Fixes to Saugerties Lighthouse will shore up its stability

A barge carries rocks to be used for riprap. (Photo by Paul Andreassen)

Repairs to the bulkhead, seawall and dock of the Saugerties Lighthouse are underway and are expected to finish up in mid-September.

Thanks to funds from the Governor’s New York Rising Community Restoration Program and the Hurricane Sandy Disaster Relief Assistance Grant for Historic Properties, Saugerties’ über-iconic structure will get a structural overhaul rivaled only by its rescue from demolition by the community in the late ’80’s. The price tag on the project, not including engineers’ fees, is expected to be more than $350,000.

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In addition to the ravages of time, the structures were weakened by Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee and further damaged by the high waters of Hurricane Sandy. The Saugerties Lighthouse Conservancy will be celebrating the fixture’s sesquicentennial (150th anniversary) next year.

This summer’s efforts can be separated into three separate projects: the replacement of old timber bulkheads to the lighthouses’ south side to prevent damaging erosion, grouting and pointing (filling voids in) the mortar on the seawall and replacing a destroyed concrete pier.

“Irene weakened our structures and Sandy was kind of the final blow. These structures were already kind of old and decrepit — they could not hold up to the severity of the storms,” said lighthouse keeper Patrick Landewe. “The lighthouse itself we were able to get back in operation, but those outside structures kind of took the brunt of it. It’s been nearly six years now since sandy. It’s been a long time coming, but it’s all been planning and approvals.”

The last of such approvals took place at Village Hall on Aug. 20 when trustees authorized Mayor Bill Murphy to sign contracts for repairs; bids went out on Thursday and were all snatched up by local operations. Saugerties contractors New York Drilling Services Inc. and J Mullen and Sons took on the job, led by onsite engineer Mark Dupree and Joe Mihm of Kingston-based Brinnier & Larios.

The area immediately adjacent to the lighthouse, the riverside deck area, will be closed on weekdays during construction hours, 7 a.m. until 3 p.m. The lighthouse will still be accessible to the public on weekends. The trail leading to the structure can still be traversed. “We apologize for any inconvenience, but it’s only temporary and will make for a more solid lighthouse for the future,” said Landewe.

“[The lighthouse is a] unique part of Saugerties’ maritime heritage. It’s the only surviving example of a particular style of lighthouse that was at one time common throughout the district — there used to be two others built from the same floor plan but the others were torn down,” said Landewe. “We’re fortunate this one survived to keep this little chapter of Hudson River history going. It’s also a regional draw for tourism — we receive 65,000 visitors throughout the year. That’s people locally who make it a part of their walk or just to get some exercise as well as visitors from far and wide. … It’s worth rescuing because it’s an example of something the Saugerties community is very proud of.”

Other projects covered by the Communities Rising program in Saugerties this year include the village’s water filtration plant, improvements at Saugerties Beach and bulkhead repairs at Tina Chorvas Park; in total, village projects received $3 million from the fund.

Barring another significant storm, Landewe said, the only repairs in the lighthouse’s future will be “a brick here, some pointing there” and the revamping of the site’s wooden dock.

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