Historical Connecticut Lighthouses and How to Visit Them
Popular to visit, lighthouses are structures, towers,or buildings that emit light for boats at sea, or on inland waters, to safely assist them in navigating their vessels. Lighthouses are used to mark hazardous reefs, shoals, dangerous coastlines, and safe harbor entrances, as well as assist in aerial navigation.
Including electricity, open fires, candles, whale oil, colza oil from turnip plants, lard oil, kerosene, carbide acetylene gas, and solar-charged batteries, lighthouses have used a variety of products to light their lamps.
Lighthouses share the common characteristics of possessing a lantern room where the light operates, a fuel house, a boathouse, and a fog-signaling building. The keeper's living quarters, a tower structure, a light station, a lamp, a lens, and a lightning rod and grounding system are other features of lighthouses. Metal astragal bars supporting their lantern rooms, stormproof ventilators that remove the heat in the lantern room, a gallery used to help clean the outside of the lantern room windows, and unique shapes are other containments of lighthouses.
Named as one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, and built between 280BC and 247BC, the Lighthouse of Alexandria, on the island of Pharos, is still regarded as the most famous lighthouse in history. The oldest lighthouse in the United States is the one found in Saint Augustine, Florida, and constructed in 1764, the oldest continuously operating lighthouse in America is the Sandy Hook Lighthouse in New Jersey.
American lighthouses, including the 21 lighthouses found in the state of Connecticut, are preserved by the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act of 2000. The United States Coast Guard, the United States Lighthouse Society, local governments, and non-profit organizations also assist in these efforts.
LONG ISLAND SOUND:
Many of the Connecticut lighthouses are located in Long Island Sound. This is a partially enclosed body of water joined with the Atlantic Ocean between the mouth of the Connecticut River at Old Saybrook. The Bronx, in New York, sits on the western end of Long Island Sound. Black Island Sound is on its eastern end.
Several major cities are found along Long Island Sound including Bridgeport, New London, Stamford, Norwalk, and New Haven, Connecticut. Glen Cove, Rye, New Rochelle, and parts of New York City, New York are also displayed there.
Many large rivers empty into Long Island Sound including the Mianus River, the West River, the Quinnipiac River, the Thames River, the Rippawam River, the Saugatuck River, the Rooster River, the Pequonnock River, the Mill River, the Norwalk River, the Housatonic River, the Byran River, and the Connecticut River.
NEW LONDON HARBOR LIGHTHOUSE:
Originally built in 1760, the New London Harbor Lighthouse is found in the mouth of the Thames River, on the western side of the New London harbor. The New London Harbor Lighthouse is the seventh oldest lighthouse in the United States. Standing 89 feet high, the New London Harbor Lighthouse is also the tallest lighthouse in Connecticut. The city of New London was once a major whaling, shipping, and manufacturing port.
FALKNER ISLAND LIGHTHOUSE:
The second oldest extant lighthouse in Connecticut, the Falkner Island Lighthouse was constructed in 1802 on the crescent-shaped Falkner Island, in Long Island Sound. Standing 46 feet above sea level, the Falkner Island Lighthouse contains an automated white light that flashes every 10 seconds. The Falkner Island Lighthouse also provides protected nesting areas for a variety of wildlife species.
LYNDE POINT LIGHTHOUSE:
Built in 1803, and also known as the Saybrook Inner Lighthouse, the Lynde Point Lighthouse is located on the west side of the mouth of the Connecticut River. This is New England's longest and largest river. The original Lynde Point Lighthouse structure was subsequently replaced by a 65-foot tall brownstone tower in 1838.
FIVE MILE POINT LIGHTHOUSE:
Found five miles from Downtown New Haven, in Lighthouse Point Park, the Five Mile Point Lighthouse was originally constructed in 1805. Also known as the Old New Haven Harbor Lighthouse, the Five Mile Point Lighthouse possessed a short tower that was replaced by a 65-foot tall tower in 1847. The lighthouse was eliminated for navigational purposes in 1877 by the Southwest Ledge Lighthouse.
BLACK ROCK HARBOR LIGHTHOUSE:
Located on the southern end of Fayerweather Island in Bridgeport, the Black Rock Harbor Lighthouse was an octagonal tower built in 1808, that toppled over in a hurricane on September 3, 1821, and was replaced by its current tower in 1830. Also known as the Fayerweather Island Lighthouse, the Black Rock Harbor Lighthouse was built in a popular protected harbor that was a well known shipping center and trade port.
STRATFORD POINT LIGHTHOUSE:
Sitting on the southeastern tip of Stratford Point, in the mouth of the Housatonic River, the historic Stratford Point Lighthouse was originally built in 1822. One of the first prefabricated cylinder lighthouses in the United States, the original Stratford Point Lighthouse was replaced by a brick-lined cast iron tower in 1861 and automated in 1970.
STONINGTON HARBOR LIGHTHOUSE:
Found on the eastern side of Stonington Harbor, and built by the United States federal government on Windmill Point in 1824, the original Stonington Harbor Lighthouse was later torn down due to erosion and replaced by another structure in 1840. Decommissioned in 1889, the second Stratford Harbor Lighthouse was then replaced by the Stonington Breakwater Lighthouse. Featuring cultural and nautical history exhibits of the Stonington area, the Old Lighthouse Museum can be located at the base of the Stonington Harbor Lighthouse.
GREAT CAPTAIN ISLAND LIGHTHOUSE:
Originally constructed in 1830, and subsequently replaced in 1970 with a skeleton tower, the Great Captain Island Lighthouse is found off the coast of Greenwich, in the western portion of Long Island Sound. Located on the southernmost point of Connecticut, a single dirt road full of nesting egrets, herons, ospreys, and other species of birds leads up to the 17-acre parcel where the Great Captain Island Lighthouse is located.
