Throughout the history of the Hudson, lighthouses were essential to help guide cargo ships from the New York Harbor to Albany. Today however, since beacons are automated and GPS systems are so advanced, most of the original lighthouses are obsolete and many have been replaced by a “skeleton light” on a pole. There are only seven lighthouses left to illuminate the water. The Saugerties Lighthouse was nearly eliminated, too: The 1869 structure had been abandoned since 1954 and slated for demolition by the U.S. Coast Guard—until the Saugerties Lighthouse Conservancy (SLC) formed in 1986 and bought the building for one dollar.
Soon after, the lighthouse was restored, and a steady stream of keepers took up residence from 1990 until 2005. That’s when Patrick Landewe, then 34, was offered the position. “I never dreamed a job like this even existed. I heard about the opening when I was working on the Sloop Clearwater and jumped at the opportunity, thinking I’d do it for a year or two. That was over 17 years ago,” he laughs.
Prior to his Saugerties post, Patrick worked a variety of jobs for conservation efforts and trail crews across the country. His wife, Anna (who has a background in design and nonprofit management), joined him in 2011, and their son was born in 2014. Living in the lighthouse is a requirement (and perk) of the job, and the couple is paid a salary for restoration and maintenance work they complete for the SLC.
Raising a child on the water may seem scary, but Patrick assures it’s no riskier than living on a busy street. “Just like parents who teach their kids not to run into traffic, we’ve instilled water safety from an early age.” The lighthouse isn’t completely isolated, but with no direct vehicle access, the family walks a half-mile trail to take their son to school, go food shopping, and grab supplies.
The couple’s duties are less keeper of the light and more maintenance of the house and grounds. Ever since the SLC took over, the lighthouse has functioned as a two-room, year-round bed and breakfast run by the Landewes. This ensures that the house is consistently being maintained, but also brings in revenue for preservation projects. Most of the work they handle is similar to that of any other home on the water—since there’s constant exposure to moisture, the environment, and harsh weather, things tend to wear down often.
How long will the family call the Saugerties Lighthouse home? They can stay as long as they like, and as of now, they can’t imagine living anywhere else. “So many things keep us here. Saugerties is a wonderful, supportive community. Every season on the river offers something different, and the occasional storm adds a bit of excitement. With an old building, there’s always an interesting project that needs attention,” says Patrick. If the months-long waitlist to stay overnight at the lighthouse is any indication, we bet the panoramic views of the Hudson are a huge plus, too.
Related: 6 Hudson Valley Lighthouses to Visit for History and River Views