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 Faulkner's (Falkner's) Island, CT    
Lighthouse best viewed by boat or plane.
Description: Built in 1802, Faulkner’s Island Lighthouse has been called the Eiffel Tower of Long Island Sound. The island on which the lighthouse stands has also had other titles over the years including Falkner Island, Falcon Island and Fortune Island. The crescent-shaped island is located about three and a half miles offshore of Guilford, Connecticut and had a number of owners in its pre-lighthouse days. Andrew Leete, son of a Connecticut governor, owned it for a while during the 1600s. In 1715 brothers Caleb and Ebenezer Stone bought it, and the island property remained in the Stone family for over a century.

Ship traffic in the Sound increased steadily during the 18th century and many ships ran aground on the reefs surrounding the small, three-acre island. In 1802, a forty-foot octagonal tower was erected, using cut sandstone laid in lime mortar. A spiral wooden staircase led up to the lantern room. In early years, the station had twelve lamps and reflectors showing a fixed light, arranged on two separate tables, one above the other. In 1856, a fourth-order Fresnel lens was installed that varied its fixed light with a flash every two seconds.

Faulkner's Island Lighthouse
Photograph courtesy U.S. Coast Guard
The original keeper’s dwelling had eight rooms, but over the years it deteriorated so badly that a new one was constructed in 1858. The new structure was one and a half stories high, and featured three bedrooms, a dining room, sitting room, and attached kitchen. This structure was so poorly built, however, that during the winter large quantities of snow entered through gaps in the walls and roof. In 1871 it was rebuilt yet again, and at the same time an iron spiral staircase replaced the wooden one in the tower.

Faulkner’s Island light has had a number of interesting keepers over the centuries. In 1818, President James Monroe appointed Eli Kimberley, a Guilford native, keeper of the lighthouse. Kimberley relocated to the island with his pregnant wife Polly and two young children. During their thirty-three years on the island, the Kimberleys had another nine children.

Although the island was lonely and remote during the winter, there could be hundreds of visitors in the summer, and the Kimberleys were known as excellent hosts. The keeper even built a bowling alley (!) with a well-stocked bar. Unfortunately, on the Fourth of July in 1829, a group of twenty young men from New Haven drank themselves senseless at the bar, then tore up the Kimberleys’ vegetable garden, smashed some lighthouse equipment, and destroyed the keeper’s boat. Soon after, a law was passed prohibiting the sale of liquor at American light stations.

Another unique character was Oliver Brooks, who was keeper from 1851 to 1882. Brooks played the violin to pass the time at the lonely station, and also practiced his taxidermy skills on birds that suffered fatal crashes into the lantern windows. Eventually, the keeper’s house filled with stuffed birds and was a natural history museum of sorts. Brooks received some notoriety in November of 1858 when, during a winter storm, he managed to rescue five people from a ship grounded on the rocks near the lighthouse. Brooks was given a medal for his heroism, as well as a salary raise to $500 a year.

Throughout the 19th century, ships continued to be wrecked despite the presence of the lighthouse. Just between 1851 and 1882 over one hundred wrecks were recorded in the station’s logs.

James Marshall was serving on Faulkner's Island in 1958. Christmas Day that year was bitter cold, and Marshall could not get the diesel generators to start that charged a large bank of batteries for powering the light. He worked at it from 7 a.m. until 4 p.m., and then out of desperation held a blow torch to the fuel lines, which finally got the generators started after nine frustrating hours. A few weeks later, the men at the station ran out of cigarettes, three days before the supply boat was scheduled to arrive. After smoking old butts, tea, and about everything else combustible, the men decided one of them had to take the station's eight-foot dinghy with a small outboard motor into Guilford to buy cigarettes. Marshall drew the short straw and headed off for the 3.5-miles trek to shore - an adventure that was against Coast Guard regulations and, at the time, was a court martial offense. The resulting two packs of Pall Malls were deemed worth the risk, and kept the men sane for a few more days.

In 1976, despite there being two Coast Guardsmen on duty, a fire broke out in the keeper’s quarters and destroyed everything except the scorched tower and the fog signal building. After repairing the tower, the light was automated, and continues to flash a white light every ten seconds, although the fog signal has been discontinued. Due to the dedicated efforts of a volunteer preservation group called Faulkner’s Light Brigade, this site is one of Long Island Sound’s brightest lighthouse preservation stories.

References

  1. Northeast Lights: Lighthouses and Lightships, Rhode Island to Cape May, New Jersey, Robert Bachand, 1989.
  2. The Lighthouses of Connecticut, Jeremy D’Entremont, 2005.

Location: Located on Faulkner's Island, roughly four miles offshore from Guilford Harbor.
Latitude: 41.212056
Longitude: -72.653639

For a larger map of Faulkner's (Falkner's) Island Lighthouse, click the lighthouse in the above map or get a map from: Mapquest.


Travel Instructions: This light is best seen by boat. There is usually an open house held during September, and public transportation to the lighthouse may be provided at that time by Faulkner’s Light Brigade.

The lighthouse is owned by the Coast Guard, and the island is part of Stewart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge. Grounds/tower closed.

Find the closest hotels to Faulkner's (Falkner's) Island Lighthouse

Notes from a friend:

Kraig writes:
The time to visit Faulkner's Island is definitely in the evening, as the view of the lighthouse is best from the west side of the island. As you can tell from the pictures, the island is a nesting place for a large colony of roseate terns. Access to the island is thus restricted during the summer, but watching the birds dart about the island in an orange-tinged sky makes up for the limited access to the lighthouse. The short, external spiral staircase, which leads to the lantern room gallery, is a feature that I believe is unique to the Faulkner's Island Lighthouse.

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