Building Description New London Ledge Lighthouse, New London Connecticut
New London Ledge Lighthouse, built between 1906 and 1909, rises from Long Island Sound on the east side of the entrance to New London Harbor. It marks two hazards to shipping: a 200 foot long shoal and Southwest Ledge, the sharp rock ledge on which the lighthouse was built. The structure consists of a square brick dwelling with mansard roof and cylindrical lantern on a massive, square concrete base.
Standing in twenty-eight feet of water, the foundation consists of riprap-filled timber crib that measures fifty-two feet square and thirty-one feet high and is capped with a three foot layer of concrete. In 1938, the outer timber crib frame was removed and a new steel-pile perimeter boarding ledge created. A submerged riprap bulwark, eighty-two feet square and ten feet deep, forms a bulwark around the foundation. Resting on the foundation is a fifty-feet-square concrete base that rises eighteen feet above the low water line and contains a cellar space and two water cisterns. A fog siren is mounted on top of the base on the west corner.
The brick dwelling superstructure is two and one-half stories in height and measures thirty-two feet square. The half-story is contained within the mansard roof and is lighted by three pedimented dormers on each elevation. Rising from the center of the mansard roof is the upper half of the octagonal brick watch room topped by a cast iron lantern. Symmetry, altered only on the northeast elevation, where the height of the galley window sills is raised, governs the design of each elevation. All the window openings now contain four-over-four light aluminum sash, and have flat, flush granite lintels and sills, which extend beyond the jambs. Six of the windows are located on the northwest and southeast elevations. On the southwest and northeast elevations, paired windows flank both the doorways on the first story and the axial windows on the second story. The largest of the two doorways is located on the southwest elevation, facing the sound. The entrance has double-leaf, paneled wood doors with the date "1909" carved into the lintel above. On the northeast elevation is a single-leaf paneled wood door.
Blocks of smooth-faced granite are used for quoins, sills and lintels, front and rear steps, cornice, frieze, water table, and the wall facing below the water table. Some original exterior detail has been altered, including wooden dentil molding that has been removed from the cornice and the application of galvanized sheet metal on the frieze.
Walls ofthe octagonal watch room, contain alternating porthole windows and ventilators. A cast iron lantern gallery, surmounting the watch room and extending beyond its walls, is edged with a single pipe rail carried by plain cylindrical stanchions. Curved glass panes measuring twenty-four inches on each side are fitted in the top half of the lantern walls. The panes are separated by diagonal astragals and are set above curved cast iron plates containing ventilators of two styles. Capping the lantern is a conical roof, which is composed of eight cast iron sections and supports a spherical cast iron ventilator and lightning rod.
A center hall plan provides four rooms on the first story, four on the second, and three on the third, where an imposing double-leafed doorway leads to an unaltered room intended for equipment and supplies. The basement and first floor contain electrical equipment associated with the operation of the navigational aids. The rooms on the first floor include the galley, day room, shop, and communication room, all of which have been extensively remodeled. Alterations to the interior, documented in plans on file at the lighthouse, have included kitchen remodeling, the installation and relocation of plumbing facilities, and the renewal of heating and lighting systems.
The second floor contains three separate spaces for living quarters, and a toilet. This floor has also been remodeled. The third floor rooms include two separate living quarters and a recreation room. These rooms are empty, but retain much of their original appearance, including wood floors and molded wood door and window trim with corner block rosettes. Cast iron stairs rise in the center hallway from the first to the third story. The stairway has cast iron balusters and cast iron newels that support a wooden handrail. The ribbed steel beam and plate construction is exposed in the ceilings.' Iron ship's ladders connect the third story, watch room, and lantern. The basement stairs are also cast iron.
The structural system includes a relatively early example of slab concrete flooring. Drawings from the New Jersey Foundry and Machine Co. labeled "Second Floor Steel Plan" show that the floors are supported by steel I-beams, which are connected by tie rods between the bottom flanges. An eight-inch layer of cinder concrete fills the space between the steel beams, while a three-and-a-half-inch top layer of cinder concrete anchors wood sleepers to which the wood flooring is nailed. The basement contains the base of a central cast iron column which rises to the lantern. Unlike those in earlier lighthouses, this column has no structural function, but serves only as a channel for the clockwork mechanism weight drops. It is horizontally braced by metal beams radiating from the column out to the cellar walls.
The original fourth-order Henry LePaute Fresnel lens, operated by clockwork and rotating on ball bearings, was furnished with a 35 millimeter double-tank incandescent oil vapor lamp. The present light, installed in 1984 when the Fresnel lens was removed, is a smaller automated rotating light, flashing three white flashes and one red flash every 30 seconds. The focal plane of the light is fifty-eight feet above mean high water.