Question for the Keeper: outer island
The Fischer Family from North Carolina wrote to inquire about the outer island adjacent to the lighthouse.
We’re wondering if you might share some information about who helped create this magical space: who created the island, who planned the deck (with the backs of the side benches hinged to lift up! (for what purpose, we wonder), who planted the butternut and mulberry trees, how the foghorn got positioned where it was (and will be again soon), how the concrete blocks at the southern end ended up where they are, and how power gets to the island (we noticed an extension cord running from under the bridge to a pole on the north-eastern side.)
The deck was built atop the location of a previous lighthouse from 1835. On the south end is a crumbling concrete pier, which dates back to the 1940s.
In 1834, the U.S. Congress appropriated $5,000 for a lighthouse at the mouth of the Esopus Creek. Construction began the following year by Charles Hooster of Saugerties, who was awarded the contract at the low bid of $2,988.
The lighthouse was built atop a pier constructed of chestnut cribbing with stone fill. The lighthouse itself was a cupola design, a rectangular stone structure with a circular tower rising from the center of the dwelling. The light source was 5 whale oil lamps with parabolic reflectors.
The stone lighthouse was replaced by the current red-brick lighthouse in the late 1860s. The lantern from the original lighthouse was relocated to the new building in 1869. After the stone lighthouse was dismantled, the island served as a wharf. A boatshed was located on the island until circa 1900, when it was relocated to its current position on the stone plinth of the current lighthouse.
The concrete pier, which is now crumbling, was added to the south end of the island in the 1940s after the Coast Guard took over operation of the lighthouse. Pier was equipped with a small crane for lifting the keeper’s boat out of the water. I don’t have exact information on when the fog bell was positioned on the island, but it appears in photos from the same era as the concrete pier.
The current lighthouse was vacated in 1954. Eventually, the outer island became overgrown with trees and brush. After the lighthouse was renovated in the late 1980s, the brush was cleared and a picnic area was built on the outer island. The picnic area included a bluestone patio on the north end of the island. Benches were designed with hinged seat backs so they could fold out into table surfaces for special events. The mulberry tree and butternut tree were kept as shade trees.
Flooding in the spring of 2007 undermined the bluestone patio surface. The patio area was replaced by extending the wooden deck. At the suggestion of Alex Wade, the architect for the lighthouse renovations, the end of the deck extension was built prow-shaped to mimic the original shape of the island, which was pointed on the upstream side to deflect ice floes in wintertime. The work was completed by Bobby Dangerously and myself. Now, the “prow” of the deck doubles as a stage for live music performances during special events such as the annual Between the Tides fund-raiser. The extension cord provides electrical power for sound equipment. The installation of shade-sails over the prow add to the boat-like appearance of the deck. The picnic tables were made by Andrew Grey of Greyworks Designs of Bearsville, NY.