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The Little Red Lighthouse

One of my favorite biking paths is along the Hudson River, straight up to the George Washington Bridge, with the Little Red Lighthouse–the last surviving one in Manhattan–tucked beneath it. My husband and I took a lovely bike ride up there yesterday to visit this landmark, beloved by children and adults alike.

The crimson 40-foot tower has resided on Jeffrey’s Hook, a rocky point on the Hudson River since 1921. In the beginning, its tiny lights dutifully warned ships away from the shore as they traveled along the water.

All was hunky-dory for about 10 years, until the George Washington Bridge was constructed. The blaring lights of the 600-foot towers along the bridge overwhelmed the tiny candle beacons of the lighthouse and in 1948, it was abandoned and scheduled for demolition.

Here’s where children saved the day. Six years earlier, a book entitled The Little Red Lighthouse And The Great Gray Bridge by Hildegarde H. Swift had hit the shelves. This sweet story portrays the diminutive guidepost as happy with its oh-so-important job of warning sailors away from land until the bridge is built over it. The lighthouse then worries that it has lost its purpose, but in the end, it learns that it still has an important job to do and that everything and everyone is important–big and small.

Thousands of kids who loved the tale of the lighthouse started a campaign to save it. Their combined efforts resulted in the transfer of ownership from the Port Authority to the NYC Department of Parks & Recreation, and, lucky us, we get to enjoy the result of their efforts today.

Visitors can still climb the iron stairs to the top of the tower, and visit the lantern room, which has a working lens.

This is a must-do for visiting kids (and adults) in the city. My stepson was enthralled with the book and delighted every time his Dad took him to visit. Pack a picnic lunch and plan to spend a good part of the day, as The Fort Washington Park just south of the bridge has been spiffed up in recent years. A new playground, picnic areas, even a natural turf soccer field have turned it into kid heaven!