Digest>Archives> November 2005

Memories of Saugerties Lighthouse

By Vivian Jensen Chapin


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Ilah Hawk in 1925 while a student at Cortland ...

The Hudson River in New York state has many creeks running into it. One of these is the Esopus Creek and it was here that the Saugerties Light Station was built in 1869.

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(Left-right) Thyra Hawk, Ingeborg Jensen, Arthur ...

When I was very young in the 1930s, my family visited the Saugerties Light Station many times.

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Earle C. Hawk in 1924 at the Annapolis Naval ...

And it came about this way . . .

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Thyra and Conrad Hawk in 1937. Conrad was the ...

When I was born, my father was the keeper at

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Saugerties Lighthouse from the time when Conrad ...

Easton’s Neck Lighthouse on the North Shore of Long Island in New York state. He had been in the Spanish-American War, serving in the U.S. Navy onboard the USS Richmond, the flagship of the Navy that entered Havana Harbor, Cuba. After the war, he took a job at the Brooklyn Navy Yard where he became lifelong friends with Conrad Hawk who was also a former Navy seaman.

After working there for a few years, the two young men began looking for more challenging work, which they soon found in the United States Lighthouse Service.

Conrad Hawk eventually came to Saugerties Light Station on the Hudson River and remained there for the rest of

his career.

Arthur Jensen, my father, became lighthouse keeper at Eaton’s Neck Light Station on Long Island where my brother, sister and I were born. In 1923, my father purchased an automobile and with this marvelous machine, we were able to visit Captain and Mrs. Hawk in Saugerties. My mother, however, was never given the opportunity to drive; that was simply not done.

It was great fun to visit the Hawks, especially with

Capt. Hawk who was always so jolly. Mrs. Hawk, on the other hand, had many allergies and she was trying desperately to find out what would help her. By mail, she ordered special flour to bake her own bread.

Capt. Hawk enjoyed every moment of every day, making light of any mishap. He and my father called each other by their last names, constantly ribbing each other and enjoying it all. They had a very special friendship.

Earle Hawk, their son, had graduated from Annapolis and entered the submarine service. Ilah, his sister, graduated from Cortland State Teachers College and became a physical education teacher. She was a very accomplished ice skater and had many medals from skating on the Hudson River. Even Capt. Hawk had also won a number of medals from ice-skating.

If we visited in the summertime, Ilah would be home and my sister and I became involved in all of Ilah’s activities, which were many and varied. She was a great knitter, and if she were halfway through a sweater and for some reason did not like it, she would unravel it and start all over.

I remember winding the balls of yarn while she joked about having to start all over again.

Games were always brought out for us to play and

Capt. Hawk showed us how to play Acey-Duecy, which Earle had learned at Annapolis.

The light station was a comfortable home, with airy rooms and windows letting in the soft breezes off the Hudson River. Books were everywhere, with nooks and crannies to fit into while reading. The only noise came from the boats, giving their signals coming up or down the river.

Indeed, Saugerties Light Station was a joyful place to visit. It has left many warm memories for those of us lucky enough to visit when Capt. and Mrs. Conrad Hawk lived there and cared for that wonderful light station which was very vital to navigation on the Hudson River.

This story appeared in the November 2005 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.

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