Hydroelectric Beginnings

Lake Jefferson in Jeffersonville, NY, delighted residents and visitors for decades as a place of recreation and natural beauty; however, the lake and its dam were originally constructed in the 1920s with the intent of producing hydroelectricity. The dam was designed in 1922 by Joseph B. Rider of New York City for the Clarke Water and Power Company but was only partially completed. In 1927, the company Lake Jefferson Inc. took over construction, and the project was redesigned by Nial Sherwood of Liberty, NY. The dam was completed, but the original hydroelectric project was abandoned in favor of using coal, at the site. Guests at the Lake Jefferson Hotel became the main users of the lake. Then, 57 years later, Malcolm Brown, a former philosophy professor-turned-sustainable energy activist, revisited the lake’s potential for producing green electricity.

In 1984, Malcolm Brown and Anne Larsen bought the old generating site next to the dam and began the work of transforming the man-made lake into a resource capable of producing power.  Jeffersonville Hydroelectric Company began generating power in 1986, producing power for the powerhouse and selling the rest of the energy back to NYSEG (New York State Electric and Gas). At full power, the hydroelectric facility had a potential 70 kilowatt capacity, which at one time could generate enough power for 20-25 homes.

With the founding of WJFF Radio Catskill, hydroelectricity would serve the community. Spearheaded by Malcolm Brown and the enthusiasm of residents, the station was constructed near the dam almost entirely by volunteer labor. Radio Catskill began broadcasting on February 12, 1990, and the offices and studios were originally powered by the hydroelectric energy produced just down the driveway.  In 2005, veteran Radio Catskill volunteers, hydro operators, and dam crew members Kevin and Barbara Gref bought the dam and powerhouse from Malcolm Brown.

Dam Damage

Over the years, several severe floods struck the Jeffersonville area, and in the flood of June 2006, the Briscoe Lake dam was destroyed, the spillway of the Lake Jefferson dam was damaged, and Lake Jefferson was filled with silt. A group of residents along Lake Jefferson have formed the Lake Jefferson Conservation Association to save the lake by repairing the dam and to conserve and restore the environmental, recreational, and flood management qualities provided by Lake Jefferson.

New Broadcast Studios

On June 26, 2022, Radio Catskill began broadcasting from its new studios in Liberty, NY. The former Catskill Harvest Market building on NY-52 was donated by long-time supporter Barbara Martinsons, and has been transformed into a new modern broadcast facility with three digital studios, a community space, and offices. Committed to its sustainability roots, Radio Catskill currently receives local solar power from Meadow and specially allocated solar and hydropower from the New York Power Authority’s ReCharge NY Power program. 

In Memory of Malcom Brown, WJFF Radio Catskill Co-Founder
Malcolm Brown co-founded WJFF Radio Catskill. He passed away on November 3, 2021. We honor his vision and dedication to public radio, the environment, and the community.
More about Malcom here.