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Much has changed in city over two decades
From first grade through fifth grade, my world revolved around Glenham Elementary and the Fishkill Ridge Trail.
I can remember from my days at Glenham that Beacon was fairly uninviting, still a place where my parents wouldn’t want to leave me alone. We only visited the city on occasion, and the only places I would enter were the post office, Beacon Natural Market or Mountain Tops.
Pete Seeger would sing at the front of the Martin Luther King Day parades and the Stony Kill Farm bus would bring fresh produce to the farmers market at the ferry launch. Beacon was emerging from a slump that started in the 1970s, when the local industry collapsed and factories closed their doors. When Dia:Beacon arrived in 2003, it brought job opportunities for people from all over, and those that didn’t come for work came for the opportunities that the new community of artists created. Beacon was in an odd period where the infrastructure and architecture were relatively unchanged by the influx of people, but the population was rapidly changing its demographic.
There began the lives of the members of the Beacon High School class of 2022.
Senior Cleveland Wright, another lifelong resident, described the city in the early 2000s as “desolate and cold,” but had this to say about modern Beacon: “I don’t necessarily like all of this change, but growing from what Beacon was is the important part.” Wright exemplifies the sentiments of not just the new residents over the last two decades, but also the families that have lived in the city for generations.
Lou DelBianco is about as “old Beacon” as they come, with his family going back for decades in the city. When asked how the changes caused by population growth and the economic boost that comes with it affect the city, DelBianco believes “the changes are improving Beacon by making a more involved and organized community.”
It has really only been in the last five or six years that a drastic change has come to Beacon regarding the architecture. During my three years at Rombout Middle School, the Roundhouse hotel and restaurant absorbed more of the old brick buildings around the waterfall; the large brick building across from the Roundhouse turned into high-end apartments and the auto shop next to Homespun Foods was replaced with even more high-end apartments.
It seems like just yesterday that the patio now belonging to Trax coffee shop was just a gravel patch of weeds and broken glass. I can vividly remember when the boarded-up windows of 1 East Main were the canvases for local artists and bore paintings that gave personality to an otherwise glum remnant of old Beacon.
Inessa Joseph, another member of the class of 2022 at Beacon High School, has seen the development of the school system as well as the city’s character and social structure. “Unfortunately, locals are seeing restaurants and stores go out of business. The locals obviously sense that Beacon is changing and feel that it’s no longer the close-knit town they once knew.”
One of the ongoing changes I have seen over the past decade and a half is the promotion and improvement of the city’s natural beauty. The Mount Beacon trail has always been a big attraction for visitors and residents alike, and the opportunity for merchandising and other ventures centered around the mountain that came with the population boom prompted greater upkeep of the facilities. The stairs leading to the trail were redone with great care while the parking lot is now well-groomed and marked. The efforts have not been in vain, as the lot is full almost every weekend during the warmer seasons, with the streets around the lot usually lined with cars, as well.
Long Dock has also always been an important place for the city, and Dia’s 2007 installation of a piece by sculptor George Trakas signaled the beginning of its remodeling.
The businesses on Main Street would be nearly unrecognizable today to someone who hadn’t been to Beacon in a few years. Although there are some holdouts, such as Rite Aid, Bank Square and Beacon Bath and Bubble, the majority of the storefronts bear different names. The newcomers have enough capital to start businesses and pump tax money into the economy, but too often the ventures don’t last.
This exemplifies the great hope that many of the new citizens have for their futures here, and this hope is transferred into the city itself. You can almost feel it leaking out of the brickwork and pavement as you walk down Main Street.