The first lighthouse, built for about $3,000, was finished in 1829 along with a five-room keeper's house. A system of 10 lamps and reflectors sent light in every direction.
An 1838 inspection reported that the 30-foot stone tower had been poorly constructed; the walls were already badly cracked. It was reported in 1850:
A fourth-order Fresnel lens was installed in 1858, showing a fixed white light. By 1867, the tower was in such disrepair that a new one was needed. The extant lighthouse was built in 1868, and the 1858 Fresnel lens was moved to the new structure. The style is very similar to lighthouses built in the same period at Block Island, Sheffield Island and a few other locations. It's a handsome granite dwelling with a cast-iron tower attached to the front end of its roof.
In 1890, a fog whistle was added. The signal was upgraded to a powerful siren in 1905. The sound was a shock to Greenwich residents. A local paper asked, "What has Greenwich done that the government inflicts such severe punishment on this community?" A reporter compared the siren to "an army of panthers" and "the wail of a lost soul" among other things. The signal was modulated so that it was somewhat more acceptable to the local population.
A 1904 article described a visit of the lighthouse tender Larkspur to Great Captain Island. Arthur Hewitt wrote:
Abel later was Officer in Charge at Montauk Point Light Station on Long Island, New York in 1975-76.
For nearly two decades beginning in 1985, the caretaker was Otto Lauersdorf. Lauersdorf weathered hurricanes, medical emergencies, and vandals in his years on the island. His wife and children lived most of the time on shore, but they spent much time in the summer on the island.
Lauersdorf spent his time tending a garden, building model airplanes and reading. "If you have to depend on others, this is not the job for you," he said.
The Greenwich Chamber of Commerce started a campaign in the late 1990s to relight the lighthouse. The Indian Harbor Yacht Club worked with the Chamber to raise funds for renovation. With the building falling into increasingly poor condition, no caretaker lived there for several years.
Restoration was delayed numerous times, but the details were worked out and much restoration was completed in 2009. A nonprofit fundraising effort called Return the Light paid $250,000 of the $1.3 million lighthouse renovation.
Sadly, one of the original fundraising team members, Bennett Fisher, died in the attack on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. As part of the restoration, a 9/11 memorial has been established at the lighthouse.
In November 2009, a light was installed in the lantern of the lighthouse. The flashing green light is not an official aid to navigation, but it helped bring the lighthouse back to life. "From a historical standpoint, I applaud it," Henry Marx of Landfall Navigation told the Greenwich Time newspaper.
Keepers: John W. Smith (1830-1834); James Merritt (1834-?); James Bride (1839-1848); Benjamin Merritt (1848-1849); George W. Anderson (1849-?); Charles McIntosh (?); Alexander (?) Worden (1856-1858); Gilbert Horton (1858-1861); James Merritt (1861-1863); James Travis (?) (1863-1864); George Lusk (?) (1864); James McCulloch (1864-1871); Eliakim F. Worden (1871-1890); George Porter (assistant, 1889); Eliakim F. Worden (Jr.?) (assistant, 1891); Frank Wadley (assistant, 1891); John Latour (assistant, 1891); John Shaw (assistant, 1891-1893); William Tooker (assistant, 1891-1892); Eugene Mulligan (1890-c. 1907); Julius Young (assistant, 1895); Otto Rudolph (assistant, 1903, 1907); Morell E. Hulse (assistant, 1905); Herbert S. Knowles (assistant, 1905); Louis F. Schlitt (assistant, c. 1907); Harry H. Fisher (assistant, 1907); John Nelson (c. 1916); Adam L. Kohlman (c. late 1920s to c.1944), James Honeycutt (Coast Guard, c. 1967-1969), Andrew Lampman (Coast Guard, c. 1968), Robert C. Jenkins (Coast Guard, c. 1968), Frank B. Abel (Coast Guard Officer in Charge 1969)