Newburgh-Beacon Ferry docking at Newburgh, N. Y.
Pub. by M–M Photo Service, Newburgh, N. Y.
Distributors of Velkrome Cards
Ferry service between Newburgh and Beacon have existed in some form at least since 1743. By the early 20th century the fleet had grown to three 160-foot (49 m) coal-fired ferries, the Orange, Dutchess and Beacon, capable of carrying 30 vehicles each. It linked the two segments of NY 52, the major east-west artery at that point.
Increasing traffic on 52 by midcentury, however, coupled with the building of the New York State Thruway in the Hudson corridor, was straining the ferry beyond its breaking point. The state's Department of Public Works began planning for a bridge, but it was not a serious possibility until federal money became available through the construction of Interstate 84.
The ferries were seen as past their day, due to their mounting financial and operational problems, even before the bridge construction, the last Hudson crossing to be built on the river's estuarine section below Albany, was completed and opened to traffic on November 2, 1963. By that time the New York State Bridge Authority had already had to take them over.
The very next day, 220 years of ferry service passed into the region's rich history when the Orange and Dutchess saluted each other midriver on their 5 p.m. runs.
The Dutchess and Beacon, both in very decrepit condition, were sold as scrap. The Orange, in slightly better shape, was purchased and refurbished by Myles Rosenthal with the intent of turning it into a floating restaurant. It also was to carry visitors from Manhattan to the 1964 New York World's Fair. After only a few charter trips the boat fell victim to vandals which led to it joining its sister vessels in oblivion later that year.
In the next decade, when the new bridge quickly became stretched to capacity, no one suggested bringing the ferry back. Instead the bridge was widened and a second span built.
The end of ferry service dealt the death blow to Newburgh's once-vibrant waterfront, and in the early 1970s urban renewal led to much of the land being cleared in preparation for new construction projects that didn't come to fruition until 2005.
Newburgh-Beacon Bridge, New York State Bridge Authority (NYSBA): www.nysba.state.ny.us
Newburgh-Beacon Water Service, City of Newburgh, New York: www.cityofnewburgh-ny.gov
Newburgh-Beacon Ferry, Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA): www.mta.info
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