History of the village and historic sites worth preservation are detailed in a New York State study, "Village of Athens Multiple Resource Area".
Historic sites in Athens listed on the National Register of Historic Places in or near the village include:
The land was purchased from the natives in 1665. The community was once called "Loonenburgh" and "Esperanza." The village was incorporated in 1805.
In the late 1830s, Athens had a horse powered ferry, or "team boat" built for crossing the Hudson. "This was a single hull vessel of the treadmill type requiring six horses for power. The treadmills, on either side, were each trod by three horses always facing in the same direction. To reverse the paddlewheels it was only necessary to stop the horses a minute, and withdraw a drop pin that would reverse the gearing."
The 1935 completion of the Rip van Winkle bridge several miles to the south put an end to the local ferry service across the Hudson, until the summer of 2012 when weekend ferry service resumed. However, the ferry is portrayed in the 2005 film War of the Worlds, when Martian tripods attack the town, the ferry, and refugees from New York City attempting to flee across the Hudson.