In 1822, an octagonal wooden lighthouse tower and 1 1/2 story keeper’s quarters were erected at Stratford Point, in the section of Stratford called Lordship, located at the mouth of the Housatonic River. It was only the third light station to be built on Long Island Sound. The current brick-lined, cast-iron tower and adjacent keeper’s dwelling were built in 1881. The tower was originally all white, but was later painted red around the middle. Stratford Point Light was automated in 1969 and the lantern room was removed to be displayed at Boothe Memorial Park in Stratford. In 1990, the restored lantern room was returned to its place atop the tower. A Coast Guard family currently lives at the lighthouse.
Penfield Reef Light, built in 1874, was one of the last masonry residence and tower lighthouses on a masonry foundation to be built in the United States, a design that was being replaced at the time by cast iron towers. The lighthouse is on the south side of Black Rock Harbor, at one end of a dangerous reef that extends to the southwest from Fairfield Beach into Long Island Sound. The reef, one of the most treacherous areas of the Sound, had earlier been marked by a can buoy, but increased commercial traffic in the area after the Civil War led to the construction of the lighthouse. The mansard-roofed design of Penfield Reef Light was also used fo several other lighthouses, like Sabin Point Light on the Providence River in Rhode Island. In 1969, the Coast Guard planned to replace the lighthouse with a steel tower, but a public outcry prevented this from happening. The Light was automated in 1971 and is still an active aid to navigation. In 2008, Beacon Preservation‘s bid to assume ownership of the lighthouse was approved under a program of the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act.
Southwest Ledge Light (also known as New Haven Ledge Light) was built in 1877. Southwest Ledge, on the east entrance to New Haven Harbor, is a dangerous rock formation blocking the main channel into the Harbor. The construction of a lighthouse on the Ledge was considered in 1845, but was too expensive a project to undertake, due to the site’s isolated location. Instead, a new tower was built at that time at Five Mile Point. By 1873, technology had developed to the point that building a lighthouse on the Ledge was feasible and construction could begin. That year a storm disrupted the preparations to lay the foundation, which had to be restarted the following year. The Lighthouse, designed by Major George H. Elliott, has a cylindrical foundation, made of iron and filled with concrete. It was designed to allow winter ice to float around instead of building up and damaging the structure. The lighthouse was designed with Second Empire style details, including a Mansard roof. The superstructure, built for Southwest Ledge in a Baltimore shipyard, was considered such an impressive feat of engineering that it was put on display at the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, with an actual lighthouse keeper residing inside. In the end, this structure was not sent to New Haven but was sent to Delaware Bay and became the Ship John Shoal Light. Instead, an identical superstructure was sent to Southwest Ledge, although, according to some sites, it was Southwest Ledge which received the original superstructure initially intended for Ship John Shoal, while the Delaware Bay lighthouse instead received the second structure, after its stay in Philadelphia.
Put in place in 1876, Southwest Ledge Light was first lit in 1877. A new breakwall was soon built, ending at the new lighthouse. The living conditions for the lighthouse keepers remained bad for many years due leaking, dampness, bad drinking water and numerous cockroaches. In these rough conditions, Assistant Keeper Nils Nilson went into a violent rage and chased Keeper Jorgen Jonnensen around the tower with a fire axe. Jonnensen was able to lock himself in a storage room and Nilson left in a rowboat. Soon after, in January 1908, Nilson committed suicide. Despite this incident, the lives of many people were saved over the years by the keepers of Southwest Ledge Light. The Light was automated in 1953 and continues as an active aid to navigation.
The first Five Mile Point Light was constructed of wood in 1805 on the East side of New Haven Harbor. It was called Five Mile Point due to its distance from downtown New Haven. Considered to not be high or bright enough, the original tower was eventually replaced, in 1847, by the current one, built of brownstone with a brick lining. A newer lighthouse, built on nearby Southwest Ledge in 1877, superseded Five Mile Point Light, which thereafter ceased operation, although a caretaker continued to look after the structure. The land around where the lighthouse stands was later owned by the War Department and then the State of Connecticut, before eventually being acquired by the City of New Haven in 1924. This land soon became Lighthouse Point Park. The tower was renovated in 1986, with the exterior being steam cleaned and repainted. Adjacent to Five Mile Point Light is an 1835 keeper’s house, which at one time was connected to the tower by an enclosed wooden walkway (no longer extant). [Note that in the picture above the lighthouse is strung with lights as part of the park's holiday season Fantasy of Lights.]
In the eighteenth century, what is today the Black Rock neighborhood of Bridgeport developed as an active port. In 1808, Black Rock Harbor’s first lighthouse, made of wood, was built on the southern end of Fayerweather Island. This was destroyed in an 1821 hurricane and replaced, in 1823, by a stone tower, designed to withstand future rough weather. Fayerweather Island Light, also known as Black Rock Harbor Light, had a number of long-tenured lighthouse keepers. Stephen Moore began as keeper in 1817, but he was later injured and unable to tend the light. His daughter, Catherine Moore, who had begun assisting him as a girl, then took on the full duties of keeper, although her father retained the official position until he died, at age 100, in 1871. Kate Moore then officially became keeper, retiring in 1878. The lighthouse was decommissioned in 1933 and became part of Bridgeport’s Seaside Park. The tower eventually fell prey to vandals and the adjacent keeper’s house, built in 1879 after Kate Moore retired, burned down in 1977. There was a preservation effort in 1983, but eventually the island was again neglected and the lighthouse vandalized. A new preservation group eventually formed and, in 1998, the structure was restored and now has with graffiti-resistant paint and vandal-proof steel panes for the windows. Black Rock Harbor Light was also relit, using solar panels. The island is today attached to land by a stone breakwater.
The last of Connecticut’s active lighthouses to be built was the Avery Point Light, which today is located on the University of Connecticut’s Avery Point campus. The lighthouse was built in 1943 as a memorial to all other lighthouses and lighthouse keepers. It was not lit until 1944, owing to fears of enemy invasion by sea during World War II. At time it was built, the property was used as a Coast Guard training facility and the light remained an active aid to navigation until the Coast Guard moved to a new location in 1967. Left abandoned, there were concerns that the light would be torn down, especially after UCONN declared it a safety hazard in 1997. In response, the Avery Point Lighthouse Society was formed to restore and relight the tower. In 2001, the old wooden lantern was removed, to be replaced by a newly crafted replica, lowered into place in 2005. Part of the restoration involved the building of a memorial brick walkway, with inscribed bricks that had been sold to raise donations for the restoration. Work on the tower itself was begun in 2003 and the official relighting and rededication ceremonies took place in 2006. There is a webcam view of Avery Point.
Stratford Shoal Light marks a dangerous reef located in the middle of Long Island Sound. It was first marked for navigation by a pair of spar buoys in 1820. A lightship was placed there in 1838, but it frequently drifted off its station. Stratford Shoal Lighthouse, constructed on a small, unincorporated, man-made island, was completed in 1877 to replace the lightship. Automated in 1970, it is still an active aid to navigation. Also known as Middle Light, the lighthouse is halfway between Port Jefferson, New York and Bridgeport, Connecticut. Although the State of New York ceded the territory on which the lighthouse was built, it is classified as a Connecticut lighthouse on official maps. The lighthouse can be seen distantly from the Bridgeport-Port Jefferson Ferry. Read the rest of this entry »