Abisha Woodward

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The New London Harbor Lighthouse, completed by Woodward in 1801, remains an active navigational aid.

Abisha Woodward (1752-1809), also known as Abashai Woodward,[1][2] was an architect and contractor from New London, Connecticut that is best known for building lighthouses in the United States. He oversaw the construction of many of Connecticut's earliest lighthouses, but also worked in New York and North Carolina during his career. The oldest surviving beacon built by Woodward is the New London Harbor Lighthouse, which he completed in 1801.


Woodward distinguished himself in New London as a fine architect and contractor. Prior to building lighthouses, he was co-named in a contract for building New London's new meetinghouse in 1788.[3] Home construction in town likely kept him busy around 1790, a time during which New London was experiencing significant growth.[4]

Woodward's work on lighthouses began with a federal contract he won in 1793 to complete the Bald Head Light at Cape Fear, North Carolina,[5] which was already partially constructed prior to his arrival.[6] He later submitted a bid in 1796 to build the Montauk Point Lighthouse, but lost the contract to John McComb.[6] After the turn of the century, Woodward secured contracts to oversee the construction of five lighthouses along the Connecticut coast and one in New York on the east end of Long Island.[7]

Woodward constructed both wooden and stone lighthouses during his career. The last and longest-lived of his wooden lighthouses was replaced in 1841 after 36 years of service.[8] Two of Woodward's stone lighthouses, the New London Harbor Lighthouse completed in 1801[9] and the Faulkner's Island Lighthouse completed 1802,[10] remain standing to this day and still serve as active aids to navigation.

Personal life[edit]

Abisha Woodward was born in 1752 and married Mary Spicer on March 20, 1774. He lived in New London, Connecticut where he was a prominent architect, contractor and alderman.[2][11] Several of his children were born in Preston, Connecticut, suggesting that he probably lived there for some time, as well. Woodward owned extensive property in the southern states and bought some 4,000 acres[12] of land in the north of Ohio, known at that time as the Firelands, to benefit the widows and orphans of Revolutionary War soldiers. He died on April 10, 1809 in New London.[2]

List of lighthouses constructed[edit]

Lighthouse Location Date of completion Materials Extant?
Bald Head Lighthouse[5] Smith Township, North Carolina 1794 No, replaced in 1817
New London Harbor Lighthouse[9] New London, Connecticut 1801 granite, brownstone, brick Yes
Lynde Point Lighthouse[13] Old Saybrook, Connecticut 1802 wood No, replaced in 1838
Faulkner's Island Lighthouse[10] Guilford, Connecticut 1802 brownstone Yes
Five Mile Point Lighthouse[8] New Haven, Connecticut 1805 wood No, replaced in 1841
Little Gull Island Lighthouse[7] Southold, New York 1805 stone No, replaced in 1869
Black Rock Harbor Lighthouse[14] Bridgeport, Connecticut 1808 wood No, replaced in 1823


  1. ^ "To Thomas Jefferson from Albert Gallatin, 15 August 1801". Founders Online. United States National Archives and Records Administration. Retrieved 13 April 2016. 
  2. ^ a b c Meech, Susan Spicer; Meech, Susan Billings (1911). History of the Descendants of Peter Spicer, A Landholder in New London, Connecticut, As Early As 1666, And Others of the Name. Boston, MA: Stanhope Press. p. 99. Retrieved 13 April 2016. 
  3. ^ Blake, Silas Leroy (1900). The later history of the First Church of Christ, New London, Conn. Day Publishing Company. p. 216. Retrieved 13 April 2016. 
  4. ^ Wall, R. B. (December 8, 1904). "Sites and Buildings of Old Main Street: Seventh Instalment [sic]". The Day. Retrieved 13 April 2016. 
  5. ^ a b "Bald Head, NC". LighthouseFriends.com. Retrieved 13 April 2016. 
  6. ^ a b "Early Federal Octagonals, 1792-1817". The Lighthouse Directory. Retrieved 3 April 2014. 
  7. ^ a b "Little Gull Island, NY". LighthouseFriends.com. Retrieved 13 April 2016. 
  8. ^ a b Woyce, Kevin (2015). Lighthouses: Connecticut & Block Island. ISBN 9781312949829. Retrieved 13 April 2016. 
  9. ^ a b Tamulevich, Susan (July 10, 2015). "A Guiding Beacon: New London's 'Pequot' Lighthouse" (PDF). Antiques and The Arts Weekly. Retrieved 13 April 2016. 
  10. ^ a b D'Entremont, Jeremy (2014). The Lighthouse Handbook: New England (2nd ed.). Simon and Schuster. ISBN 9781604334012. Retrieved 13 April 2016. 
  11. ^ Commemorative Biographical Record of the Counties of Huron and Lorain, Ohio: Containing Biographical Sketches of Prominent and Representative Citizens, and of Many of the Early Settled Families. Chicago: J. H. Beers & Company. 1894. p. 64. Retrieved 13 April 2016. 
  12. ^ History of Sandusky County, Ohio: With Portraits and Biographies of Prominent Citizens and Pioneers. Cleveland, Ohio: H.Z. Williams & Brothers. 1882. p. 701. Retrieved 13 April 2016. 
  13. ^ Griswold, Wick (2012). A History of the Connecticut River. The History Press. pp. 96–97. ISBN 9781609494056. Retrieved 13 April 2016. 
  14. ^ D'Entremont, Jeremy (2005). The Lighthouses of Connecticut. Beverly, Massachusetts: Commonwealth Editions. p. 49. ISBN 9781889833705.