Arts and Culture
Food and Wine
People and Places
Science and Nature
Travel and Lodging
New Hampshire
Rhode Island
Home » HISTORY in CT » CONNECTICUT (all topics) » The Seafarer’s Beacon
A Postcard, dated 1910, of New London Ledge Light
The Seafarer’s Beacon

Part 2 - Connecticut’s Lighthouses

By Kate Romani | November 19, 2010

Previous Article in this Series

Connecticut boasts three historic lighthouses in New London Harbor alone: Harbor Light, Ledge Light and Avery Point Light. One was first lighthouse built in Connecticut and another the last.

In order to understand their place in our community heritage, we need to consider them in the context of colonial New England.

A Historic Postcard of New London Harbor Light circa 1901

Because of its protected harbor at the mouth of the Thames River, New London became an important city, and by the mid 19th century, was ranked as one of America’s leading whaling seaports, behind New Bedford and Nantucket.   An early beacon of some kind was erected around 1750 at the harbor’s entrance, but it soon became apparent that a more permanent lighthouse was needed.   In 1760 the New London Harbor Light was erected; it was the first in Long Island Sound, and only the fourth lighthouse in North America.

Although it made it through the American Revolution unscathed, the lighthouse developed a large crack.   It was replaced in 1801 by a stone and cast iron structure, which was automated in 1912.   It remains in operation to this day as an active aid to navigation, warning mariners away from dangerous Sarah Ledge.   The original tower still stands and is the oldest existing lighthouse in Connecticut.

Avery Point Light

By the early 20th century, New London had made the transition from a whaling center to an industrial city.   As New London Harbor Light was insufficient to direct vessels around the dangerous ledges and the entrance to the harbor, New London Ledge Light was built in 1909.   This lighthouse, which is located in the Thames River at the entrance to the New London Harbor, is by far one of the most fascinating lighthouses being devoid of any classic lighthouse design.

First time observers of Ledge Light are amazed to see a stately red brick building with a mansard roof and granite detailing.   This distinctive French Second Empire style was the choice of the wealthy homeowners on the local coastline - they wanted a structure in keeping with the elegance of their own homes.   However, many of these large estates near the shore were destroyed in the 1938 hurricane - leaving the New London Ledge Light as one of the few examples in the local area of this elegant period in architecture.

Avery Point Light in Groton is actually the last lighthouse that was ever built in Connecticut and stands as a memorial to all other lighthouses and light keepers.   When the wealthy industrialist Morton F. Plant died in 1938, his estate at Avery Point was sold to the State of Connecticut.   In 1941, the U.S. Coast Guard converted this site into a training station, and built Avery Point Light in 1943 to serve as a symbol of the Coast Guard’s lighthouse keeping duties.   Because of the war blackout policy, it was not put into service until 1944.   When the Coast Guard left the site in 1967, the lighthouse was extinguished and became the property of the State of Connecticut.   Restoration was completed in 2006, and Avery Point Light is currently an active light on navigation charts.

One of Connecticut’s lighthouses has been converted into a lighthouse museum.   Learn about this creative reuse of a historic site in the third and final installment of this series.

Lighthouse Details:

New London Harbor Light

New London Ledge Light

Avery Point Light

Share |
ONE is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.