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The 1883 Lighthouse at Sleepy Hollow

Long a fixture on the Hudson River, the 1883 Lighthouse at Sleepy Hollow, formerly known as the Tarrytown Lighthouse or the Kingsland Point Lighthouse, is the only Caisson-style lighthouse on the river. Erected in 1882-1883, the lighthouse provided navigational aid to shipping on the Hudson and warned captains away from the dangerous shoals on the river's eastern shore. It is easily seen from the Tappan Zee Bridge, with the best viewing from Kingsland Point Park, located directly on the Hudson River.

In response to steamship concerns operating on the Hudson, the United States Congress authorized the erection of a lighthouse at Tarrytown Point in 1847. But the project was delayed by controversy over the prospective site of the lighthouse and by the exorbitant asking price of Kingsland Point property, then a profitable vineyard, on which the light was to be built. More than thirty years later a decision was finally reached to locate the lighthouse in the river itself, approximately one-quarter mile off Kingsland Point.

The lighthouse arrived, by barge, in “kit” form and was assembled from anchored vessels and scaffolding. The first keeper was Captain Joseph Ackerman. For the next 78 years, the lighthouse would have twelve keepers, many with wives and some with children.

Like all lighthouses on the Hudson, the 1883 Lighthouse at Sleepy Hollow was designed as a "family station," as the keeper and his family lived in the five-story structure year-round. The duties of the keeper were to perform the never-ending chores of maintaining the lighthouse and lamp and to operate the lamp every night as well as during inclement weather.

In 1923 the General Motors automobile plant located along the river was expanded, altering the course of the Pocantico River. Gradually the river was filled in, so that now there is a separation of about only 50 feet between the lighthouse and the shoreline, connected by a metal bridge. However, throughout the times of the keepers, access to the shore was by rowboat (or by foot, when the river was frozen solid), and lighthouse life could be best described as insular.

During its entire 78 years of service, the 1883 Lighthouse at Sleepy Hollow had a nearly perfect record of performance. When the bell mechanism malfunctioned (on several occasions), the keeper rang the bell by hand, at two-minute intervals, often for hours at a time. The constant beacon, a white light for the first eleven years, then a red light, and later a blinking red light, would guide vessels safely through darkness, fog and storms.

When the Tappan Zee Bridge was completed in 1955, the navigational lights on the bridge rendered the lighthouse obsolete. By 1957 it had been reduced in candlepower and placed on automatic operation. In 1961 the lighthouse was deactivated and the structure listed with the General Services Administration (G.S.A.) for disposal.

On the brink of demolition for several years, individuals and organizations rallied to save the "Tarrytown Lighthouse". In 1969 the Westchester County Board of Supervisors voted to accept the lighthouse from the G.S.A. The Westchester County Department of Parks, Recreation and Conservation officially re-opened the lighthouse to the public on October 1, 1983, one hundred years after the beacon was first lit.

Visiting the Lighthouse

The lighthouse is open for group tours by appointment only. There is a fee of $150 for a group of up to 25 people. The program lasts approximately 50 minutes. Periodic public visiting hours are also held; call (914) 366-5109 for further information and to make reservations.

The lighthouse is best viewed from Kingsland Point Park in Sleepy Hollow. To get there, take Route 9 to Sleepy Hollow. Turn west (toward the river) onto Pierson Street (which becomes Bellwood) and continue to Palmer Avenue. Turn left onto Palmer Avenue and continue to Kingsland Point Park. A parking fee is charged at entrance into Kingsland Point Park.

Specifics on visiting the 1883 Lighthouse at Sleepy Hollow were correct at time of publication. We would suggest that you confirm dates and times prior to your visit.
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