About This Location
Five Mile Point Lighthouse: Guiding Light at New Haven Harbor
Five Mile Point Light, also known as Five Mile Point Lighthouse or New Haven Harbor Lighthouse, stands as an enduring sentinel on the shores of the Long Island Sound, marking the entrance to New Haven Harbor. Its storied history, dating back to the American Revolutionary War, and its transformation into a cherished public park highlight its significance in the maritime heritage of New Haven, Connecticut.
A Heroic Origin
Five Mile Point Light's origins can be traced back to 1779, a pivotal year during the American Revolutionary War. In July of that year, British troops launched an attack on New Haven, docking offshore near the site where the future lighthouse would stand. As the British forces landed their boats, Patriot soldiers mounted a determined shoreline defense. Despite the burning of Amos Morris' house and several other residences, the British attackers sustained significant losses and eventually abandoned their assault on New Haven.
From Land Purchase to Lighthouse Construction
The path to the construction of Five Mile Point Light was paved in 1804 when the United States Congress approved a law authorizing the Secretary of the Treasury to build a lighthouse at Five Mile Point, provided that the land could be acquired affordably. Amos Morris, Jr., the son of the man whose home was destroyed during the 1779 British invasion, sold a one-acre portion of his father's seaside estate to the federal government for a mere $100.
On March 16, 1805, a budget of $2,500 was allocated for the construction of the lighthouse. Abisha Woodward undertook the task and erected a 30-foot octagonal wooden tower on the southwest end of the harbor. This tower served to mark the passage around the Southwest Ledge. The initial lighting consisted of eight oil lamps with 13-inch parabolic reflectors, although it faced criticism for being too faint. In 1805, a keeper's cottage was added. Interestingly, Amos Morris Jr. held the post of the first keeper of the light but only for a brief three weeks. By 1832, the light stood 50 feet above the water, and visibility had improved following the removal of some obstructive trees.
A Stone Beacon and Lighthouse Point Park
In 1847, Congress earmarked $10,000 for the construction of a new stone lighthouse, and Marcus Bassett was entrusted with this ambitious project. Rising to an impressive height of 80 feet, the new octagonal tower was crafted from East Haven brownstone. At 97 feet above sea level, 12 lamps with reflectors were installed to illuminate this magnificent structure. A two-and-a-half-story brick house was also constructed at this time, replacing the earlier, dilapidated keeper's residence. In 1855, fourth-order Fresnel lenses replaced the lamps, and the 1860s saw the installation of a fog bell. With the completion of the neighboring Southwest Ledge Light in 1877, Five Mile Point Light was decommissioned.
The area surrounding the abandoned lighthouse underwent a transformation into an amusement park known as Lighthouse Point Park. Although the park's tenure was relatively short-lived, the city of New Haven recognized the historical significance of the lighthouse and the potential for a public attraction. In 1924, the city purchased the park area, including the lighthouse, from the East Shore Amusement Company. The lighthouse was meticulously restored, and Lighthouse Point State Park was born.
A Recognized Legacy
Five Mile Point Lighthouse received national recognition when it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on August 1, 1990, under reference number 90001108. This distinction underscores its historical value and significance within the community and beyond. It also ensure the lighthouse will be cared for so many generations can enjoy it and learn about its past.
A Park for All Seasons
Lighthouse Point State Park remains open to visitors year-round, offering a diverse array of attractions. While tours of the lighthouse's interior are conducted on a limited basis, visitors can explore the surrounding area by walking out on a jetty or simply wandering up to the lighthouse. Beyond the iconic lighthouse, the 82-acre park boasts a swimming area, splash pad, nature paths, bird sanctuary, antique carousel, and more.
For convenience, there are ample parking spaces available in multiple lots off Park Ave, mere feet from the lighthouse. During the off-season, parking at Lighthouse Point Park is free. However, during the summer, a fee structure applies, with New Haven vehicles enjoying free parking, non-resident vehicles charged $25 per day, and out-of-state vehicles incurring a $30 daily fee.