NEW HAVEN, Conn. – During a one day only event, Capt. Edward Cubanski, III, commander of Coast Guard Sector Long Island Sound opened the historic Stratford Point Lighthouse in Stratford, Connecticut, for free public tours Saturday.
The property, which has been closed to the public since approximately 1973 is owned and maintained by the U.S. Coast Guard and Coast Guard Auxiliary.
“Lighthouses are a part of our nation’s historic treasury and proudly served the mariners as a beacon of safety to the valuable ports of our country,” said Capt. Cubanski. “Each lighthouse tells a unique story of the coastal community it serves. We are honored to have the opportunity to provide this open house to share the history of this light and community with the public.”
The event was coordinated and planned by Petty Officer 2nd Class Carolanne Zachey, from Coast Guard Station San Francisco, California who is temporary assigned to Sector Long Island Sound.
“When I started to plan this event back in March, the idea was to have a local lighthouse tour for the community to come out, meet their local Coast Guard crews and see this beautiful piece of history,” said Zachey. “When we initially announced the event, we started getting interest from lighthouse enthusiast around the nation.”
More than 2,000 people came out to the public event and climbed the spiral staircase of Stratford light.
“I drove down from Boston expecting to just take some photos of a lighthouse for my Dad,” said Jennifer Brooks, of Boston. “I left with boating safety check sheets for my brother, Coast Guard stickers for my nephews, Coast Guard bracelets for my nieces and met some new friends who also enjoy lighthouses that live near me. The entire day was just overwhelming wonderful.”
The first light on Stratford Point was a wooden, octagonal structure built in 1822 and was replaced with the current cast iron tower in 1881.
The city of Stratford was an active port in coastal trade, shipbuilding and oystering in the 18th and 19th centuries. For years before there was a lighthouse, a bonfire was used as aids to navigation at Stratford Point.
To mark the entrance to the harbor, the first Stratford Lighthouse was built on the west side of the mouth of the Housatonic River in 1822 and cost approximately $4,000.
In 1867 the original tower was in disrepair and the keeper’s house was considered too small for a keeper and assistance. In 1881, the present 35-feet tall cast-iron tower was built along with a new keeper’s house. The tower was one of the first prefabricated cylindrical lighthouses in the United States.
“I have lived 12 blocks from this lighthouse for more than 40 years of my life,” said Rose McMullen. “I have always wondered what the inside of the tower looked like and as soon as I heard that the Coast Guard was opening it to the public, I made sure that I wouldn’t miss my chance to see it.”
Lighthouses were first managed by the U.S. government in 1789, with the creation of the U.S. Lighthouse Establishment, later becoming the U.S. Lighthouse Service.
The U.S. Coast Guard took charge of lighthouses on July 1, 1939, when the services merged.
“I have met so many wonderful people today who all had their own story about this lighthouse in their community,” said Zachey. “Our objective was to share a piece of Coast Guard history with the public and I can confidently say that we are mission accomplished.”