Penfield Reef Light
1913 postcard picturing the lighthouse
|Year first constructed||1874|
|Year first lit||1874|
|Construction||Wood and granite|
|Markings / pattern||White with black lantern|
|Focal height||51 feet (16 m)|
|Original lens||Fourth order Fresnel lens|
|Characteristic||Flashing red 6s|
|Fog signal||Horn: 1 every 15s|
Penfield Reef Lighthouse
|Area||0.2 acres (0.081 ha)|
|Architectural style||Second Empire|
|Governing body||US Coast Guard|
|MPS||Operating Lighthouses in Connecticut MPS|
|NRHP Reference #||
|Added to NRHP||September 27, 1990|
Penfield Reef Lighthouse is a lighthouse in Connecticut, United States, on Penfield Reef at the south side of Black Rock Harbor entrance on the Long Island Sound, off the coast of Fairfield, Connecticut. Constructed in 1874, it was one of the last offshore masonry lights. Most offshore lights built after this were cast iron towers built on cylindrical cast iron foundations.
Penfield Reef has been called one of the most treacherous areas of western Long Island Sound. The structure is about 1.1 miles (1.8 km) off Fairfield Beach, on one end of the reef.
The lighthouse's foundation, structure and roofs were in good condition, according to a 2004 Town of Fairfield report, but the wood frame supporting the balcony around the tower was in need of major repairs. Other problems include asbestos tiles on the floor, lead paint on the walls, mold in most places and decaying brick and mortar work in the basement. The U.S. Coast Guard last had the lighthouse repaired in 2003. The lighthouse is connected to a two-floor keeper's quarters built of granite and timber frames on a concrete foundation surrounded by rocks.
The Penfield Reef Light was constructed in 1874. The light is an active aid to navigation.
On December 22, 1916. Lighthouse Keeper Frederick A. Jordan (sometimes spelled Jordon) rowed a dory for the mainland, to join his family for Christmas. The sea was rough, and about 150 yards (140 m) northwest of the lighthouse, the boat capsized. Assistant Keeper Rudolph Iten said he was unable to launch a boat against a strong wind and an outgoing tide, and so he could only witness Jordan's disappearance into the water. Jordan's body was soon recovered, and Iten was absolved of blame for the death and became the next keeper.
According to a local legend, Jordan has haunted the place ever since. Iten wrote in the keeper's log that Jordan's ghost appeared two weeks later. Iten wrote that the ghost floated down the tower's stairs before dissolving into the darkness, and Iten said he found the log opened to the page that recorded the man's death. Iten also said the Penfield light began "behaving strangely" when the ghost appeared.
Jeremy D'Entremont, author of The Lighthouses of Connecticut, said that since Iten had tried to save the man, the new keeper would be unlikely to make light of Jordan's death by fabricating a ghost tale. Other lighthouse keepers later said Jordan's ghost appeared to them, and Iten even got them to sign affidavits describing the apparitions.
In one tale, Jordan was said to have pulled two boys from the water in 1942 after their boat capsized near Penfield Light. The boys said a man rescued them, but they couldn't find him when they went to the lighthouse to thank him. The boys identified Jordan as their rescuer after seeing his picture, the story goes.
Late twentieth century to present
In 1969, the Coast Guard announced it would replace the lighthouse with a steel tower, but a public outcry led by then U.S. Reps. Lowell Weicker and Stewart B. McKinney persuaded the agency to back off. By 1971, the light was automated and, after 97 years, no longer needed a keeper.
The U.S. General Services Administration announced in 2007 that it was looking for someone to buy the lighthouse, and it would only charge a dollar for it. In January 2008 the town of Fairfield submitted a formal proposal to buy and maintain the lighthouse. The proposal includes restoration and repairs which would cost a total of $352,000 over 16 months.
On July 29, 2008, Beacon Preservation, Inc. () received notice from Dr. Janet Snyder Matthews, Associate Director of Cultural Resources for National Park Service, informing Beacon that it had submitted a "superior" application for Penfield Reef Light and had been recommended as the new owners of Penfield.
- Light List, Volume I, Atlantic Coast, St. Croix River, Maine to Shrewsbury River, New Jersey (PDF). Light List. United States Coast Guard. 2009. p. 190.
- "Historic Light Station Information and Photography: Connecticut". United States Coast Guard Historian's Office.
- Rowlett, Russ (2010-03-10). "Lighthouses of the United States: Connecticut". The Lighthouse Directory. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
- "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2009-03-13.
- The lighthouse is in the coastal waters of Bridgeport but the nearest land mass is in Fairfield.
-  D'Entremont, Jeremy, "Connecticut’s Penfield Reef Light: No Longer Ghostly" article at Lighthouse Digest at the "Lighthouse Depot" Web site, accessed July 18, 2007
-  Brophy, Andrew, "Buyer wanted for Penfield Lighthouse", news article, The Connecticut Post of Bridgeport, Connecticut, July 8, 2007, accessed July 18, 2007
- Fenster,Jordan, "Fairfield bids for lighthouse", news article, Fairfield Minuteman, January 24, 2008
- "National Register of Historic Places Inventory - Nomination Form" (pdf). National Park Service. 1989-08-24. Retrieved 2010-07-29. and Accompanying 8 photographs.
- Media related to Penfield Reef Light at Wikimedia Commons
- Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) No. CT-171, "Penfield Reef Lighthouse, Long Island Sound, Bridgeport, Fairfield County, CT", 12 photos, 7 data pages, 3 photo caption pages