beacon fire

Beacon, New York

Beacon is a city located in Dutchess County, New York, United States. Although the city's estimated living population is around 16,000 people, the 2000 census placed the city total population at 13,808. Beacon was named to commemorate the historic beacon fires that blazed forth from the summit of the Fishkill Mountains to alert the Continental Army about British troop movements.

The City of Beacon is located in the southwest corner of Dutchess County, in the fast growing Mid-Hudson Region. It sits 59 miles north of New York City. It is also located approximately 90 miles south of Albany.


The area occupied as Beacon was originally settled as the Villages of Matteawan and Fishkill Landing in 1709, which were among the first communities in the state. Beacon incorporated as a city in 1913, amalgamating the two villages as well as a small portion of the Hamlet of Glenham from the Town of Fishkill.

The city served a variety of roles during the Revolutionary War. It manufactured war supplies, and served as a fort and signaling point. The city's name came from signal fires that were atop nearby Beacon Mountain. During the 1800s, the city became a factory town and was known as "The Hat Making Capital of the US" with nearly 50 hat factories operating at one time.

During the 1960s, urban renewal led to the destruction of some significant historic buildings. In the late 1970s, the Dutchess Ski area, which had been a large tourist attraction, was closed. Also in the 1970s, a decline in the economy shuttered most of the factories. This decline quickly became a severe and ongoing economic downturn that lasted from about 1970 to the late 1990s, during which almost 80 percent of the city's commercial business spaces and factories were vacant.

Starting in the late 1990s, with the opening of one of the world's largest contemporary art museums Dia: Beacon, Beacon began to an artistic and commercial rebirth. New development continues to enlarge the city. Currently, the two largest planned projects are a waterfront hotel and conference center, and "The Rivers and Estuaries Center" on Dennings Point.

Beacon is home to one of at least three operating "dummy-lights" in the United States, located at the intersection of Main and East Main Streets. It is a traffic signal on a pedestal which sits in the middle of an intersection, dating back to the 1920s. The other two are also located in New York State, in Canajoharie and Croton-on-Hudson.

The Mount Beacon Incline Railway

From 1902 to 1975, the Mount Beacon Incline Railway was one of the steepest incline railways in existence (a 65% grade). It took an estimated 3 million people up to the 1,540-foot summit of Mount Beacon. Fire and vandalism destroyed the incline railway. There is now a movement to restore it.


Beacon is located at 41°30'15" North, 73°57'56" West (41.504243, -73.965576).

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 4.9 square miles (12.7 km²), of which 4.8 square miles (12.4 km²) is land and 0.1 square miles (0.3 km²) is water. The total area is 2.25% water.

Located on the eastern shore of the Hudson River, Beacon is noted for its proximity to numerous historic sites and large cities. It is located minutes away from Bannerman's Castle and West Point. Beacon also sits with the famous Mount Beacon as its backdrop and the Hudson River as its front door. The city also is located across the river from its larger sister city, Newburgh. Beacon is just 20 minutes south of the Hudson Valley Region Capital City, Poughkeepsie. In addition, Danbury, Connecticut is located to the east and New York City is to the south.

The city includes the following neighborhoods:

Main Neighborhoods

  • River Side Section
  • Mountain Side Section

Secondary Neighborhoods

  • North Tree Streets
  • South Tree Streets
  • Groveville
  • Business District (Main Street Area)
  • "Davies" or "The Apartments" (Section of City with a Concentrated Area of Public Housing on South Ave)


Although the city's population is estimated to be about 16,000 people, the census of 2000 placed the city's population at 13,808 people. The census also showed that the city has 5,091 households and 3,360 families residing in the city. The population density is 1,115.3/km² (2,891.6/sq mi), based on the census population of 13,808. There are 5,406 housing units at an average density of 1,132.1/sq mi (436.7/km²). The racial makeup of the city is 9,440 or 68.37% White and 4,368 or 31.63% Minority. The minority population is dominated by African Americans at 2,713 residents or 19.65%, then followed by Hispanic or Latino which make up 2,334 residents or 16.90% of the city. Smaller minority groups include 956 residents or 6.92% from other races, 181 residents or 1.31% Asian, 43 residents or 0.31% Native American, and 0.00% Pacific Islander. Also, the city includes 475 residents or 3.44% identifying themselves as two or more races.

Based on census data showing 5,091 households, 34.7% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 44.6% are married couples living together, 16.9% have a female householder with no husband present, and 34.0% are non-families. 28.6% of all households are made up of individuals and 10.4% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 2.61 and the average family size is 3.23.

Of the city's total population, 27.1% are under the age of 18, 7.1% are between 18 to 24, 31.9% are between 25 to 44, 21.7% are between 45 to 64, and 12.2% are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 36 years. For every 100 females there are 90.3 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 86.3 males.

The median income for a household in the city is $45,236, and the median income for a family is $53,811. Males have a median income of $40,949 versus $29,154 for females. The per capita income for the city is $20,654. 1,465 residents or 11% of the population and 310 families or 9.1% of the total number of families are living below the poverty line. Of the total population, 834 residents or 11% of those under the age of 18 and 99 residents or 8.6% of those 65 and older are living below the poverty line. The city's housing stock is currently composed of 10% subsidized housing, of which about 400 units are state and federal housing projects.

