|Tongue Point (Bridgeport Breakwater), CT|
Description: Gallantly standing on Bridgeport Harbor’s western shore is a little black lighthouse affectionately called “The Bug.” Only 21 feet tall, it has survived the wrecking ball and played guinea pig for a failed invention.
Shipping traffic in and out of Bridgeport Harbor greatly increased after the rail line came to town in the 1840s. To help protect the harbor, Brown and Fleming of New York constructed a breakwater in 1891. The breakwater extended 500 feet offshore, and when the sun went down, it proved to be quite a dangerous obstacle. In 1894 a lantern light was erected at the end of the breakwater to warn incoming traffic of the danger. The following year the lantern light was replaced by a conical cast-iron lighthouse, which was constructed under the supervision of Lt. Colonel D.P. Heaps. The sixth-order Fresnel lens was lit on March 1, 1895, casting a fixed white light.
Initially, Lightkeeper Stephen A. McNeil, tended both the Bridgeport Harbor Lighthouse and the Tongue Point Lighthouse. After a few years, as his health deteriorated, he hired an assistant out of his own wages to tend the Harbor light, while he continued keeping Tongue Point. The assistant didn’t keep his light in tip-top shape, and in 1901, the Lighthouse Board learned of Keeper McNeil’s delegation of duties. Instead of dismissing McNeil, which they could have done, the Board instead employed Ole Nicholas Alfred Anderson as keeper for the Harbor light and kept McNeil on as keeper of Tongue Point. In 1902, McNeil, who lived in Bridgeport, built a small shack next to the lighthouse to make tending the light easier on foggy days. After McNeil’s death in 1904, his wife, Flora, took over the duties, becoming Bridgeport’s only female keeper.
In 1897, with the advent of electricity, a new invention was tested at the lighthouse - an electric gong fog signal. The signal, however, proved unreliable, and it was discontinued on March 30, 1898. A year later, an old-fashioned 160-pound fog bell was added to the station.
Tugboats laden with barges found the sharp turn around the breakwater very difficult to negotiate. To help accommodate them, in 1920, the shipping channel was made deeper and wider and the breakwater, along with the lighthouse, was dismantled and moved back 275 feet, to its present location.
The light was automated in 1954. By 1967, the Coast Guard found the light unnecessary and proposed discontinuing and removing the lighthouse. Local boat owners and yacht clubs sounded long and loud to save the lighthouse, and the Coast Guard abandoned their plan.
A modern optic, a 155 mm lantern, replaced the classic lens in 1988. The Bug, also known as Bridgeport Breakwater Lighthouse, the Inner Harbor Light, and the Buglight, continues to guide mariners safely into the harbor today, flashing a green beam every four seconds.
The Tongue Point Lighthouse was offered for transfer to qualified entities under the provisions of the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act in 2004, but no applications were received. In March of 2007, the lighthouse was withdrawn from the transfer process out of fears that its proximity to a power plant would make it a security risk if it were in private hands.
Located on Tongue Point along the western side
of the entrance to Bridgeport Harbor. The lighthouse is owned by the Coast Guard. Tower closed.
The lighthouse is owned by the Coast Guard. Tower closed.
Pictures on this page copyright Kraig Anderson, used by permission.