The U.S. Coast Guard held a rare Open House this past August 8th at the 1881 Stratford Point Lighthouse in Stratford Point, Connecticut. This was a rare opportunity because the station is used for Coast Guard housing and is almost never open to the public. It was opened this year in honor of National Lighthouse Day that was officially the day before.
The Stratford Point Light Station was first established in 1822 when a 28-foot wooden tower was built. That structure stood until 1881 when a cast iron tower and a wooden keeper’s house were built. Both structures are similar in design to many other lighthouses around New England such as Little River Lighthouse and Cape Neddick’s Nubble Lighthouse in Maine.
The lighthouse had a number of interesting keepers over the years. One of the most interesting was Theodore Judson who also happened to raise cocker spaniels. One of dogs was known for its fishing abilities. One time the dog came out of the water with a 2½ pound eel.
But keeper Judson may have been best known for his story about mermaids that he originally told to a local newspaper. He claimed that he saw a dozen or so of them swimming in the water off the lighthouse. He claimed that he almost caught one of them, but all he got was able to grab and save was her oyster shell hairbrush. He never recanted the story, telling it many times over the years, swearing it was the truth.
One of the last of the old time U.S. Lighthouse Service keepers to serve in New England was Daniel F. McCoart, Sr., a World War I veteran who served at Stratford Point Lighthouse from 1945 to 1963. McCoart joined the Lighthouse Service in 1919 and served at West Bank Lighthouse in New York until 1921 when he transferred to the no-longer-standing Bridgeport Harbor Lighthouse in Bridgeport, Connecticut where he served until 1945. Mr. McCoart was then transferred to Stratford Point Lighthouse where he retired in 1963, having served an amazing 44 years in the service of his country as a lighthouse keeper.
In 1969 the 4th order Fresnel lens and the lantern were both removed from the Stratford Point Lighthouse to accommodate DCB-224 revolving aero-beacons, and the lighthouse was left headless. In 1978 the station was closed and the last Coast Guardsmen left the station; the light was now remotely controlled from Eaton’s Neck Lighthouse.
In 1982, to prevent vandalism, Coast Guard personnel returned to live in the keeper’s house. In 1990 the aero-beacons were removed from the tower and a modern optic was installed. The old lantern, which had been on display at a local park, was restored and placed back on top of the tower. Perhaps the day will come when the Stratford Point Lighthouse will be offered up for adoption for free to qualified nonprofits under the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act. It is the perfect candidate.
This story appeared in the
Sep/Oct 2015 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.
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