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Penfield Reef Lighthouse

Newly restored Penfield Reef Lighthouse available for purchase

| Jessica Boisclair, Communications Specialist
Post filed in: Historic Preservation  |  Lighthouses  |  Public Buildings Service

The U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) New England Region is selling three Connecticut lighthouses this summer.

One of these lighthouses, however, is being pegged as a possible Cinderella story, following years of roadblocks, failed sales, and a massive hurricane. Penfield Reef Lighthouse, built in Second Empire style and established in 1874, is located off the coast of Fairfield in western Long Island Sound at the south side of the entrance to Black Rock Harbor.

During the early 19th century, ships would regularly hit the rocks off the mile-long Penfield Reef, which led to protests from several mariners and merchants about the deadly stretch of water that had no navigational aid.

In 1870, Congress allocated $55,000 to construct the lighthouse.

The 51-foot tall octagonal light structure is attached to a square two-story keeper’s quarters building constructed of granite and timber frames. There is a boat landing that projects from the north side and a metal ladder to reach two flights of steps – connecting the landing with the main deck above and rip rap below.

In 1990, Penfield Reef Lighthouse was listed on the National Register of Historic Places and in 2005, the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) declared it excess property.

Through the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act (NHLPA) program GSA worked diligently to find a steward or owner to help maintain and protect the architectural integrity of Penfield Reef Lighthouse for years to come.

But in late October 2012, Hurricane Sandy slammed the East Coast.

While certainly not the first hurricane-force winds to batter the lighthouse in its 142-year history, Penfield, like many waterfront properties, sustained significant damage. It was difficult for USCG to safely access the light and keep it in working order for mariners.

But by a stroke of good luck, the 2013 Disaster Relief Appropriations Act , appropriated $50 million for the Historic Preservation Fund to be offered as grant money to provide technical assistance and emergency repairs to historic and archaeological resources that were impacted by the storm.

USCG applied for, and received the grant, enabling it to beautifully restore Penfield, both structurally and architecturally, back to its 19th century appearance.

Penfield is now prepared to withstand at least another 142 storm-filled years of warning wayward mariners to stay away from the rocky reef. All it needs now is a new owner!

The online auction for Penfield Reef Lighthouse opens on July 12, and will remain open for 60 to 90 days. GSA strongly recommends interested parties view the lighthouse up close. The site inspection dates, for registered bidders only, will soon be posted on the auction site. After the sale, the lighthouse will remain an active and critical Federal Aid To Navigation (ATON) managed by USCG.

GSA is committed to disposal of underutilized real estate to help promote economic development within cities and communities, while getting the best value for American taxpayers. Since 1987, GSA has conveyed more than $3 billion worth of property across the United States. Interested in owning a piece of history? Then visit