Southwest Ledge Light, New Haven, Connecticut
Built in 1877.
SOUTHWEST LEDGE (NEW HAVEN BREAKWATER) LIGHT
Location: Reef at main entrance to New Haven Harbor, New Haven
Station Established: 1877
Year Current Tower(s) First Lit: 1877
Foundation Materials: CAST IRON/CONCRETE CAISSON
Construction Materials: CAST IRON
Tower Shape: OCTAGONAL
Markings/Pattern: WHITE ON BROWN CAISSON W/BLACK LANTERN
Relationship to Other Structure: INTEGRAL
Original Lens: Fourth Order, Fresnel
- On the east side of the main channel in New Haven Harbor there is a dangerous rock formation named Southwest Ledge. In 1845 it was recommended to build a lighthouse on Southwest Ledge to replace the old New Haven Light at Five Mile Point. This idea was deemed too expensive at the time.
- Construction on the Southwest Ledge Light started in 1873 after advances in engineering and construction made the project viable. It was one of the first to be built on a cylindrical iron foundation. It was such a marvel when completed the lighthouse was displayed at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia in 1876 with a keeper maintaining the light during the exposition.
- Not wanting to halt construction to wait for the exposition to end, an identical lighthouse was built. The second lighthouse was shipped to Southwest Ledge and the original went to Ship John Shoal in Delaware.
- Southwest Ledge was lit on January 1, 1877. At the same time the old New Haven Light was extinguished.
- The living conditions were very inhospitable. The lighthouse leaked, had very little drinkable water and a cockroach problem. These conditions may be to blame for one assistant keeper taking his own life.
- The lighthouse was fully automated in 1973. It is an active aid to navigation. The tower is not open to the public but it may be viewed by boat or from the Lighthouse Point Park in New Haven, Connecticut.
Researched and written by Melissa Buckler, a Chesapeake Chapter of the U.S. Light House Society volunteer.