Five Mile Point Light

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Five Mile Point Light
Old New Haven
Five Mile Point Light - New Haven CT.jpg
Five Mile Point Light in 2008
LocationNew Haven County, US
Coordinates41°14′56″N 72°54′14″W / 41.249°N 72.904°W / 41.249; -72.904
Constructed1847 Edit this on Wikidata
Constructionbrownstone (tower), brownstone (basement) Edit this on Wikidata
Height80 ft (24 m) Edit this on Wikidata
Shapeoctagonal tower with balcony and lantern
Markingswhite (tower), black (lantern) Edit this on Wikidata
OperatorLighthouse Point Park Edit this on Wikidata
HeritageNational Register of Historic Places listed place Edit this on Wikidata
First lit1847 Edit this on Wikidata
Deactivated1877 Edit this on Wikidata
Lens12 lamps, 21 inch reflectors (1845)
Fourth order Fresnel lens (1855)
Range10 nmi (19 km; 12 mi) Edit this on Wikidata
Characteristicdecorative light
Five Mile Point Lighthouse
LocationLighthouse Point Park, New Haven, Connecticut
Arealess than one acre
ArchitectMarcus Bassett
Architectural styleLighthouse
NRHP reference No.90001108[1]
Added to NRHPAugust 1, 1990

Five Mile Point Light, also known as Five Mile Point Lighthouse or Old New Haven Harbor Lighthouse, is a U.S. lighthouse in Long Island Sound on the coast of New Haven, Connecticut. Located at the entrance to New Haven Harbor, the beacon's name derives from its proximity to Downtown New Haven, about five miles (8 km) away. The original lighthouse consisted of a 30-foot (9.1 m) octagonal wooden tower built in 1805 by Abisha Woodward. In 1847, a new 80-foot (24 m) octagonal tower was constructed by Marcus Bassett with East Haven brownstone.[2][3] This new beacon was illuminated by 12 lamps with reflectors which were positioned 97 feet (30 m) above sea level. Also constructed at this time was a two-and-one-half story brick house which supplanted the previous, deteriorating keeper's dwelling. A fourth-order Fresnel lens replaced the lamps in 1855 and a fog bell was added in the 1860s. The Five Mile Point Light was deactivated in 1877 when the nearby Southwest Ledge Light was completed. Currently, the lighthouse is contained within Lighthouse Point Park and, along with the keeper's house, was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1990.


During the American Revolutionary War in July 1779, a battle took place on the site of the future lighthouse when British troops anchored offshore and staged an invasion of New Haven. Patriot forces launched a defense of the beachfront as the attackers landed their boats. Ensign and Adjutant Watkins of the King's American regiment was the first of the British soldiers killed in the skirmish, shot while attempting to disembark on the shoreline. He was buried close to where the lighthouse at Five Mile Point would eventually be erected a few decades later. Although the British went on to burn the nearby house of Amos Morris and several other residences in the area, they suffered heavy losses and ultimately abandoned their advance on New Haven.[4]

Original tower[edit]

In 1804, the United States Congress passed a statute requiring the secretary of the treasury to build a lighthouse at Five Mile Point if land could be obtained for a reasonable price.[5] That same year, Amos Morris, Jr., son of the man whose home was the first to be razed during the 1779 British invasion, sold a suitable one-acre plot of his father's coastal estate to the federal government for $100.[6][7] On March 16, 1805, an appropriation for $2500 was issued for the construction of the lighthouse.[8] Late that year, a 30-foot (9.1 m) octagonal wooden tower was built by Abisha Woodward on the southwest edge of the harbor and to mark the path around the Southwest Ledge.[9][10] The fixed white light was made by eight oil lamps with 13 inches (33 cm) parabolic reflectors, but it was criticized for being too dim.[10] The lighthouse also had a keeper's quarters constructed in 1805. The first keeper of the light was Amos Morris Jr., for a period of just three weeks.[10] An 1832 report noted that the light was 50 feet (15 m) above the water and that its visibility had been improved with the removal of some trees. In 1838, Lieutenant George M. Bache reported that the wooden tower and keeper's house was in a poor state. Congress would appropriate $10,000 to construct a new stone lighthouse on March 3, 1847.[9]

Current tower[edit]

Postcard, about 1912

Constructed in 1847, the new 80-foot (24 m) octagonal tower was constructed by Marcus Bassett with East Haven brownstone from Jabez Potter's quarry. The interior of the lighthouse was lined with New Haven brick and a 74-step granite stairway leads to the cast-iron lantern. The light was powered by 12 lamps with reflectors and was located 97 feet (30 m) above sea level. Also constructed was a new two-and-one-half story brick house to replace the one in a "very bad state of repair".[10] The light would be replaced with a fourth-order Fresnel lens in 1855. In the 1860s, a fog bell was also added.[10]

