Stratford Point Lighthouse, Stratford Connecticut

Date added: August 21, 2022 Categories: Connecticut Lighthouse
Keeper's dwelling, lighthouse, powerhouse, camera facing southeast (1989)

Stratford Point Lighthouse, erected in 1881, is significant as the earliest example in Connecticut of the cone-shaped, pre-fabricated cast-iron lighthouses one of the earliest such lighthouses in the nation. Its construction and architectural details include characteristics which represent the earliest phase of development. Later the type became more standardized and was utilized on land and water sites in many varied locations. The site represents the fourth oldest lighthouse station in Connecticut still under Coast Guard jurisdiction. Established in 1822 by the federal government to mark the mouth of the Housatonick River, the light station at Stratford Point has made a significant contribution to the history of the aids to navigation in Long Island Sound. In addition, Stratford Point is significant as the only light station with three principal components remaining intact: the light tower, the keeper's dwellings and the fog signal house.

Stratford Point has been the site of a lighthouse and keeper's dwelling since 1821. At that time Ezekiel Gilbert of Derby and Robert Fairchild of Stratford contracted to build a wood framed lighthouse on a stone foundation to match the one at New Haven. It was to be painted red or white, as was a small one and a half story wood framed keeper's house nearby.

In 1881, this shingled wood framed light tower was replaced with the present cast-iron structures formed of curved cast-iron plates, flanged for bolting into courses. The Lighthouse Board approved this design for Stratford Point in 1880, a week after it approved a shorter version of the same design for the Cold Spring Harbor, N.Y. front light. Long Island Head Lighthouse was approved the same day. Six others of the same design were approved in July and August, 1880. Present documentation suggests that Stratford Point is the earliest extant lighthouse of this design.

Construction was supervised by General Duane of the Engineering Corps. The five courses of cast-iron plates were bolted together through flanges on the inside, the lower rim of each course overlapping the one below in a semi-circular cast ridge. The seams of the top course were covered by brackets, supporting a deck upon which the lantern rested.

Deeply molded cast-iron window surrounds, projecting pedimented hoods and recessed panels, and simple projections at the top and sides of the doorway all identify Stratford Point Lighthouse as an example of the first phase in cast-iron lighthouse construction. This phase dated from 1880 to the mid 1890s.

In the same year as the cast-iron lighthouse construction, the original keeper's dwelling was replaced with the present gable roofed frame structure. Historic photographs of the structure show labels and scroll-work porch brackets and bargeboards, suggesting a belated Gothic Revival impulse. Some of this original wood trim remains on the northwest corner porch.

A fog signal was established at. Stratford Point in 1858. At the time the cast-iron lighttower was built in 1881, a new fog-bell tower also was constructed, located about 20 feet southwest of the lighttower. The new machinery was housed in a shed below the bell. In 1910, a compressed-air siren was ordered to replace the fog-bell, and a brick powerhouse for the first class sirens was erected to the west of the lighttower, using a design also employed by the Third District at Montauk Point Light Stations New York. This powerhouse remains standing. In 1931, fog signal engines by G. E. and Ingersoll Rand were in uses operating a typhon whistle.

The complex history of lighting apparatus at Stratford Point began in 1821 with the introduction of eight lamps used as a fixed light. Within a year Winslow Lewis, an inventor who had sold the U.S. government the rights to his improved Argon type lamps and silvered parabolic reflectors, visited Stratford Point and installed a new mechanism. This device consisted of a revolving frame holding ten new lamps, ten new sixteen inch reflectors, and two new spare lamps. A clock mechanism for lighthouses, patented by the renowned clockmaker Simon Willard, was fitted in the lantern, as well. The Lewis lamps were replaced with a fifth order Fresnel light in the decade before the Civil War. In 1867, the two range lenses with iron frames were described as providing flashes which were too brief and too infrequent. An 1881 inspection report identifies a third order flashing light as the apparatus in place at that date. It consisted of a constant "level" lamp and two revolving range lenses, made by L. Sautter and Co. and secured back to back. The Henry Lepaute clockwork required winding every four hours. In 1932, the inspector reported a fourth order electric incandescent light in place at Stratford Point, revolving in a trough of mercury and giving a light of 290,000 candle power.

Operating Lighthouses in Connecticut
Falkner Island Lighthouse (1802) Falkner's Island
Lynde Point Lighthouse (1838) Old Saybrook
New London Harbor Lighthouse (1801) New London
New London Ledge Light Station (1906) New London
Penfield Reef Lighthouse (1874) Bridgeport
Stratford Point Lighthouse (1881) Stratford
Stratford Shoal Lighthouse (1878)
Tongue Point Lighthouse (1894) Bridgeport
Saybrook Breakwater Lighthouse (1886)
Southwest Ledge Lighthouse (1876) New Haven
Greens Ledge Lighthouse (1902)
Peck Ledge Lighthouse (1906) Norwalk

Map of Lighthouses in Connecticut