Building Description Lynde Point Lighthouse, Old Saybrook Connecticut

Lynde Point Lighthouse (Light List #1041), erected in 1838, is located on the west side of the entrance to the Connecticut River on the northern shore of Long Island Sound. It replaced an earlier octagonal wood framed lighthouse built on the same site. The present octagonal light tower, painted white, supports a cylindrical grey cast-iron lantern, fitted with twelve glass panels and capped by an ogee iron roof presently painted red. To the west of the light tower are ruins of the old keeper's dwellings demolished in 1966. A modern dwelling is located immediately to the north. The concrete base for a fog-signal bell stands opposite the southeast face of the light tower near the perimeter of the property, while a seawall of large, coursed stone blocks protects the site.

The foundation of the light tower appears to have been built entirely below grade; specifications in the construction contract of 1838 called for a foundation "to be sunk deep enough to insure the stability of the whole superstructure." From ground level the brownstone walls taper from a thickness of five feet at the base to two feet at the top. The exterior measures twenty-five feet in diameter at ground level, twelve feet in diameter at the top, and sixty-five feet high. The builders were given a choice of using split granite or freestone. Their choice of brownstone resulted in carefully dressed blocks laid in the pseudisodomic pattern, described in the contract as "regular courses of stretchers and headers." Built thirty-six years after the two other early masonry towers in Connecticut, New London Harbor (1801) and Falkners Island (1802), Lynde Point possesses the finest masonry work of the three; however, the window and door detailing of the two earlier masonry towers is less evident at Lynde Point. According to the contracts walls were laid in lime mortar, the joints "thoroughly pointed with Roman or hydraulic cement" and the exterior and interior given two coats of whitewash.

Inscribed at midpoint on the southeast face of the tower is the date: "A. D. 1838" (or 1839; the last numeral has been partly obscured by repointing). This inscription, crude and uncentered, seems to have been a later addition. The west-facing entrance is bordered by a flush lintel and posts of dressed stone. A replacement door of cast-iron, set into a cast-iron jamb and lintel, fills the doorway. Above the entrance opening and on the northwest face of the tower are traces of an attached gable-roofed building which connected the tower and the keeper's dwelling.

Six windows, each corresponding to a storys are located on the south face. As directed in the contract, each contains twelve lights and is framed by a projecting sill and flush flat lintel of dressed stone. The original panes were to measure ten by twelve inches; however, present panes measure ten by ten inches. The sixth story of the light tower serves as a watchroom, in which the original stone vaulting continues to support a projecting octagonal lantern gallery of dressed brownstone. Presently, the gallery is covered with sheet metal. A checkered tread, cast-iron lantern gallery deck is supported by the brownstone and edged with a flat fron handrail supported on cylindrical cast-fron posts. The original balustrade was iron with a double railing of square-plan and posts two inches in diameter.

Centered on the lantern deck and bolted to it, is the cylindrical cast iron lantern, seven feet, three inches in diameter. The original lantern, octagonal in shape, was nine feet in diameter. The upper half of the existing lantern contains twelve panes of glass set in iron mullions, each pane measuring two feet by three feet, two and one-half inches. The lower half of the lantern consists of six curved cast-iron sections, unlined and bolted together on the inside. Of these, five sections contain projecting round transverse ventilators, while the sixth contains a door to the lantern gallery. The floor of the lantern is composed of four cast-iron sections. Through one of these a hatch permits access to a ship's ladder leading to the watchroom below. The lantern roof is built in six cast-iron ogee sections, and is covered with sheet metal. There is no ceiling. Surmounting the roof is a spherical vent, above a beak molding, presently sheathed in metal.

The light tower has no brick lining wall. Moreover, none was specified tn the construction documents and none appears ever to have been installed. As specified in the original contract, the ground level floor is built of stone laid in cement. A plywood ceiling has been installed under the joints of the first landing. The interior of the masonry walls has been whitewashed repeatedly. The most striking feature of the interior is the wood spiral stair, supported by a central wood masts eleven inches in diameter and faceted into sixteen sides. The risers and supporting knee braces under each tread are let into this mast. Simple posts at the outer end of each winder support a simple, curved wood handrail. The use of cut nails and the similarity of existing measurements to those in the original specifications suggest that the stairs are original. There are five wood landings along the stairs, each landing supported by wood members keyed into the brownstone walls and illuminated through a window. A fixed fifth order Fresnel lens, one of only two such lenses remaining in Connecticut, is mounted in the lantern atop a cast-iron pedestal. Built in 1881 by Barbier and Fenestre of Paris the light has since been electrified and automated. An earlier gambrel-roofed, wood framed keeper's dwellings dressed in Gothic Revival detailing such as a cross-gable, pointed window arches, and recessed chimney panels, was demolished and replaced in 1966 by a masonry duplex dwelling of contemporary vernacular design. A barn, an oil house, and a privy, reported to have stood on the site in 1936, no longer remain.