Faulkner's Island Light main page / History / Bibliography / Photos / Postcards History
Faulkner's Island Light is Connecticut's second oldest lighthouse and also the only active light station on an island in the state. Faulkner's Island is about three and one half miles offshore from the town of Guilford. Many vessels negotiating Long Island Sound were wrecked on the rocks around the three-acre island, prompting the Lighthouse Establishment to erect a 40-foot stone lighthouse in 1802. The beacon was commissioned by President Thomas Jefferson, and the island was purchased from Medad Stone for $325.
Like Connecticut's oldest lighthouse tower, New London Harbor Light, Faulkner's Island Light was built by stonemason Abisha Woodward. The lighthouse is notable for the unusual outside staircase on its upper section, leading to the gallery deck.
Shipping accidents continued in the vicinity after the establishment of the lighthouse. On one occasion the first keeper, Joseph Griffing, found the bodies of seven sailors whose vessel was wrecked nearby. Griffing buried the men on neighboring Goose Island.
One of the keeper's daughters reportedly also shot a number of birds to add to the collection. Another daughter studied marine botany and painted watercolors.
The entire Brooks family played musical instruments, and visitors were sometimes treated to impromptu concerts. According to an 1888 newspaper article, the Brooks family "made a paradise out of that little island."
Frank Ward Parmele, a Guilford native, was an assistant keeper 1884-90. A descendant of Parmele wrote the following in August 2009:
"On February 14, 1888, during a snowstorm, his wife, Lillian Norton Parmele, went into labor and was carried by rowboat from Faulkner's Island to the mainland where she was transported by oxcart to 6 State Street in Guilford where my grandfather, David V. Parmelee was born."Parmele went on to serve more than 20 years as keeper of Castle Hill Light in Newport, Rhode Island.
George Zuius was the last keeper for the U.S. Lighthouse Service, leaving Faulkner's Island in 1941 when the Coast Guard took over. Keeper Zuius was on Faulkner's Island when the Hurricane of 1938 hit. He managed to keep the light going throughout the storm, but the boathouse was destroyed. Zuius' daughter, Barbara, still remembers playing on the island with a pet chicken and her dog Rexie.
A restoration costing over $200,000 was completed in late 1999. Most of the funding came from the Federal Government through the Intermodal Surface Transportation Enhancement Act (ISTEA). Walter Sedovic Architects of Irvington, New York, were chosen to oversee the restoration project. Sedovic has said, "Historic buildings have a layering of time and events that's irreplaceable... I think it's remarkable to be working on a lighthouse that Jefferson commissioned and represents that period so well." Sedovic chose to restore the tower to the 1871 period.
International Chimney Corporation of Buffalo, New York -- the same company that moved two Cape Cod lighthouses, among others -- was chosen to implement the restoration of the lighthouse. The restoration includes a new ventilation system, the application of an all-white breathable coating to make the tower weathertight, painting of the lantern gallery inside and out, a new lightning protection system, installation of a stainless steel door, new 12-pane casement windows in the face of the west wall, restoration of the original weathervane and the scraping and painting of the interior handrail. Another major addition is a 75-square foot entry deck.
More restoration of the lighthouse took place in 2010. View the videos below for more information.
The rescue of Faulkner's Island Light is well underway, but the Faulkner's Light Brigade needs all the help they can get. Says supporter and boater Ken McKenzie, "Without the lighthouse, the island would sure seem like a strange place to me." Please help by sending your donation to:
You can read much more about this lighthouse in the book The Lighthouses of Connecticut by Jeremy D'Entremont.
Below is some wildlife seen on a visit to the island on June 22, 2005, courtesy of Sara Williams of the Stewart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge and Fred Farnsworth of Faulkner's Light Brigade.
Keepers: (This list is a work in progress. If you have any information on the keepers of this lighthouse, I'd love to hear from you. You can email me at email@example.com. Anyone copying this list onto another web site does so at their own risk, as the list is always subject to updates and corrections.)
Joseph Griffing (1802-1812); Solomon Stone, Jr. (1812-1818); Eli Kimberly (1818-1851); Oliver N. Brooks (1851-1882); Mary Brooks (assistant, 1879-1882); William Jones (1882-c. 1890); Frank Parmelee (assistant, 1884-1890); Ernest Hermann (1890-1901); Howard Poe (1901-1909); James Boyce (assistant, c. 1905); William J. Hannighan (assistant, 1906); Conrad Hawk (assistant, c. 1909); Elmer Rathbun (1909-1911); Frederick R. Campbell (assistant, 1912-1913); Arthur Jensen (1911-1916); ? Gregory (assistant, ?); Edward M. Grant (assistant, 1914); Herbert L. Greenwood (assistant 1915-1916, head keeper 1916-1919); Leonard Fuller (1919-1924); William Hardwick (assistant, c. 1920); Samuel Fuller (1924-?); Fred Braffire (assistant, c. 1924)l Robert L. Howard (c. 1927-1928); Arthur J. Minzner (assistant, c. 1928); George Zuius (1935-1941); Harold Burbine (Coast Guard, c. 1940s), Stephen Talgo (Coast Guard, c. 1940s); William Parker (Coast Guard asst. 1945-1946); Robert Baranksi (Coast Guard 1957-1958); Jim Marshall (Coast Guard, 1958-1962); Marvin White (Coast Guard, 1961); James Overton (Coast Guard officer in charge c. late 1960s); Robert Ewing (Coast Guard, c. 1965); Steve Martin (Coast Guard 1966-1970); Tony Fox (Coast Guard, c. 1973); John Von Ogden (Coast Guard, 1975-1976); Mark Robinson (Coast Guard Officer in Charge 1975-1976)
Last updated 12/15/11 © Jeremy D'Entremont. Do not reproduce any part of this website without permission of the author.