NYC Resources311Office of the Mayor

Official Website of the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation

Fort Washington Park

The Daily Plant : Tuesday, December 19, 2000


Photo by Allyson (Longbow) Bowen

Who is that shrouded figure under the George Washington Bridge, wrapped like a bride or a parcel of mail?

Drivers have been puzzled to find a white Ghost of Christmas Present hidden under what appears to be a household sheet below the bridge.

Some see a snowman, installation art by Christo, or a little white lighthouse where once the red one stood. The importance of this little landmark-the only lighthouse on the island of Manhattan-has been confirmed by the recent inquiries, including a curious call to the New York Times.

With its structure under wraps, passersby fear the lighthouse has disappeared and become a... In fact, what has taken place tells a happy tale of cooperation between The Historic House Trust and the Bridge and Tunnel Authority.

During restorations last year, the lighthouse's signature red was returned to its original hue. Dawn (Delta) Melbourne Gonick of the Historic House Trust analyzed microscopic patches of old paint and their contents were replicated for a red true to history. No sooner was the paintjob completed than the Bridge and Tunnel Authority began adding a fresh coat of paint to the great gray bridge of Hildegarde H. Swift's children's classic, The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge. Staff at the Little Red Lighthouse began to notice a strange gray speckling as the new paint job of one landmark cozied up to the bright red of the other. The Bridge and Tunnel Authority responded to complaints and promptly arranged for the lighthouse to be wrapped under a protective tarp for the remainder of the repainting.

The Little Red Lighthouse, which sits in Fort Washington Park, was one of the first electrified lighthouses in the country when it was built in 1880. The forty-foot cast-iron structure was moved from its original location near Sandy Hook, New Jersey in 1921 to improve navigation in the Hudson River. Ten years later the building of the George Washington Bridge rendered its function obsolete. In 1979 the lighthouse was placed on the National Register of Historic Places and in 1991 it was designated a City Landmark. In 1996 it became a member of the Historic House Trust. The 1880 cast-iron lighthouse is expected to be bundled up for a couple more weeks of painting and cold weather, then re-wrapped in spring for weather sensitive painting. By late spring when the purple lilacs blossom, the lighthouse too will bloom in shocking color. In the meantime, a sign in front explains the tarp to pedestrians, but uninformed commuters may see red.

(Tuesday, December 22, 1987)


Despite the cold, wind and rain that persisted throughout the day, a team of Parks and Transportation Department faithfuls and Commissioner Stern and Ross Sandler boarded the new green and white Parks van at Columbus Circle Sunday for an afternoon tour of several of the city's "Green Streets" projects in design in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens.


"And the ocean, under the pulsation of lighthouses and
noise of bell buoys, advances as usual."

Marianne Moore (1887-1972)

Directions to Fort Washington Park

Was this information helpful?