Then, Now and How

Beacon dummy light

Photo by Michael Bowman

Twenty-five years ago, Beacon was falling apart. It has been revived. But at what price?

In the past quarter-century, Beacon has transformed itself from a city of boarded-up windows and crime to a vanguard of culture and environmental sustainability. But many residents feel the resurgence has come at a steep price, criticizing the pace and scale of development and arguing that housing prices are robbing Beacon of its diversity and working-class character.

In January 2001, when then-Mayor Clara Lou Gould gave her annual state of the city address, the Poughkeepsie Journal noted that Beacon was known in the 1990s for its “empty storefronts, dilapidated buildings, inconsistent code enforcement and poor infrastructure such as sidewalks and roads, especially on the east end.”

Gould spearheaded a revitalization, expressing surprise at the pace of building rehabs and business investment. The arrival of the Dia Center for the Arts provided an “extra spurt”; the Dia Foundation in 2003 opened a 292,000-square-foot gallery in a former Nabisco box factory on the shores of the Hudson.

Situated between the river and Mount Beacon, the highest peak of the Highlands, Beacon has since the early 2000s attracted a steady stream of new homeowners and visitors eager to shop its bustling, mile-long Main Street. Many retreated more recently from New York City during the pandemic shutdown, purchasing homes and moving into condo developments on Main Street and the riverfront.

Who has benefited most from this transformation? Who has been left behind? In this series, we’ll talk to people who live and work in the city and attempt to address these questions, as well as document changes over the past 25 years in housing and demographics, the arts, politics and activism.


Has Beacon Followed Its Own Blueprint?
Was Enough Done to Keep It Affordable?
Is There Room for Lower Incomes?
Recent History (A Timeline)


What Happens with the Arts?
After Beacon, A New Home


A Tradition of Community Activism
Where Have All the Republicans Gone?
A Plague Fueled by Crack


Four Mayors Talk About Change
Main Street Survivors

This series was made possible by contributions to our Special Projects Fund.

4 thoughts on “Then, Now and How

  1. Twenty-five years ago, Beacon was actually starting to recover from having fallen apart. I could be off a handful of years but around 2000 things had started to turn around. [via Facebook]

  2. The resurgence started in the mid-1990s with dozens of antique stores: Beacon Hill Antiques, Early Everything, 20th Century Fox. I remember Beacon Hill had to cover their windows with plywood to make it look decrepit for the filming of Nobody’s Fool [released in 1994], because at that point the east end had started to turn the corner. [via Facebook]

  3. When I was director of the Howland Cultural Center, we got things started by selling two dilapidated buildings to the Sauers, who restored them with retail space on the first floor. [via Facebook]

  4. Be mindful when you refer to “culture” and it aligns with white associations of what “culture” and “class” and “thriving” look like because, trust me, 25 years ago Beacon had plenty of culture. It was not lacking. [via Instagram]

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