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New England Lighthouses: A Virtual Guide
Bridgeport Harbor Light
Bridgeport, Connecticut
Bridgeport Harbor Light main page / History / Bibliography / Postcards

History
  Jeremy D'Entremont. Do not reproduce any part of this website without permission of the author.

The first Bridgeport Harbor Light, erected in 1851, consisted of an octagonal tower with a fixed red light on top of a box-like structure that stood on iron piles. There was no keeper's quarters, making it necessary for the keeper to travel back and forth by boat.

Bridgeport Harbor was increasingly busy, and by 1870 it became obvious that a new lighthouse was needed. Captain John Brooks, Jr, the Bridgeport Superintendent of Docks and Wharves, was very influential in obtaining the new lighthouse.

The second Bridgeport Harbor Light, finished in 1871, was a wooden dwelling with a tower attached to the front of its roof.

The structure stood about a mile offshore on iron screw-piles and had a fourth-order Fresnel lens displaying a fixed red light. It also had a fog bell operated by striking machinery.

The lighthouse was very similar to some others built in the same period, including New York's Long Beach Bar Light, Vermont's Colchester Reef Light, and Rhode Island's Pomham Rocks, Sabin Point, and Rose Island lights.

lighthouse surrounded by ice
Bridgeport Harbor Light in the winter of 1875

 old photo

U.S. Coast Guard photo
 

Bridgeport Harbor Light was a common destination for summer boaters, and was sometimes a winter attraction as well. During the severe winters of 1875 and 1893 the harbor froze over so completely that many people walked to the lighthouse. It was reported in 1875 that Dr. George Lewis and his wife drove a sleigh from the Bridgeport Lighthouse all the way to Fayerweather Island, near the lighthouse there. Kate Moore, the keeper at Fayerweather Island, told Lewis that in her 58 years on Fayerweather Island, no one had ever driven there on the ice.

One of the most dramatic incidents in Bridgeport Harbor occurred in December 1920. During a brutal storm the steam lighter Calvin Tompkins developed a leak about a mile from Stratford Shoal Lighthouse. The vessel quickly sank and the crew boarded two rowboats. One of the boats was quickly swamped.

Keeper William Hardwick saw from the lighthouse that the second rowboat was in danger of sinking. Hardwick launched the station's boat and rescued the seven men in the boat. Meanwhile the men from the first boat had managed to cling to a raft and were picked up 20 hours later by another vessel. Three men had died as a result of the accident. Keeper Hardwick received a letter of commendation from Commerce Secretary Herbert Hoover.

On June 15, 1930, Keeper Daniel F. McCoart rescued three persons whose boat had lost its rudder in a rough sea. The keeper towed the vessel into Bridgeport Harbor. Less than two months later, on August 10, a small sailboat capsized near the station with two boys on board. One of the boys couldn't swim and was held up by the other boy until Keeper McCoart arrived and saved both boys from the water.

aerial view of lighthouse
U.S. Coast Guard photo
skeleton tower

The new Bridgeport Harbor Light, erected in 1953.

By 1953, Bridgeport Harbor Light was in such poor condition that the Coast Guard decided to replace it with a skeleton tower.

The old lighthouse was sold to the Fairfield Dock Company. They initially wanted to move it ashore. But officials couldn't agree on where it would go, so it was decided instead to dismantle it for scrap.

As it was being dismanted it accidentally caught fire and was destroyed.

You can read much more about this lighthouse in the book The Lighthouses of Connecticut by Jeremy D'Entremont.

Keepers: Abraham A. McNeil (1851-1873), Charles Hubbell McNeil (assistant, 1851-1871), Waldo Lester (1873), Charles Hubbell (McNeil?) (1874-1875), Frederick Raymond (assistant, 1875-1876), Joseph H. Prindle (?) (1875-1876), S. Adolphus McNeil (1876-1901), Edward Burton (assistant, 1876-1882); Ole Anderson (1901-1903), Samuel Wright (1903-at least 1907); William Hardwick (c. 1920), Daniel McCoart (1921-1942), Ralph Lutinski (Coast Guard, ?-1953), Delphin Merritt (Coast Guard, ?-1953), Michael J. Walsh, Jr. (Coast Guard, ?-1953), Edward J. Sampel (Coast Guard, ?-1953), Otto E. Hessmar, (Coast Guard, ?-1953).

  Jeremy D'Entremont. Do not reproduce any part of this website without permission of the author.

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