Places of interest

Professional sports

Museums and institutes

Historic sites


  • Memorial Park - Located in the center of the city and serves as the city's "Central Park". It is the city's primary park and many civic events are hosted there. (In city)
  • Riverfront Park - The City's riverfront park, which is located on a peninsula jutting out into the Hudson River. A very active park that hosts numerous events. (In city)
  • Green Street Park - A neighborhood park located in the Mountain Side Section of the city (In city)
  • Hammond Field - A neighborhood park located in the River Side Section of the City that is primarily used for the city school district functions. Is the home of the "Beacon Bulldogs" Track and Football venues. (In city)
  • South Ave Park - A housing project park for the Forrestal Heights Houses. Primarily used for the Beacon Hoops program, a city youth basketball program. (In city)
  • Hudson Highlands State Park - The state park located behind and just south of the city. A very large state park that covers Mount Beacon. (1-3 minutes east and south of city)
  • Forrestal Park - connected to Forrestal Elementary on Liberty Street this large playground with a basketball court is a long time favorite with locals. (in city)


  • Beacon Sloop Club - Started in 1978 to promote recreation, sound ecological practices, and environmental awareness of the Hudson River. The BSC offers free rides to the public on the sloop Woody Guthrie, teaches seamanship to its volunteers, and maintains the harbor.


Beacon's most major route is Interstate 84, which passes through the city's northside, providing a connection that is minutes to the Taconic State Parkway, New York State Thruway, and Stewart International Airport. The city also has the Newburgh-Beacon Bridge which carries the interstate over the Hudson River.

Although Interstate 84 is the city's most major route, NY Route 9D serves as the city's arterial. It starts at the city's northside where it intersects with Interstate 84 as the Interstate's Exit 11 and wraps around the city to its southside. The city also has New York State Route 52 Business that runs down the middle of the city and begins in the city's westside at NY Route 9D.

Commuter service to New York City is available via the MTA Beacon Train Station, served by Metro-North Railroad.

Beacon is also serviced weekdays by a commuter ferry, The Newburgh-Beacon Ferry, over the Hudson between both cities to help alleviate traffic to the Beacon Train Station from Orange County commuters. The ferry's route runs between Beacon City Harbor and Newburgh City Waterfront.

In nearby Wappingers Falls, the Dutchess County Airport services local commuter flights. The nearest major airport to Beacon is Stewart International Airport about 10 minutes away, in Newburgh.

Municipal bus service is provided by the county's Dutchess County LOOP Bus System, which provides commuter service throughout the county. Its main line from Beacon travels from Main & NY Route 9D up Route 9D to the Poughkeepsie Galleria and South Hills Mall in the Town Of Poughkeepsie.

Notable people

Born and Raised

  • James Forrestal, Secretary of the Navy 1944-1947 and Secretary of Defense from 1947-1949. One of the city's four elementary schools and one of its federal housing projects is named in his honor.
  • Melio Bettina , World Light Heavyweight Champion Boxer in 1939. A small street in the city's center is named in his honor.
  • Robert Montgomery, famous actor who served as head of the Screen Actors Guild in 1935 and 1946. He also was a Lieutenant Commander in the U.S. Navy during WWII.
  • Digger Phelps, head basketball coach at Notre Dame (1972-91), won more games (393) than any coach in Irish history. Coached junior varsity basketball in Beacon before moving away. A small street off west Main Street is named in his honor.
  • Wallace E. Conkling, (1896-1979), 7th bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago, was born October 25, 1896, in Matteawan, now part of Beacon and grew up there.
  • Jamir Griffin Basketball legend. Jamir was voted best dressed college kid in "On Campus" Magazine. He beat out every other college kid in the United States, Guam, and San Diego. The way he won was by scoring a 9.3 in hair, 7.9 in facial hair, 9.7 in matching, 8.4 in shirts, 6.7 in pants, 10.0 in sneakers. Jamir was also an extra in the movie Like Mike.
  • William Eckert Notable personality from Beacon. William is known for throwing massive parties, while holding his liquor in one hand, and his world famous grilled-cheese in another. William is known by all, loved by many, and is a Tennessee Titans fan. William was an OL/DL for Beacon High School and was also in Pep Band for Sacred Heart University.
  • George Kotsopoulos Much Known Figure on Beacon City's Chanel 22. Did many interviews for the local station.including former mayor Gould. Was a student of Mr. Gersh, The teacher who taught him everything he knows. Attended Beacon High school and now attends Pace University. A notable personality in the City and is nephew to June Crilly, an antique shop owner. Her Shop, Lorraine's Place, is on Main Street in Beacon. Lol George.

Residents at one time


  • Although many people believe that legendary folk-singer/songwriter Pete Seeger is a resident because of his large community involvement, he is actually a resident of the Town of Fishkill, in the hamlet of Dutchess Junction.

Movies Filmed in Town

Major Motion Pictures

  • Drowning Mona - The movie's production studio, Code Entertainment, claims that the movie was based and partially filmed in the city during its 1999 filming. Confirmed via the IMDb Movie Database that the movie was based in the city and scenes were shot in the city.
  • Super Troopers - Film was based in the city and the "Town Cop" scenes as well as most of the inside scenes were filmed in the city in 1999. Started out as an underground film and then became a very popular "teen comedy" movie.
  • Nobody's Fool - Filmed largely in the home of the Schneider family. Many other scenes were filmed in the city in 1994, most notably three or four scenes that showed Main Street's "Main St., USA" appeal. The movie featured an all-star cast with Paul Newman and Bruce Willis. It was also Jessica Tandy's last film.

Short Length B&W Pictures

  • The Red Man's View - A cowboy and Indian movie filmed entirely on Mt. Beacon in 1909.
  • Down the Mountainside, Turning Panorama of Mt Beacon, A Stern Chase, and Down the Mountainside - A release of the 1902 B&W short films of views from the "World's Steepest Incline Railway", Mt. Beacon's Incline Railway.

See also


External links

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