Avery Point Lighthouse
What a charming li’l lighthouse. When you think about lighthouses, you realized they pretty much only exist for nostalgia’s sake anymore. Ships no longer need warning lights to tell them of rocky bottoms and approaching shorelines… so why do we keep them?
Because they’re pretty. And many are historic. Some in Connecticut have been restored as museums. Others have been restored because there are lots of people who love lighthouses and want to see them restored.
The Avery Point Lighthouse isn’t really all that historic, being the youngest Connecticut lighthouse. The tower stands on the shore at the east side of the entrance to the Thames River, on the University of Connecticut’s Avery Point Campus in Groton. Avery Point is named for Capt. James Avery, a prominent early settler of New London.
It was built in 1944, but wasn’t lit up until the threat of Nazis abated. It was shuttered in 1967. It never had a resident lightkeeper. In other words, this little lighthouse didn’t lead a very exciting life.
Damian and I visited it as a sort of afterthought during our visit to the Alexey von Schlippe art gallery at Branford Hall on the UConn Avery Point campus. The setting is as pretty as settings get in Connecticut, I’ll give it that.
After Branford House’s life as a vacation house of a super rich guy, it became a Coast Guard training facility. Thousands of Coast Guard personnel received training at the site. The light itself was an unusual array of eight 200-watt bulbs, creating a fixed white light 55 feet above sea level. The light was useful for vessels entering a cove east of Avery Point and for those navigating the Pine Island Channel.
The light also served a purpose for keepers at Race Rock Light Station out in Fisher’s Island Sound. When the fog got so thick that they could no longer see the light at Avery Point, the keepers knew it was time to turn the foghorn on.
Then it went into disuse in 1967 and crumbled apart. Everything fell apart. Lighthouse lovers pulled together and raised a whole bunch of money to restore it. And restore it they did. For hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Which is cool, because now we can all go and look at the totally restored, borderline replica Avery Point Lighthouse. I found no information stating that any of us can climb up it. But you are free to lie in the grass in front of it if you’d like…