Stony Point Lighthouse
Submitted By: Fred Fragano
Having been built in 1826, Stony Point Lighthouse claims the title of being the oldest lighthouse on the Hudson River. Before I go further, I wish to differentiate this lighthouse with the Stony Point Lighthouse on Henderson Harbor, Lake Ontario, New York. “Our” Stony Point Lighthouse is the Hudson River lighthouse located in Stony Point, New York, in Rockland County. The land mass itself, Stony Point, is a peninsula with Haverstraw Bay just south and the Hudson Highlands directly across in an easterly direction. As you head north of this area you will find a very well known State Park and region by the name of Bear Mountain and then still a bit further northward you will find the United States Military Academy at West Point.
The Hudson River south of the Stony Point Lighthouse is quite wide. In fact, Haverstraw Bay is the widest part of the Hudson. It is at the area of Stony Point across to the Hudson Highlands and points northward that the river greatly narrows and becomes very rocky. It is for these reasons that the Stony Point Lighthouse was built.
As mentioned above, the Stony Point Lighthouse was built in 1826. It was decommissioned in 1925 and then re-lighted and re-opened in October 1995. The lighthouse which is approximately 30 feet tall is octagonal shaped and is made of blue split stone. Although this is a very small lighthouse, it provides a real challenge to reach the lantern room, as you must climb a very steep ladder. Thomas Phillips built it at a cost of $3,350. This price also included a nearby separate Keeper dwelling. The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation maintains the Lighthouse.
In 1856 the Lighthouse received a fifth order Fresnel lens. In 1902 the lens was replaced with a stronger fourth order Fresnel. Today the lighthouse uses a Period fourth order lens that was installed by the United States Coast Guard. A solar powered battery is in place and it stores the energy, which is used to create the beacon. An automatic sensor turns the light on and off. A five-watt bulb is used to provide the light. It is the lens, using the Fresnel technology that actually concentrates the light rays into one forceful beam. As the lens rotates around the light source, the bulls-eye in the center of the lens enables the light to flash. The bulb in use is one of five bulbs, which are held in a type of wheel. Once a bulb burns out, the wheel automatically rotates and provides another bulb.
All this technology surely makes it easy in today’s world. However, as it was with all lighthouses in the past, Stony Point had its share of lightkeepers who actually had to tend to the light and especially the fog-bell in bad weather. Although there were many Lightkeepers at Stony Point, no Keeper is better known than Nancy Rose of the Rose family Lightkeepers. Nancy Rose is especially known in the family as she personally tended the light for a period of 47 years from 1857 until she died in 1904. The Rose family had a total of 53 years of dedicated service in total. During this 53-year period under the Rose family lighthouse keeping service, no mariners died as the result of any accidents or incidents. Nancy Rose and her family, as well as former and future keepers, resided in a separate Keepers house right near the lighthouse.
In addition to Stony Point Lighthouse being a very interesting lighthouse, the area itself where the lighthouse stands is the site of a very well known battle in the American Revolution. The Battle of Stony Point was fought between July 15-16, 1779 by Continental troops against the British. Much planning and strategies went into this Battle which really lasted about two days. This may be the reason why the Battle lasted so short a period. The American troops under the orders of General George Washington, as carried out by General Anthony Wayne, marched from a point near West Point south to about one and a half miles away from Stony Point. The troops basically positioned themselves in three attack groups covering the areas north of the Stony Point peninsula, south of it in Haverstraw Bay and one group remained in the center. A very short battle ensued resulting in the American troops’ victory over the British. I am trying to summarize a great deal of history into one paragraph. This is a great injustice to the ingenious plans and the great minds behind the Battle, without even mentioning the lives lost. However, you may learn all about the Battle right at the Historic Stony Point Battlefield. There is a museum at the site, which contains many of the guns, and other equipment used in the Battle. A great deal of history is on display to make you learn all that you would ever need to know about this Battle. If that is not enough, then you may simply want to take advantage of a film that is shown detailing all the events. Occasionally the staff, fully dressed in Period uniforms, puts on a display of the weapons that were used and actually fire muskets and cannons. It was so interesting that I almost forgot I went to the site to visit the lighthouse.
The lighthouse is always there for you to walk up to view and take photographs. However you must call first to find out when tours are given to actually gain access into the lighthouse. The Stony Point Battlefield Historic Site may be reached by phone by dialing 845-786-2521. Admission to the site and lighthouse is free except for various events that are held. Usually there are pamphlets in the Museum that list these special events. The site hours are Wednesday through Saturday 10AM to 5PM and Sunday 1PM to 5PM between April 15th and October 31st. Mondays and Tuesday are closed however the site is open on Memorial, Independence and Labor Days.
You can call the number provided above for directions. This would make you a very smart person as taking directions from me might land you at Cape Hatteras in North Carolina instead. But, if you are brave enough, you may take Exit 16 off the NYS Thruway to Route 6. Travel east to the Bear Mountain Bridge Circle and take Route 9W South for about nine miles until you get to Park Road. Here take a left turn and follow the signs. Here are some other directions for those coming from NYC and other southerly & easterly points. Take the Palisades Interstate Parkway (no commercial vehicles allowed) to Exit 15, which is Route 106 East. Take 106 East to Route 9W and make your left onto 9W. Go through the town of Stony Point until you get to Park Road and take a right turn onto Park and follow the signs.
Oh well, I see that I have overstayed my literary welcome. I would not want anyone falling asleep as you really should start making plans to visit Stony Point. Next issue will continue taking us north on the Hudson to Kingston, New York and Rondout II Lighthouse. See you there!
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