Stonington, Connecticut, grew into a thriving port known for its shipbuilding, sealing, and whaling. By 1819, the town had as many as 15 vessels engaged in fishing along with some engaged in coastal trade. In May 1822, Congress appropriated $3,500 for a lighthouse at the east side of the entrance to Stonington’s harbor. The stone lighthouse was first lit in 1824. In 1840, a new lighthouse was built further back from the eroding shore. A new 25-foot cast-iron lighthouse was erected on a breakwater in Stonington Harbor in 1889, rendering the old lighthouse obsolete.
The fortress-like stone lighthouse was acquired by the Stonington Historical Society in 1925. They converted the interior into a six-room museum of local history.
It’s considered the oldest lighthouse museum in the U.S. Visitors get to ascend the 29 steps to the lantern room for a spectacular view.
Aimee Newell is the executive director of the Stonington Historical Society. She comes to Connecticut from Pennsylvania, where she was executive director of the Luzerne County Historical Society and also an adjunct professor of history at Wilkes University.
Jeremy D’Entremont is the author of more than 20 books and hundreds of articles on lighthouses and maritime history. He is the president and historian for the American Lighthouse Foundation and founder of Friends of Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouses, and he has lectured and narrated cruises throughout the Northeast and in other regions. He is also the producer and host of the U.S. Lighthouse Society podcast, “Light Hearted.” He can be emailed at Jeremy@uslhs.org