The Saybrook Breakwater and Lynde Point lights

This page last updated 02/11/06

The images below were taken on 3/6/99 during a trip from  Greenport, Long Island to the Connecticut River in search of wintering Bald Eagles. We saw about 10 eagles, along with Great Cormorants, Black-Backed Gulls, Ring-Billed Gulls, and Common Mergansers.


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The Saybrook Breakwater light.

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The Saybrook Breakwater light lantern.


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The Lynde Point light.


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Note the fifth order Fresnel lens which still resides in the lantern of the Lynde Point light.


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Looking back at the lights from the mouth of the river.


As you approach the jetty which guides you into the Connecticut River, you notice two lighthouses on the west side of the jetty. The first is a cast iron light of the design used in the late 1800's, the second a taller, octagonal masonry tower which hints that it is older than the first.

The first light, the Saybrook Breakwater Light, was constructed in 1886. For years, the shallow mouth of the Connecticut River had been a hindrance to marine navigation. In 1875, the federal government decided to construct a channel with a jetty on either side and dredge the area between them. The west jetty, upon which the lighthouse now sits, was completed in 1875 and the east jetty five years later.

In August of 1882, Congress appropriated $20,000 for a lighthouse on the west jetty. This amount was insufficient and the activation of this light was delayed until June 15, 1886.

The Saybrook light is a brick-lined cast iron design similar to other area lights such as the Orient Point (1899) and Latimer Reef (1884) lights. It has a concrete-filled cast iron caisson base with a basement, four main floors, a watch deck and a 12-sided lantern room. The foundation is 32 feet tall and the tower is 49 feet tall.

The light originally consisted of 17 oil lamps and a fixed white fourth order lens (a red sector in the light warned mariners if their approach was incorrect). In 1917, the lamp was changed to an incandescent oil vapor type, and in 1968 the light was automated.

One-and-one-half miles further into the Connecticut River stands the Lynde Point Light. This is the second light built on this site.

The original light's construction was approved by Congress on April 6, 1802 and work began on November 30 of that year. This light was a wooden structure, constructed of pine and covered with shingles, 35 feet high with an iron lantern on top which was seven feet three inches tall. The light, which cost about $2200, was first lit August 17, 1803.

In 1832, Congress appropriated $5000 for the removal of the old light and the construction of a new masonry tower. No bids were received until 1838, when Congress appropriated an additional $2500. In 1838 a contract was awarded for the construction of a new light which was completed that same year.

The new tower was constructed of brownstone in an octagonal pyramid shape. Atop the white, 65-foot tower was a lantern which contained ten patent lamps with 14-inch reflectors. Eventually, the Lynde Point light received a fourth order lens which was then replaced by a fifth order lens in 1890. This lens still resides in the light, which was automated in 1975.

These two lights provide a glimpse of 19th century lighthouse construction in one look. The early-1800's masonry tower contrasts the late-1800's cast iron caisson. Had the early Lynde Point wooden tower been left intact, one would truly have a unique view of the history of American lighthouse construction! You can get another glimpse of such a contrast if you sail south to Plum Gut, where the 1899 cast iron Orient Point light stands across from the 1868 granite Plum Island light, but the age difference in less between this two lights than between the two Connecticut River lights and they are further apart from one another.


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