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…
Mildred saysDecember 18, 2022 at 8:47 am
Noticing your reference to WW11, my old hometown was Groton, CT. Just a little first hand information. I am familiar with Avery Point being used by the Coast Guard during WWII. Near that point, the Thames River opened to Long Island Sound where there was always heavy boat activity because of the proximity of the Submarine Base and Electric Boat (now General Dynamics, builder of submarines), making it a prime target. We also had the small local airport taken over by the Army Air Corps.. The homes situated on the river were required to have blackout shades on their windows, and if not adequately covered, a local air raid warden would ring the doorbell to remind you to “cover up”. Since we were in blackout conditions, we were required to tape the top half of our automobile headlights in an attempt to keep the lights directed down on the road instead of shining up to the sky. We were all aware of the gas and food rationing. Every member of a family had a ration card which was carried when grocery shopping. Beef was hard to come by and ground beef was about the next best beef available.’ Steaks and roasts were bygones.
Of importance, the school children would buy a 25 cent special stamp once a week to paste into a small book, and when it was filled to $18.75 cents you were issued a $25.00 savings bond that would mature in 10 years (I’m uncertain of that length of time). Sound like a great investment? As elementary school children, we always started the day with the pledge of allegiance, and the Star Spangled banner. We also learned all of the military songs, (Anchors Aweigh, Halls of Montezuma) etc.) and sang them frequently.
I think you may be able to find reference to the spies who were captured on Long Island, NY. (which was at the entrance to the Thames River). It was believed at the time that their goal was to sabotage those vital military industries in Groton. I can’t recall what happened to them. Anyway, we all survived and learned how to become even better neighbors. We also took in service members for dinner, and always picked up a hitchhiking man in uniform and dropped him off at his destination.. Always!
Families hung small banners in their windows to indicate that they had a family member serving our country. They all had a blue star on them, or maybe two if there were two serving, etc.. Those with a gold star indicated that the person represented was KIA (killed in action).