So we took Mamma Biscuit on a super early morning walk along the Greenway bike path on Monday. The Greenway runs parallel to the Hudson River and serves as a great bike path for the entire west side of Manhattan—stretching from Inwood all the way down to Battery Park City. We took this early morning opportunity in the cool temperatures to visit the famous Little Red Lighthouse under the George Washington Bridge off the path at around 179th street. For those of you who don’t know, the Little Red Lighthouse is Manhattan’s only lighthouse and it acquired this affectionate nickname from Hildegarde H. Swift’s 1942 children’s classic, The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge.
Illustrated by Lynd Ward, this tale of the friendship between the tiny beacon and the George Washington Bridge introduced children around the world to the red, round, and very proud little lighthouse in New York. This book is a staple in Mamma’s library of books that we like to read to her before putting her to bed every night!
Built in 1880, the 40-foot tower was moved in 1921 to Jeffrey’s Hook, a rocky point on the Hudson River near Manhattan’s northern edge. The Lighthouse warned ships away from the shore as they made their way down the narrow channel between New York and New Jersey.
However, when construction of the George Washington Bridge was completed in 1931, the brilliant lights of the bridge’s 600-foot towers overwhelmed the little Lighthouse. In 1947, it was officially decommissioned and abandoned, and by 1951, the Little Red Lighthouse was slated for demolition with plans for its cast-iron shell to be sold for scrap.
Upon hearing of this news, thousands of children who had loved Swift’s book started a nationwide campaign to save the Little Red Lighthouse. Thanks in part to their efforts, ownership of the Lighthouse was transferred from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation.
Today, visitors climb a long, iron stair case to the top of the tower, where the lantern room is again fitted with a working lens that blinks proudly at cargo barges and passenger ships sailing under the George Washington Bridge.
Unfortunately, Mamma did not get a chance to go inside because it was closed but we did enjoy getting up close and personal with the exterior of the lighthouse and the overall views along the river. There is an annual festival held at the lighthouse in September that typically includes celebrity readings of The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge and other activities geared towards children. Past readers of this festival have included such notables as Isabella Rossellini, Dee Dee Conn, and James Earl Jones and the light was reactivated on September 19th, 2002, just before the 10th annual festival. The Little Red Lighthouse is now owned by the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation and is a member of the Historic House Trust.
Mamma thoroughly enjoyed her early morning visit to the Little Red Lighthouse. The Hudson River, the cool morning breeze and the park alongside the waters’ edge was so peaceful and serene at that hour! This was a Birthday excursion for our little gremlin who just turned ten years old. Mamma was eight years old when we picked her up from Curly Tail Pug Rescue on July 12, 2009. We are not only celebrating Mamma’s birthday but her two year anniversary with us. Two years in at the pug palace and our Lady of Biscuits is shining brighter than the light upon the Little Red Lighthouse—and just like the history of the lighthouse, Mamma too has endured—getting better with age. At ten years old and with a birth statistic of over one-hundred puppies under her belt, our sassy girl has maintained a svelte figure that any male pug would mortgage his doggy treats for. OK, so our gremlin is practically toothless but her tongue is just as epic and iconic as Madonna wearing a Jean Paul Gaultier cone bra and that’s just the tip of the iceberg on what makes Mamma Biscuit so special! Come to think of it, the Little Red Lighthouse and Mamma have a lot in common—they may be little (especially standing next to the giant George Washington Bridge) but both are magnificent, special and still standing!