New London Harbor Lighthouse

Sept. 24, 2019

New London Harbor Lighthouse, New London, Connecticut

Established in 1760, current tower built in 1801.


Location: West side of harbor entrance
Station Established: 1760
Year Current Tower(s) First Lit: 1801
Operational? Yes 
Automated? Yes 1912
Deactivated: n/a
Foundation Materials: SURFACE ROCK/STONE
Construction Materials: BROWNSTONE/BRICK LINING
Tower Shape: OCTAGONAL
Relationship to Other Structure: SEPARATE
Original Lens: 11 LAMPS W/13-INCH REFLECTORS

Historical Information:

  • The original New London Harbor Lighthouse was built on the west side of the entrance to New London Harbor in 1760. The original lighthouse was probably of masonry. It apparently was completely removed when the stone tower which stands today was built in 1801. Following the act of August 7, 1789, the lighthouse, built in 1760, was ceded to the United States, according to the following "Memoranda of Cessions" by Connecticut:
  • "1790, May. Lighthouse at New London and certain rocks and ledges off against the harbor of New London, called Race Rock, Black Ledge, and Goshen Reef, together with buoys."  On May 7, 1800. Congress appropriated $15,700 "for rebuilding, altering, and improving the lighthouse at New London, Conn.," of which $15,547.90 was spent for the purpose in 1801, the balance being carried to the surplus fund.
  • On November 22, 1838, Lt. George M. Bache, U. S. N., made a report on the light which he described as a stationary light, situated on a rocky point to the westward of the entrance to the River Thames, and 2 miles from the town of New London. "It is of great importance as a leading light for vessels going in and out of the harbor of New London, which, on account of its position and security, is much resorted to during the heavy gales of winter."
  • "The light is shown from an elevation of 111 feet, which, in clear weather, should render it visible 1612 miles. * * * The tower is a substantial building of freestone, smooth hammered, and laid in courses; it is 80 feet in height, and is ascended by an interior stairway of wood, having landings at convenient distances. "The lighting apparatus consists of 11 lamps, with parabolic reflectors, disposed around 2 horizontal tables so as to throw the lights from WSW south about to N by E. The reflectors are 13 inches in diameter. This apparatus was furnished in 1834."
  • In 1855 a fourth-order lens to illuminate 315 degrees was recommended. In 1863 new dwellings for keepers were provided. In 1868 a road was opened by the city of New London across the lighthouse grounds, the road being fenced on both sides.  In 1874 a second-class fog signal with two 18-inch engines and a Daboll trumpet was installed. It was in operation 553 hours during 1875. In 1883 a first-class fog trumpet was substituted. On December 21, 1896, an improved fog signal consisting of two 3 1/2-horsepower Hornsby-Akroyd oil engines, air compressors etc., was installed operating the first-class Daboll trumpet.
  • A fog-signal house was built in 1903 and 13-horsepower oil engines, with trumpet, siren etc., were installed in the following year. The fog signal was discontinued on September 5, 1911. On July 20, 1912, the light was changed to acetylene, unattended.  The lighthouse is a white, octagonal pyramidal tower, 90 feet above ground and 89 feet above water, the light being visible for 15 miles, and located on the west side of the entrance to New London Harbor. The light is a 6,000-candlepower fourth-order electric light flashing white every 4 seconds, with a red 1,300-candlepower sector from 0 degrees to 41 degrees, covering Sarah Ledge and the shoals to the westward.