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Sheffield Island Lighthouse

sheffield island lighthouse

Norwalk, Connecticut
Built in 1826

Location:

The lighthouse is on Sheffield Island in Long Island Sound. The Norwalk Seaport Association provides excursions to Sheffield Island to tour the lighthouse during the summer months.

Latitude: 41° 02' 55" N
Longitude: 73° 25' 09" W

 

Historic Stories:

Norwalk was a major oyster manufacturing center in the nineteenth century with a need for a lighthouse near the city’s harbor. It had one of the largest concentration of oyster beds and claimed to one of the largest oyster suppliers in the world. Sheffield Island lighthouse was built in 1826 to mark the dangerous ledges at the entrance to Norwalk’s harbor.

Sheffield Island’s first Keeper was Gershom Smith who also owned the island and deeded the lighthouse site to the government. He built a barn for farm animals and tended crops on the island. During low tide the cows would cross over to nearby islands and then get stranded. Smith would then cross over to those islands to milk the cows. In 1845 Smith was removed as Keeper because he did not support the newly elected President, John Tyler. In those days Keeper appointments were made along political ties.

 

The Lexington Steamship Fire Occurred Near Sheffield Island Light

One of the worst maritime disasters in history occurred when the steamship Lexington caught fire with an estimated 150 persons aboard. On a cold January 13th, 1840, the Lexington was sailing under full steam, past Eaton's Neck Lighthouse outside New York, at about 7:00 p.m. Heading towards Sheffield Island Lighthouse, the temperature had plummeted to near zero and the wind was gusting.

Bales of cotton were loaded near a smockstack, and all of a sudden caught fire. As the flames prevented the crew from shutting down the boilers, the Lexington was still cruising at full speed and out of control. As a result, when full lifeboats with panicking passengers were dispatched, they capsized as soon as they hit the water, throwing everyone into the freezing waves.

Many passengers tried jumping in the ice cold waters instead, and ended up perishing from exposure to the icy waters and drowning. Only four people survived this horrifying incident, and only because they used the cottom bales as makeshift rafts.

Note: For more details about this famous tragedy, select the link "Lexington Steamship Fire" Blog" at the top of the page to be directed to my Lighthouse Stories section.

 

Sometimes, keepers are just the recipients of bad luck. On a sunny July day in 1872, Keeper Noah Mosher was simply watching vessels passing by with a spyglass in his hand and talking to visitors in the dining room, when he suddenly fell backward and died.

Sheffield Island lighthouse tower Since 1986, the Norwalk Seaport Association has owned and maintained Sheffield Island Lighthouse.

Norwalk is still one of the largest oyster suppliers in the world.

In 1991, an archeologist was working on the island when she heard strange music without a source to determine its origin, she also heard a faint foghorn, and distant cries for help with no one in sight. Other strange sounds have been heard by others who maintain the island over the years.

 

 

 

Places to Visit Nearby:

The Norwalk Seaport Association provides excursions to Sheffield Island to tour the lighthouse and for picnicking on the grounds. sheffield island light

The island contains a scenic nature trail as part of the Stewart B. McKinney Wildlife Refuge, made up of 10 sections or units stretched across 70 miles of Connecticut's coastline to protect a variety of wildlife, especially migratory birds. In early September, enjoy the annual "Oyster Festival" on the island.

The Seaport Association’s ferry arrives daily on the island during the summer season, with clambakes on the island on Thursdays.

inside Sheffield Island light Tours are provided during the summer season where visitors can see how the early lighthouse keepers lived, and view the island from the tower.

There are plenty of museums, art exhibits, and events for everyone in Norwalk. You can visit the Lockwood Mathews Mansion Museum as “one of the earliest surviving Second Empire Style country houses in the US."

Here you can really get a historic sense of Victorian Era style architecture, and have the opportunity to observe exhibits and artifacts to learn about mid-to-late 19th century inventions and discoveries.

lockwood mansion

 The Stepping Stones Museum is an interactive museum for children in the same complex as the mansion. You will also find the Center for Contemporary Print Making, a unique historical, artful, and cultural resource for everything in print at the same location as well.

The SoNo Switch Tower Museum nearby shows visitors how railroads used towers that house the mechanisms for switching trains from one track to another.

The Maritime Aquarium has plenty of exhibits and marine life to explore. They provide cruises on a special catamaran called the "Spirit of the Sound," a research vessel that uses hybrid-electric propulsion. The cruises involve marine life study, seals, birding, TGIF cruises, and a sunset cruise

 

Directions to the Ferry

 

Contact Info:
Norwalk Seaport Association
132 Water Street,
Norwalk, CT 06854
Phone: (203) 838-9444
Fax: (203) 855-1017
E-mail: info@seaport.org

 

stone architecture of Sheffield Island light on flat terrain on island

 

Local Boat Tour and Ferry to Sheffield Island

Norwalk Seaport Association
Provides ferry access to Sheffield Island from Norwalk and tours of Sheffield Island Lighthouse. Also provides special Norwalk Harbor cruises to view Pecks Ledge Light and Greens Ledge Light, and view Sheffield Island Light from the boat during the summer.  

4 North Water St  
Norwalk, CT 06854
(203) 838-9444

 

Maritime Aquarium
In addition to marine life study, seals, birding, and TGIF cruises, to celebrate National Lighthouse Day in early August, they have a 2.5 hour cruise around the Norwalk Islands to view Norwalk’s three historic lighthouses: Pecks Ledge, Greens Ledge and Sheffield Island.

10 North Water Street
Norwalk, CT 06854
Phone: (203) 852-0700

 

Charter My Sea Ray
For those who are looking for a private personal charter experience along Long Island Sound. As part of their Lighthouses Tour, they provide a close up view of Greens Ledge Light, Pecks Ledge Light, and Sheffield Island Light.

144 Water St.
Norwalk, CT 06854
Email: chartermysearay@yahoo.com
Phone: (203) 943-6946

 

Books to Explore

Lighthouses and Coastal Attractions of Southern New England: Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts

This book provides special human interest stories from each of the 92 lighthouses, along with plenty of indoor and outdoor coastal attractions you can explore, and tours. You'll plenty of info on Sheffield Island light here as well.

Look inside!

book about lighthouses and local coastal atttractions in southern New England

 

 

book of the rise and demise of the largest sailing ships

To order a signed paperback copy:

Available from bookstores in paperback, hardcover, and as an eBook for all devices.

my ebook on apple books

The Rise and Demise of the Largest Sailing Ships:
Stories of the Six and Seven-Masted Coal Schooners of New England

In the early 1900s, New England shipbuilders constructed the world’s largest sailing ships amid social and political reforms. These giants of sail were the ten original six-masted coal schooners and one colossal seven-masted vessel, built to carry massive quantities of coal and building supplies, and measured longer than a football field!

This book, balanced with plenty of color and vintage images, showcases the historical accounts that followed these mighty ships.

 

 

 

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