. From this yard, stone quarried in the Catskills was loaded onto barges and shipped down the river to pave the sidewalks of New York City. Next to the house is an old sycamore tree, the largest in the area. Old historical accounts of Saugerties refer to the “large sycamore” at the bottom of the hill on Lighthouse Drive. If it was noteworthy back in those days, then it must be 300 years old or more. I used the sycamore tree as a landmark to locate their house as I paddled up the creek. Over the course of the evening, Mr. and Mrs. Meeker regaled me with stories about the history of their house as well as their own sailing adventures. As the evening waned, Mr. Meeker dug out an old survey of the creek which showed the original shoreline and all the man-made changes to the creek. The western shoreline of the Hudson River was originally in the vicinity of the parking lot at the trailhead for the Lighthouse Trail. According to the map, the north dike which connected the lighthouse to the western shore of the river was built in 1891. Later, spoils from dredging were dumped on the upstream side of the dike by DeWitt Company in 1928 and 1935. These spoils changed a shallow mudflat into the spit of land which is now the 17-acre nature preserve threaded by the path to the lighthouse. After enjoying the Meeker’s hospitality and a lesson in local history, I returned to the lighthouse by moonlight.