The Little Red Lighthouse

The Little Red Lighthouse stands beneath the George Washington Bridge on the shore of Fort Washington Park on the western river bank of upper Manhattan. 

The lighthouse is officially named Jeffrey’s Hook Light as it stands on a parcel of land jutting out into in a part of the Hudson River known as Jeffrey’s Hook, which was considered a particular treacherous patch of water for the trade steamships that frequented the river.

Jeffrey’s Hook Light originally stood on Sandy Hook in New Jersey. At the time, two red warning lights stood on the shore in Manhattan. The Lighthouse Board recommended the following: “A larger light and a fog bell here would be valuable aids to navigation. The point extends well out into the river, with deep water close to its outer end. The usual route of steamers passing up or down the river is close to the point. The present post light should be replaced by a new structure.”

The structure, light, and 1,000-pound fog bell were placed at the site in 1921. The George Washington Bridge which towers above it was opened in 1931 to connect 178 street and Manhattan with Fort Lee, New Jersey. The electric lights added beneath the bridge made the lighthouse redundant and it ceased operation. 

The Coast Guard had decided to auction of the lighthouse and its fixtures. Public outcry and the popularity of a new children’s book, The Little Red Lighthouse by Hildegarde Swift and illustrated by Lynd Ward, published in 1942 saved the lighthouse. In 1951, On July 23, 1951, the Coast Guard gave the property to New York City, and the Little Red Lighthouse was added to the National Register of Historic Places on May 29, 1979.

I was lucky to visit the lighthouse, as tours are given very infrequently. 

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