Penfield Reef Light

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Penfield Reef Light
Penfield Reef Lighthouse Postcard 1913.jpg
1913 postcard picturing the lighthouse
Penfield Reef Light is located in Connecticut
Penfield Reef Light
Location Fairfield
United States
Coordinates 41°7′1.58″N 73°13′19.26″W / 41.1171056°N 73.2220167°W / 41.1171056; -73.2220167Coordinates: 41°7′1.58″N 73°13′19.26″W / 41.1171056°N 73.2220167°W / 41.1171056; -73.2220167
Year first constructed 1874
Automated 1971
Foundation granite caisson
Construction wooden tower, granite keeper's house
Tower shape octagonal tower with balcony and lantern
Markings / pattern white tower, black lantern
Height 35 feet (11 m)
Focal height 51 feet (16 m)
Original lens Fourth order Fresnel lens
Current lens VRB-25
Light source solar power
Characteristic Fl R 6s.
Fog signal 1 blast every 15s.
Admiralty number J0840
ARLHS number USA-590
USCG number 1-21290
Managing agent

United States Coast Guard[1][2][3][4][5]

Penfield Reef Lighthouse
Location Bridgeport, Connecticut
Area 0.2 acres (0.081 ha)
Architectural style Second Empire
MPS Operating Lighthouses in Connecticut MPS
NRHP reference #


Added to NRHP September 27, 1990
Heritage place listed on the National Register of Historic Places Edit this on Wikidata

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.[7] 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.[8] 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.[9]


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.[8]

Environmental psychologists theorize that older, secluded buildings like the Penfield Reef Lighthouse are more likely to be perceived to be haunted.[10][11] Nevertheless, 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.[9]

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.[9]

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.[9]

Late twentieth century to present[edit]

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.[9]

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.[12]

On July 29, 2008, Beacon Preservation, Inc. ([3]) 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.

The lighthouse was added to the National Register of Historic Places as Penfield Reef Lighthouse in 1990.[6][13]


  • George Tomlinson (1874 – 1876)
  • Augustus W. Eddy (1876 – 1880)
  • William Jones (1880 – 1882)
  • Neil Martin (1882 – 1891)
  • William H. Haynes (1891 – 1908)
  • Elmer V. Newton (1908 – 1914)
  • Frederick A. Jordan, Sr. (1914 – 1916)
  • Rudolph Iten (1917 – 1919)
  • Charles Reuter (1919 – 1920)
  • Rudolph Iten (1920 – 1926)
  • George Petzolt (at least 1936 – 1941)
  • William A. Shackley (1941 – 1946)
  • Jose Fernandez (1948 – 1953)
  • John Chilly (at least 1958)[14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Penfield Reef The Lighthouse Directory. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Retrieved 22 June 2016
  2. ^ Connecticut Historic Light Station Information & Photography United States Coast Guard. Retrieved 22 June 2016
  3. ^ 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.
  4. ^ "Historic Light Station Information and Photography: Connecticut". United States Coast Guard Historian's Office.
  5. ^ Rowlett, Russ (2010-03-10). "Lighthouses of the United States: Connecticut". The Lighthouse Directory. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
  6. ^ a b National Park Service (2009-03-13). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service.
  7. ^ The lighthouse is in the coastal waters of Bridgeport but the nearest land mass is in Fairfield.
  8. ^ a b [1] 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
  9. ^ a b c d e [2] Brophy, Andrew, "Buyer wanted for Penfield Lighthouse", news article, The Connecticut Post of Bridgeport, Connecticut, July 8, 2007, accessed July 18, 2007
  10. ^ McAndrew, Frank (29 Jan 2018). "The Winchester Myster House and Other Haunged Places: Why do some places feel as if they were intentionally designed to creep us out?". Psychology Today. Retrieved 31 Aug 2018.
  11. ^ McAndrew, Frank (2 Nov 2015). "What Makes a House Feel Haunted?". Psychology Today. Retrieved 31 Aug 2018.
  12. ^ Fenster, Jordan, "Fairfield bids for lighthouse", news article, Fairfield Minuteman, January 24, 2008
  13. ^ "National Register of Historic Places Inventory - Nomination Form" (pdf). National Park Service. 1989-08-24. Retrieved 2010-07-29. and Accompanying 8 photographs.
  14. ^ Penfield Reef, CT Lighthouse Friends. Retrieved 22 June 2016

External links[edit]