The Jeffrey Hook Lighthouse
Posted on September 14th,2015

By Bohemia Agent Christopher TefftIMG_0485

Growing up, my home was filled with lighthouses. Not the full sized ones, mind you, but delicate replicas of these grand monuments. Instead of Precious Moments, my mother loves to collect paintings, wind-chimes, knick-knacks, and sculptures of lighthouses. When Christmastime rolled around, we hung tiny lighthouses on the tree- which plugged in to the string of lights. Our little ornament would blink and then fade just as if its tiny beacon were rotating. 

My family came from Michigan – where the coasts of the Great Lakes are lined with magnificent towers. Every beach retreat has a Lighthouse; every one of them a fine example of architecture. Many are still actively shining, since those waterways have freighters and ferries galore. Lighthouses are everywhere. 

But Manhattan has only one little lighthouse. And wouldn't you know it- it’s hidden uptown! 

How unique! — What a treasure!- The only lighthouse on the island!- and what a Shame to hide it– beneath a Bridge! 

The Jeffrey Hook Lighthouse is most easily accessed by entering the riverside from the 155th street or 158th street crossovers (You have to navigate train-tracks, a highway, and a cliff to get there if you don't!) OR coming down from 182nd street- but that path is STEEP and it’s a much longer route. 

In the fall of 2012, I lived in Washington Heights, and discovered it on my own. All the pictures presented here were all taken by me.  I was having a walk in Fort Washington Park along the Hudson River, heading north. I couldn't believe my eyes- the cutest little lighthouse perched just south of the George Washington Bridge. But I couldn't help but wonder- What was it doing there? What could it possibly be for? 

IMG_0483In the past- this little stretch of the Hudson was particularly treacherous! Fishers and boaters would be in imminent danger of crashing into the little spot of land known as Jeffrey Hook. So in 1921, the Coast Guard added a lighthouse there! The little red lighthouse was shipped up from Sandy Hook (its original post) to brighten our isle of Manhattan.

Shortly afterwards, some politicians had the fantastic idea to build a bridge from New Jersey to New York. The bright lights illuminating the George Washington Bridge made it safe for drivers and pedestrians– but outshone the little light of Jeffrey Hook Lighthouse. In 1942, a beautiful children's book was written called The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge, by Hildegarde Swift, anthropomorphizing the landmark. The theme of the story is that although the Lighthouse was small, he was still important and had an important job to do!

When politicians tried to de-commission and auction off the little tower, there was a huge outcry of fans of the book and lovers of the lighthouse. This New York City Landmark is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. 

This fall, you can attend the Little Red Lighthouse Festival on September 26th, 2015 from 12pm to 4pm. The event is free and is held every year. 

Tours of the Lighthouse will be given, fishing clinics will be conducted, food will be sold, and there will be activities for the whole family. Live music performed will include a marching band and an Opera based on the tale of the Little Red Lighthouse. 

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