Avery Point Light latecomer but it deserves preservation©

By Carol W. Kimball
Published on 9/21/2000

The New London Day

 

It looks like a fairy-tale tower perched above the blue waters of the Sound on the rolling green acres of UConn's Avery Point Campus. For years I wondered what it was. Finally I learned it was the Avery Point Lighthouse.

Even then I had misgivings, but Jim Streeter and Steve Gulyas have convinced me beyond the shadow of a doubt that it is a bona fide lighthouse. With a number of others, Streeter and Gulyas have formed the nonprofit Avery Point Lighthouse Society with the goal of saving, restoring, relighting and maintaining the now-crumbling structure.

Avery Point Light

What is now UConn's Groton campus was originally the estate of philanthropist Morton F. Plant. The property was sold to the state in 1938. In March 1942, the state transferred it to the federal government in a quit-claim deed that stipulated that the federal government would erect and maintain beacon lights or other buildings and apparatus to aid navigation. That same year the Coast Guard established a training station at Avery Point, where thousands of Coast Guardsmen were trained during the war.

In accordance with the deed, the Coast Guard completed the lighthouse in March 1943 but because of wartime blackout restrictions it was not lighted until May 2,1944. From that time it became an official aid to navigation, appearing in the Coast Guard's List of Lights until 1967, when the Coast Guard moved from Avery Point and the light was extinguished. Soon afterward UConn occupied the site.

The beacon originally was a fixed white light, changed in 1960 to flashing green as part of a cluster of eight lights. It was listed officially in the Coast Guard's Notice to Mariners and also appears on navigational charts.

Avery Point Lighthouse Society's brochure states that this was the last lighthouse built in Connecticut. Actually the lighthouse at Mystic Seaport was dedicated Aug. 31, 1967, but that lighthouse is not considered an official aid to navigation.

The Avery Point Light, a 55-foot tower built of sand and concrete blocks, received little maintenance after 1967 and has badly deteriorated. In February 2000 a group of local residents formed the Avery Point Lighthouse Society to preserve this attractive and significant landmark.

They are seeking funds for the project, working closely with the representatives of UConn at Avery Point as well as with staff members of the Lighthouse Foundation of Wells, Maine. This foundation has established a fund for tax deductible contributions for the lighthouse, and to date has raised about $5,000.

Preservation plans got a huge boost in August when Groton City councilors agreed to donate $3,000. A second lift came with the offer of an Old Saybrook firm, Gibble, Norden and Champion, to conduct a structural engineering study of the lighthouse pro bono. This analysis is needed to determine what is necessary to stabilize and preserve the structure.

Kenneth G. Kochel in his book “America's Atlantic Coast Lighthouse” wrote that the Avery Point Lighthouse was built as a memorial tower symbolic of the Coast Guard lighthouse-keeping responsibilities. This claim is still undocumented, but it's a heart-warming thought. The lighthouse is an important part of our landscape and should be treasured and restored.

The society welcomes volunteers and contributions in this work. Contact APLS, PO Box 1552, Groton CT 06340 or://apls.tripod http.com, or phone 445-5417 for more information. 

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Avery Point Light latecomer but it deserves preservation© By Carol W. Kimball - Published on 9/21/2000 -- The New London Day