The lighthouse was extinguished in 1877 when the offshore Southwest Ledge Light replaced it for navigation.[11] The keeper, Elizur Thompson, went to be the Southwest Ledge Light's keeper for five years before returning to live in the Five Mile Point Light keeper's quarters and fly storm signal flags for the United States Weather Bureau.[10] In 1896, the lighthouse was transferred to the United States Department of War and was improved by a leasee named Albert Widmann.[10] In 1922, the property was split up, with the land given to the state of Connecticut and the buildings to the city of New Haven.[10] Two years later, New Haven purchased the land from the state for $11,180.[10] The tower was renovated in 1986.[12] The $86,000 restoration included repairing cracked mortar, steam cleaning the interior and exterior and removing "guano [that had] accumulated over the decades".[10]


Roth and Clouette note that the "Five Mile Point Lighthouse is significant because it embodies the distinctive characteristics of American lighthouse construction during the first half of the 19th century ... [it] is also significant in the maritime history of New Haven."[13] The keeper's dwelling currently is a private residence for New Haven Recreation Department personnel and has been modified with the addition of a porch.[13] The lighthouse and the keeper's residence were listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1990.[13]

List of keepers[edit]

Name Year Service Notes
Amos Morris, Jr[9] 1805
Wedmore[9] 1805
Jonathan Finch[9] 1805–1821
William Finch[9] 1821–1824
Elihu Ives[9] 1824–1846
George W. Hicks[9] 1846–1849
Stephen Willard[9] 1849–1853
Merritt Thompson[9] 1853–1860
Elizur Thompson[9] 1860–1867 Served again as keeper after Charles W. Bradley.
Charles W. Bradley[9] 1867–1869
Elizur Thompson[9] 1869–1877 Elizabeth Thompson was an assistant from 1869 to 1871. Theodore Thompson was an assistance from 1871 to 1873. George Thompson was an assistant from 1873 to 1876. Sidney Thompson was an assistant in 1876.[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. March 13, 2009.
  2. ^ Rowlett, Russ. "Lighthouses of the United States: Connecticut". The Lighthouse Directory. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Retrieved 2016-06-19.
  3. ^ Connecticut Historic Light Station Information & Photography United States Coast Guard. Retrieved 19 June 2016
  4. ^ Townshend, Charles Hervey (1879). The British Invasion of New Haven, Connecticut: Together with Some Account of Their Landing and Burning the Towns of Fairfield and Norwalk, July, 1779. New Haven, Connecticut: Tuttle, Morehouse & Taylor. pp. 5–20. Retrieved 12 April 2016.
  5. ^ The Public and General Statutes Passed by the Congress of the United States of America. From 1789 to [1847] ... Inclusive, Whether Expired, Repealed, Or in Force: 1789–1836 [i.e. 1827] called 2d ed.-v. 4. 1828–1836 [i.e. 1837]-v. 5. 1837–1847. T. and J.W. Johnson. 1839. p. 921.
  6. ^ Call, Lewis Wellington (1910). United States Military Reservations, National Cemeteries, and Military Parks: Title, Jurisdiction, Etc. Washington Government Printing Office. p. 35. Retrieved 12 April 2016. Amos Morris lighthouse.
  7. ^ Journal of the New Haven Colony Historical Society, Volumes 34-38. New Haven Colony Historical Society. 1987. p. 11.
  8. ^ Laws of the United States of America: From the 4th of March, 1789, to the [3rd of March, 1845] : Including the Constitution of the United States, the Old Act of Confederation, Treaties, and Many Other Valuable Ordinances and Documents; with Copious Notes and References, Volume 7, Part 2. J. Bioren and W.J. 1828. p. 29.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n D'Entremont, Jeremy. "Five Mile Point Lighthouse history". New England Lighthouses. Retrieved 10 April 2014.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i j D'Entremont, Jeremy (2005). The Lighthouses of Connecticut. Commonwealth Editions. ISBN 1889833703.
  11. ^ Five Mile Point (Old New Haven), CT. Archived November 24, 2010, at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^ Five Mile Point (Old New Haven) Light. Inventory of Historic Light Stations Connecticut Lighthouses. National Park Service. Archived October 11, 2010, at the Wayback Machine
  13. ^ a b c Matthew Roth and Bruce Clouette (January 29, 1990). "National Register of Historic Places Registration: Five Mile Point Lighthouse / Old New Haven Lighthouse". National Park Service. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2011-02-03. and Accompanying 10 photos from 1990 (see photo captions on page 12 of text document)

External links[edit]