MORGAN POINT LIGHTHOUSE:
The Morgan Point Lighthouse is found in the village of Noank, on the western side of the mouth of the Mystic River, in the southeastern corner of Connecticut. The Morgan Point Lighthouse was originally built in 1831, rebuilt in 1868, and sold to a private owner in 1919.
SHEFFIELD ISLAND LIGHTHOUSE:
The 53-acre Sheffield Island is located on the southern end of the Norwalk Islands, a chain of more than 25 islands, reefs, mudflats, and boulders approximately one mile off the coast of the famous oyster farming town of Norwalk. The town of Norwalk is found on the western entrance of the Norwalk River, on northern Long Island Sound. Norwalk's historic Sheffield Island Lighthouse was originally constructed in 1828 and replaced in 1848. The Sheffield Island Lighthouse produced a light that was visible for 12 miles, then was relighted by a solar-powered system in 2011 that is not used for navigational purposes.
PENFIELD REEF LIGHTHOUSE:
The Penfield Reef Lighthouse sits on the southern side of Black Rock Harbor, a mostly recreational harbor in Fairfield. Built in 1874, and one of the last offshore masonry lighthouses created, the Penfield Reef Lighthouse is found in one of the most hazardous areas of Long Island Sound.
SOUTHWEST LEDGE LIGHTHOUSE:
The Southwest Ledge Lighthouse is situated on a dangerous rock formation at the main entrance to New Haven harbor, an inlet on the northern side of Long Island Sound. Built in 1873, the eight-sided Southwest Ledge Lighthouse was one of the first lighthouses to be constructed on a cylindrical iron foundation. The lighthouse's superstructure was displayed at the Philadelphia Centennial International Exposition of May 10 to November 10, 1876. This was the first World's Fair to be held in the United States. It celebrated the Declaration of Independence signing's 100th anniversary. Displayed in Fairmont Park, along the Schuykill River, the Exposition also included the International Exposition of Arts, Manufacturers and Products of the Soil and Mine. The Southwest Ledge Lighthouse's superstructure became the Ship John Shoal Lighthouse in Delaware Bay before an identical one was installed into the Southwest Ledge Lighthouse.
STRATFORD SHOAL (MIDDLE GROUND) LIGHTHOUSE:
The Stratford Shoal (Middle Ground) Lighthouse is located on Stratford Shoal, a famously hazardous navigational area half way between Bridgeport, Connecticut and Port Jefferson, New York, in the middle of Long Island Sound. Originally built on a man-made island in 1877, and only accessible by boat, the Stratford Shoal (Middle Ground) Lighthouse is historically important as an example of the masonry lighthouse design of water-bound United States lighthouses.
STAMFORD HARBOR LEDGE LIGHTHOUSE:
Found on Chatham Rock in the entrance of the Stamford harbor, the Stamford Harbor Ledge Lighthouse was originally constructed in 1822. The sparkplug cast iron lighthouse is privately owned and has been discontinued as a navigational tool.
SAYBROOK BREAKWATER LIGHTHOUSE:
Originally constructed in 1886, and featured on the state of Connecticut's "Preserve the Sound" motor vehicle license plate, the Saybrook Breakwater Lighthouse is found at Fenwick Point in the mouth of the Connecticut River.
TONGUE POINT LIGHTHOUSE:
Also known as the Bridgeport Breakwater Lighthouse, the Tongue Point Lighthouse is found on the western side of the Bridgeport harbor entrance, on the grounds of a power plant. Best observed from the deck of the Bridgeport to Port Jefferson Ferry, the Tongue Point Lighthouse, or Bug Lighthouse as it is popularly referred to by local residents, was created about 500 feet offshore in 1895.
GREENS LEDGE LIGHTHOUSE:
The Greens Ledge Lighthouse is located one mile south of the entrance to Five Mile River in Rowayton, on the northern side of Greens Ledge's western end off the Norwalk Islands. Originally built in 1902, the Greens Ledge Lighthouse developed a leaning tilt over time. Featured in the 1999 motion picture known as The Thomas Crown Affair, the lighthouse is the site of the popular annual one mile long Arthur J. Ladrigan Swim Race to Bayley Beach.
PECKS LEDGE LIGHTHOUSE:
Originally constructed in 1906, the Pecks Ledge Lighthouse is found northeast of Goose Island, and about two miles from Calf Pasture Beach in Norwalk. The Pecks Ledge Lighthouse was the last staffed lighthouse built on a wave-swept location in Long Island Sound.
NEW LONDON LEDGE LIGHTHOUSE:
The New London Ledge Lighthouse was originally built in 1909, and is found on the Thames River, at the mouth of the New London harbor in Groton. The lighthouse is a small brick structure and a Connecticut icon.
AVERY POINT LIGHTHOUSE:
Contained on the Avery Point campus of the University of Connecticut, the Avery Point Lighthouse is found on the eastern shore of the Thames River entrance. The Avery Point Lighthouse was created in 1943 as a memorial to all the other lighthouses and light keepers of Connecticut and is easily accessible from the campus parking lot.
MYSTIC SEAPORT LIGHTHOUSE:
Built in 1966, the Mystic Seaport Lighthouse is located two miles upriver from Noank at the westernmost point of the seaport. Housing a number of wooden sailing ships, various whaling ships, rope-making exhibits, barrel-making exhibits, boat-making exhibits, an art gallery, and a planetarium the lighthouse is the home of the immensely popular Mystic Seaport Museum.