Fort Washington Park

New Yorkers Celebrate Manhattan's Beloved -- And Only -- Lighthouse

Saturday, September 15, 2007
No. 120

Today hundreds of New Yorkers gathered at the 15th annual celebration of Manhattan’s beloved Little Red Lighthouse in Fort Washington Park. Dr. Ruth K. Westheimer—better known as Dr. Ruth—and Commissioner Adrian Benepe entertained the audience with a reading of The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge. The children’s book inspired fans, who banded together to save the lighthouse from destruction in 1948. At the festival, local officials including Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, Council Member Robert Jackson, Borough Commissioner William Castro and residents young and old toured the lighthouse, listened to live music by Orville Davis and the Stout Trio, had their faces painted and enjoyed food, historic demonstrations and more. This year the lighthouse also boasts a brand new bright coat of red paint, new Plexiglas panes in the lantern and general repairs thanks to $45,000 from Benjamin Moore.

"For decades Manhattan’s Little Red Lighthouse, the star of Hildegarde Swift’s children’s book, The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge, has held a special place in the hearts of children," said Commissioner Benepe. "Each year I look forward to joining hundreds of New Yorkers and Dr. Ruth to read the heartwarming story of the humble but very, very proud lighthouse who has become a literary beacon illuminating the City's proud maritime history and culture. Throughout the city, we are building and restoring waterfront parks and the icons, like the Little Red Lighthouse, that represent the rich history of our shoreline."

The 40-foot lighthouse, officially named Jeffrey’s Hook, was erected in 1880 and moved to its current site along the treacherous section of the Hudson River in 1921. When the George Washington Bridge opened above the lighthouse in 1931, the lights of the bridge made the lighthouse obsolete. The Coast Guard decommissioned the lighthouse in 1948 with a plan to auction it off. But the popular children’s book prompted a public outcry that saved the lighthouse.

On July 23, 1951, the Coast Guard gave the property to Parks and on May 29, 1979, the Little Red Lighthouse was added to the National Register of Historic Places. Today, it is Manhattan’s only lighthouse and has become widely known as the children’s literary landmark. The icon is celebrated as a reminder of our city’s history and of the lesson of the book—that even small things can be important.

Parks & Recreation, the Historic House Trust and the New York Restoration project hosted the event, with sponsorship by Con Edison. The Little Red Lighthouse is a member of Historic House Trust, a not-for-profit organization operating in tandem with Parks & Recreation. Their mission is to provide essential support for 22 houses of architectural and cultural significance, spanning 350 years of New York City life and ranging from modest farmers’ cottages to grand mansions. These treasures reside within City parks and are open to the public, attracting some 650,000 visitors annually. Together, these houses tell the story of New York City’s evolution from a rural Dutch outpost to a great 21st century city.

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Directions to Fort Washington Park

Know Before You Go

ParkFort Washington Park

The Fort Washington Pedestrian Bridge, or "Amtrak Bridge," at West 180th Street is open to the public. The width of the bridge has been narrowed for safety reasons. Bikers will be asked to dismount their bikes to cross the bridge. An active capital project will fully repair the outer support structures of the bridge and restore it to its original width. Please visit our Capital Projects Tracker to track the progress of this project.

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