Esopus Creek meets the Hudson River at the town of Saugerties, about seven miles north of Kingston and 101 miles north of New York City. The name Saugerties is derived from a Dutch phrase meaning “sawmill on a creek.” The creek eventually powered what has been described as the largest collection of water-powered machinery in the world. In June 1834, Congress recognized the need for a lighthouse at the mouth of Esopus Creek. The original lighthouse was destroyed by fire in November 1848 and was rebuilt by 1850.
The existing combined lighthouse and dwelling was built on a granite pier in 1869. The harbor at Saugerties was improved and enlarged in 1888, and access to the lighthouse was made much easier when it was connected to the mainland by a small road atop a jetty. Over the decades, the shipping traffic and ferries disappeared from Esopus Creek, and the lighthouse’s navigational value faded. The light was discontinued in 1954, replaced by a small automatic light on the opposite side of the creek. The building declined into ruin in the decades that followed.
In 1985, a new organization, the Saugerties Lighthouse Conservancy, was formed. The organization acquired the lighthouse and the adjacent wetlands and a restoration effort soon began. The heroic efforts of the Conservancy climaxed with the return of a navigational light to the lighthouse on August 4, 1990, after 36 years in darkness. Today, Saugerties Lighthouse is furnished to look as it did in the early 1900s and offers year-round bed-and-breakfast accommodations.
Patrick Landewe came to the lighthouse in 2005 as the modern-day keeper after diverse experience including the supervision of conservation projects in remote locations. In 2011, his wife, Anna Berkheiser, who is a yoga teacher, joined him as a co-keeper.
Jeremy D’Entremont is the author of more than 20 books and hundreds of articles on lighthouses and maritime history. He is the president and historian for the American Lighthouse Foundation and founder of Friends of Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouses, and he has lectured and narrated cruises throughout the Northeast and in other regions. He is also the producer and host of the U.S. Lighthouse Society podcast, “Light Hearted.” He can be emailed at Jeremy@uslhs.org