Posted/Updated by Bryan Penberthy on 2012-10-28.
With the growing importance of the Connecticut River providing traffic from northern Connecticut to Long Island Sound, the residents of Old Saybrook petitioned in 1802 for the establishment of a lighthouse to mark the entrance of the river. Congress appropriated $2,500 on April 6, 1802 and a tract of land was purchased from William Lynde for the sum of $225.
Abishai Woodward, a carpenter from New London which had built the New London Harbor Lighthouse two years prior, was awarded the contract to construct the thirty-five foot tall wooden tower which was first lighted on August 17, 1803.
Strong currents and storms began to undermine the tower's foundation, so in 1829 a seawall was put in place at a cost of $380. But by 1831, it had to undergo repairs and was enlarged at a cost of $825.
Old Saybrook Lighthouse (Courtesy USCG)
Many mariners complained that the light was two dim and with a salt marsh near the entrance of the river; most were advised to stay away from the area. With the installed lighting apparatus of seven lamps with eight and one-half inch reflectors, the range of the light was said to be twelve miles. However, the personnel aboard the Bartlett's Reef Lightship could infrequently see the light, which was only nine miles from the lighthouse.
Finally by 1833, a group had petitioned to have the tower's height brought up to 60 feet. Stephen Pleasonton, Fifth Auditor of the Treasury, denied the request, citing the way the tower was constructed, it could not accept the increased height. He suggested the possible addition of larger reflectors to remedy the issue, and concluded that if that didn't work to petition congress for the construction of a new tower.
A lighthouse inspection conducted by Lt. George Bache in 1838 found the keeper's dwelling in good condition. The lighthouse was not as well. It was described in a report as "very much decayed, and is about to be taken down." The lighthouse was torn down a year later in 1839. This must have been planned as $5,000 for rebuilding the tower was appropriated several years earlier on March 3, 1837.
A new octagonal tower was constructed in 1838 of brownstone rising to sixty-five feet with a focal plane seventy-three feet. The construction style is very similar to the nearby New London Harbor Lighthouse.
By 1842, the original illuminating apparatus was replaced with a system of ten lamps with nine inch reflectors. By 1850, the nine inch reflectors were switched out with ten inch reflectors, only to be replaced by a fourth order Fresnel lens in 1858. The fourth order Fresnel lens was replaced with a fifth order in 1890 which is still in the tower today.
In 1868, the tower would be refurbished. To reinforce it, the tower was lined with bricks. The wooden staircase was removed, and replaced with one of iron. At this time, an iron deck plate was laid in the lantern room as well. The keeper's dwellings would go through changes over the years as well. The first keeper's dwelling was constructed in 1833, and stood until 1858 when it was replaced by a larger Gothic Revival gambrel-roofed wooden structure. This house stood until 1966 when the Coast Guard had it torn down against the wishes of the Old Saybrook Historical Society to make way for a nondescript masonry duplex.
Due to an off-shore sand bar at the mouth of the Connecticut River, navigation into the river was difficult and dangerous. Although it was marked with buoys, they were of little help as the bar was constantly shifting.
To help with navigation, The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers constructed two breakwaters. The west breakwater was 2,750 feet long and was completed in 1875. At this time, the shipping channel was also dredged. The east breakwater was completed several years later in 1880 and stands at 2,300 feet long. Construction of the Saybrook Breakwater Lighthouse was completed in 1886 at the end of the west breakwater increase navigation. At this point, the Lynde Point Lighthouse became known as the Saybrook Inner Lighthouse, while the Saybrook Breakwater Lighthouse become known as the Saybrook Outer.
The Lynde Point Lighthouse was electrified in 1955 and automated in 1978. The lighthouse is still an active aid to navigation with its fifth order Fresnel lens is still in use nightly.
Directions: The lighthouse is located near the end of Sequassen Avenue which is marked as private. The best views are from Neponset Ave. To the get there from Highway 154, head east on Nibang Ave, which will change names to Sequassen Ave. From Sequassen Ave, head south on Neponset Ave. From here, you can see the Old Saybrook (Lynde Point) Lighthouse, as well as the Saybrook Breakwater Lighthouse.
Access: Lighthouse is closed. Grounds are closed. The road that the lighthouse is on is private. Distant views are possible.View more Old Saybrook (Lynde Point) Lighthouse pictures