Building Description Falkner's Island Lighthouse, Falkner Island Connecticut

Falkner Island Lighthouse (Light List #951), constructed in 1802, stands at the center of a long narrow island five miles south of Guilford, Connecticut in Long Island Sound. It consists of an octagonal plan masonry tower, presently painted white, surmounted by a sixteen-sided lantern. Other buildings remaining on the site include a masonry powerhouse, built for fog signal apparatus in 1903, a frame boathouse, and an observation shelter used by the naturalists who monitor the colonies of roseate and common terns which breed on the island. A riprap breakwater curves west and south from the shoreward side of the island to shelter the boatlanding and dock area. Of other buildingss only ruins remain: an old fog-signal house to the north of the lighttower; the 1871 keeper's dwelting adjacent to the tower on the south, which was destroyed by fire in 1976; and a nearby privy.

The octagonal foundation of the lighttower consists of uncoursed schist rubble, resting on grade, with a top layer dressed to form a platform for the hammered brownstone walls of the tower. Laid in courses of regular height, the walls taper from a diameter of sixteen feet, nine inches at the base to a diameter of nine feet, nine inches at the top. The tower measures thirty-six feet, eight inches in height. The bottom course of blocks measures four feet, six inches in depth, while the top course measures eighteen inches in depth. A brick corbel supports the lantern deck above.

Three west-facing windows, trimmed with brownstone lintels, mark the ground level and the two landings of a cast-iron spiral stair which rises in the center of the tower within a cylindrical brick lining wall. Laid in header bond, this brick inner wall insulates and stablilizes the tower and anchors the outside edge of the stair treads and a pipe handrail. Eight radiating brick walls, a single brick in thickness, form braces between the outer stone walls and the brick lining. Arched brick reveals connect the window openings and the south-facing entrance to the central stairwell. A hole in the shallow arched vault over the entrance way exposes an earlier arch above; the original door opening has been reduced in size as well. Within the segmentally-arched door opening is a steel door with welded hinges on a channel iron jamb, installed in 1976 to protect the lighttower from vandalism.

Architectural detailing on the Falkner Island lighttower is minimal. Window openings have flared brownstone lintels, but unlike New London Harbor Lighthouse, which was built during the previous year, here the lintels are flush with the walls. However, on both lighthouses the entrance opening 1s capped by a segmental arch formed by a projecting keystone with flanking, flush curved stone blocks. On the Falkner Island tower, extensive damage to the stone near the doorway obscures the spring of the arch.

The sixteen-sided cast-iron lantern, seven feet, six inches in diameter, contains thirty-two glass panes, arranged in two ranks within the top two-thirds of its side walls. Each pane measures eighteen by twenty-four inches; while similarly sized cast-iron panels form the lower third of each side and contain ventilator slots in every other panel. A conical, cast-iron roof of shallow pitch covers the lantern, and supports a spherical vent which is unique among Connecticut lighthouses. Resting on a beak molding above a small pointed dome, the vent is shaped like a covered pot with vertical slits below the rim, holding the top and bottom halves together. An arrow-shaped wind indicator shown in early photographs is now missing. Another unique feature of this lighthouse is an external cast-iron spiral stair which connects the lantern gallery with a north-facing door on the watchroom level below. There 1s no evidence that a watchroom gallery ever existed. The cast-iron lantern gallery is edged with an iron balustrade consisting of three flat-profile iron railings, which connect rectilinear iron stanchions. The iron stanchions are topped with brass spheres.

Within the watchroom a checkered tread cast-iron floor is supported by both the brick lining wall and a central cast-iron column. The column terminates within the watchroom as a newel decorated with vase turnings and molded bands of cast-iron. Watchroom walls are covered with rough plaster and whitewash. Mounted in the center of the lantern is an automated electrical lighting apparatus with a six-sided plastic lens, manufactured in Elizabeth, New Jersey. This lens replaced the fourth order fixed classical lens of six panels, made by Sautter and Co., Parts, which was removed to New Haven for safekeeping following fire and vandalism in 1976.

The brick powerhouse, measuring twenty-eight by twenty feet, contains a hipped roof edged in wide gutters. The gutters collect rainwater which is directed through downspouts to two cisterns below grade. Original sash and doors are missings and some window openings are blocked. Supports for the typhon horns, installed in 1932, stand outside the south wall, while cement oil drum racks remain on the west side of the building. When built in 1903, the powerhouse housed two steam-powered fog signals. Presently, the structure serves as living quarters for the staff of naturalists conducting research on the nesting colony of terns. A wood framed boathouse with a gabled roof stands at the inshore end of the wharf in the boat landing areas, probably a replacement for an earlier boathouse of similar construction. The frame bird blind at the north end of the island is of recent construction. Ruins of the older fog signal house lie north of the lighttower. The site of an earlier boathouse, an early fog bell tower, a workshop/barns an oil shed, a coal bin and a privys all shown on an 1890 survey, and not readily visible.