Way Back When …. 1874
Fairfielders who enjoy boating or beachcombing know that at low tide, the mile-long Penfield Reef extends out into Long Island Sound, posing a hazard for mariners. Prior to the mid-1870s, the dangerous reef was marked only by a pair of buoys. But in 1874, after Congress allocated $55,000 for the construction of a lighthouse, Penfield Reef Lighthouse began serving boaters.
The lighthouse was manned for 97 years, and local legend says it is still haunted by the ghost of Head Keeper Frederick A. Jordan, who died when he got into a rowboat in stormy weather to see his family just before Christmas in 1916.
In 1969, the Coast Guard announced plans to tear down the lighthouse and replace it with a pipe tower. After local outcry, and with the help of then Congressman Lowell Weicker and State Representative Stewart McKinney, Penfield Reef Lighthouse was preserved. The beacon was automated on September 4, 1971 after ninety-seven years of manned service. More than seventy local boaters joined the Penfield Power Squadron in a sail-by tribute to the lighthouse that day.
The lighthouse was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1990. It was damaged by Superstorm Sandy in 2012 and repaired with funds from the 2013 Disaster Relief Appropriations Act in 2015. Last week, on July 12, 2016, it went up for auction on the General Services Administration website.
Prints, pillows, books and cards featuring the iconic Penfield Reef Lighthouse are available at the Fairfield Museum Shop.
The year the Penfield Lighthouse began operations.