HISTORY OF BEACON
Dutchess County, New York
Beacon was created out of the villages of Fishkill Landing (a river port) and Matteawan (a manufacturing center).
1780 – as early as this date 24 vessels operated out of Fishkill Landing.
1814 – the Matteawan Company built the Matteawan Store to serve its factory workers. (25 years later it became the David Davis Dry Goods store).
1861-1865 (Civil War) – Joseph and Eliza Howland built their mansion at the southern entrance to Beacon. The mansion had at least two reasons for historic mention: Frederick Clarke Withers designed the main house using a polychromed pattern of brick and stone (an innovation in American Picturesque Gothic style) and famed landscapist, horticulturalist and neighbor Henry Winthrop Sargent designed the estate’s grounds.
1866 – The Dutchess and Columbia Railroad arrives in Matteawan, promoting further industrial growth.
By the late 1870s – the Denning family’s life at Presqu’ile began to disappear. Emily Denning Van Rensselaer sold out to Ramsdell enterprises, but did stay in her mansion (even though brickyard activities came to surround them).
1872 – construction of the bowstring truss Tioronda Bridge over Fishkill Creek (now listed on the National Register of Historic Places).
1880 – workmen discovered immense deposits of clay at Denning’s Point. Newburgh's Homer Ramsdell bought the Point for the site of his new brickyard, thereby taking advantage of the clay deposits and the plentiful sand. The business lasted for 50 years. One can still find bricks with "DPBW" (Denning’s Point Brick Works) imprinted on them.
1888 – the Blizzard of 1888.
1890 – Emily Denning Van Rensselaer’s daughter Emily left the Denning mansion. The brick workers’ families moved into the mansion.
1892 – the coming of the trolley to the villages of Fishkill Landing and Matteawan put the stagecoach line out of business. .
1892 – opening of the Matteawan State Hospital (then the Asylum for the Criminally Insane).
1892 – birth of James V. Forrestal, future secretary of war then secretary of defense to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, in Matteawan.
1897 (July 14) – after 22 consecutive days of rain, the Melzingah Reservoir burst crushing many buildings and killing 7 people below.
1900 – the Melzingah Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) erected a monument atop Mount Beacon to honor the Revolutionary War patriots who manned the beacon signal fires.
1901 – founding of the Southern Dutchess Country Club by 12 of Fishkill Landing’s most prominent citizens.
1902 – the building of the Mount Beacon Incline Railway cost $100,000 dollars.
1902 – the Blizzard of 1902 was followed by the Great Flood of 1902. .
early 1900s – start of the cottage colony on Mount Beacon. The seasonal cabin community of about 20 families lasted through the 1940s. (Today there is only one cottage left, owned by Colonel Robert Ray.)
1904 – birth of future actor Robert Montgomery in Fishkill Landing.
1909-1910 – famed film director D. W. Griffith made three short films near the DAR Monument on Mount Beacon.
1912 – the magazine Country Life in America called horticulturalist Henry Winthrop Sargent’s estate, Wodonethe, "the most beautiful acres in America." Sargent was a disciple of Newburgh’s Andrew Jackson Downing.
1913 – at Fishkill Landing, the New York Central started replacing the old railroad station with a modern one (completed in 1915).
1913 – Governor William Sulzer signed the charter creating the city of Beacon out of the two villages.
1913 – the Fishkill Standard called Beacon "a suffrage stronghold."
1915 – Samuel Beskin, a Russian immigrant, elected the second mayor of Beacon. Beskin came to own a small hotel, brewery, hat factory, apartment building, and Beskin’s Department Store.
1915 – the Howland mansion sold to Dr. C. Jonathan Slocum for use as a psychiatric hospital.
1916 – completion of the construction of Beacon’s new waterfront.
1919 – Dr. Clarence J. Slocum purchased Wodonethe, the mansion that had belonged to horticulturalist Henry Winthrop Sargent.
by the 1920s – the Denning mansion was in ruins, but the brickyards were in their heyday under the management of David Strickland.
1920s-1930s – thousands of swimmers came to Denning’s Point, the "Coney Island of Dutchess County."
1928 – raising of two radio towers on Mount Beacon by station WOKO, "the Voice from the Clouds."
1928 – the Fishkill Electric Railroad burned nine of its obsolete trolley cars.
1928 – publication of the weekly, the Fishkill Standard.
1929 – John J. Neville constructed the Mount Side Rest Hotel at the foot of Mount Beacon.
1934 – the ice on the Hudson River was so thick that the ferry Orange had its propeller damaged so badly that it had to lay up for repairs.
1939 – the Denning’s Point Brick Works pulled out of their original home and moved a few miles north to Brockway to find new sources of clay.
1939 – Beacon resident and light heavyweight champion Melio Bettina set up his training came at Mount Side Rest Hotel to prepare for his fight against Billy Conn.
1949 – opening of the M. H. Fishman Department Store.
1950 – the ferry Dutchess got stuck on a mud bank and the disgruntled passengers raised the call for a bridge over the Hudson.
1954 – the state legislature passed the authorization for the construction of a new bridge.
1954 – Wodonethe (once home to Henry Winthrop Sargent) was burned to make room for the new Wodonethe Drive development.
1958 – installation of radar on the ferry Orange.
1960s – Urban Renewal leads to the loss of many historic buildings.
1963 (November 2) – the dedication of the 1.5 mile long Newburgh-Beacon Bridge.
1964 – dedication of the new municipal building.
1967-1975 – there was skiing on Mount Beacon until the warmer winters provided too little snow.
1970s – the Sloop Club festivals of this decade ignited the drive to save the Hudson River. Folk singer, Pete Seeger, a Beacon resident, was the featured attraction. The Beacon Sloop Club has attracted thousands of visitors to the town and the river.
1977 – closing of the Matteawan State Hospital followed by its transformation into Fishkill Correctional Facility.
1980s – Beacon’s Main Street was in decline.
1980 – Riverfront Park (site of the former town dump) dedicated at the Strawberry Festival. The Beacon Sloop Club played a crucial role in establishing the park.
1983 – a fire destroyed the tracks, the two cars and the powerhouse of the Mount Beacon Incline Railway.
1988 – the New York State Office of Parks and Historic Preservation bought Denning’s Point from the Noesting Pin Ticket Company.
1992 – Beacon lost it last daily newspaper, the Hudson Valley News.
1992 – filming in Beacon’s East End of the movie Nobody’s Fool starring Paul Newman, Melanie Griffith and Bruce Willis.
After 1992 – the Main Street revitalization started (thanks to Ron and Ronnie Beth Sauers).
1995 and 1999 – Scenic Hudson Land Trust saves the site of the Mount Beacon Incline Railway from the developers via its land purchases in the area. At the same time, the Mount Beacon Incline Railway Restoration Society formed to restore the railway.
1996 – dedication of the new municipal building.
2000 (July 4) – 600 people hiked up Mount Beacon to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the DAR monument atop the mountain.
2000 – closing of the old Craig House Hospital (originally the Howland mansion).
2003 – Governor George Pataki spoke at Denning’s Point to celebrate the choosing of Beacon for the site of the $27 million dollar research facility, the Rivers and Estuaries Center.
(Source: Robert J. Murphy and Denise Doring Van Buren. 2003. Images of America: Beacon Revisited. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Press..)