Posts Tagged ‘New London’

Hidden Gem of American History Shines its Lamp Brightly

NL_Light_mosaic     On the waterfront street near the City Pier of historic New London, Connecticut, USA, are the granite columns of the  179-year-old Robert Mills building: The Custom House and Maritime Museum.  Mills is most know for the Washington monument in District of Columbia.  His architecture on the 150 Bank Street location augments the age of seaport towns, such as New London, to regulate and collect the tariffs of sailing ship trade across the seas.  The Granite facade and the red brick vaulted interior rooms, highlighted by massive maple doors and soaring ceilings, evokes a time when government real estate was permanent.  The Custom House and U.S. Treasury Service still maintain office space on the second floor, though it is more of a museum space.  The three levels and a sub-basement contain treasures of the ship building days, mariner memorabilia, Ship Models, ancient sea paintings in oil, collections of sailing art and libraries of books and data.  The groupings are contained in delightfully decorated “captain’s rooms”, replete with mariner furniture.

1839 History that Rocked the World:

First Step To Freedom

amistad4On that infamous night of  July 2 at 4:00am, 53 slaves brought through Havana, and onboard the Amistad  schooner and south of the Bahama Islands revolt and seize control of the vessel.  The “Black Pirates” are discovered and taken into custody off the coast of Long Island, New York, by the U.S. Navy . They seize the schooner and escort it to New London to the U.S. Custom House.  The location serves as the beginnings of the Abolitionist Defense Committee and the US Supreme Court to instigate the Free-State Provisions.  The 35 surviving Africans departed New York for Africa aboard the barque Gentleman, and were returned to their Sierra Leone in 1842.  In 1866, the 14th Amendment to the Constitution defines a citizen as anyone born in the U.S. (except American Indians) or naturalized, thereby extending all rights of citizenship to African-Americans. 


compliments of Wikipedia

The second floor remains the historical depiction space of the events and contains many displays.  The current Amistad Schooner  docks periodically on the local wharf, up from New Haven, Connecticut mooring.

Preserving the Protectors

The New London Maritime Museum stretches a bit further to preserve history.  The New London Harbor Light, at the mouth of the harbor, was the fourth lighthouse recognized by George Washington when he enacted the 1789 Act for the Establishment and support of Lighthouse. It is one of the earliest  flashing beacons. This and the Race Rock Light, off of nearby Fisher’s Island, New York, are under the management of the U.S. Custom House and Maritime Museum, having been turned over from the Coast Guard.  Tours have become available to these working lighthouses.  The history of the maritime region and the donated collections, the resources of knowledge and the staffing of very competent docents, make for a sea worthy journey.








Trustee/Docent: Harrison Lea Jewitt, on command on Sunday for Visitors

Trustee/Docent: Harrison Lea Jewitt, on command on Sunday for Visitors

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Connecticut State in the USA has some unique coastal attractions that rival many Atlantic Ocean locations.  An example would be the twenty three unmanned lighthouses directing the mariner to safe harbors.  The closing of the doors of the last manned lighthouse  and ushering the automation of all lighthouses on that coastline occurred in 1987.  That light was the remarkable 1909 Ledge Light of New London.  One hundred and two years has changed little on this lighthouse, as it was built as a sea captain’s mansion of brick and mortar to withstand all the elements.  Set on a crib of concrete sunk 28 feet deep and topped with a riprap 10 feet more, it sits 18 feet above mean low tide to the base of the structure.  It is a massive building and visible to all in the mouth of Long Island Sound.

The crews that lived there had tales to tell. The deadly hurricane of 1939 that devastated the shoreline, breeched the Ledge Light with waves over the Light Cap.  The two keepers survived.  Then there is Ernie.  “Rock of slow torture. Ernie’s domain. Hell on earth — may New London Ledge’s light shine on forever because I’m through. I will watch it from afar while drinking a brew.” … written by the last manned keeperIt is said that the spirit of Ernie roams the Lighthouse, a worker fallen to his death in the 1909 construction.  The investigation by New England Ghost Project warrants more stories. Some say the Ernie was a keeper, who’s wife had run off with a sailor, and Ernie, distraught, jumped to his death.  Still, boats have been unhitched, doors left open, TVs switched on and off, fog horns blaring, and the workings of spirits abound.

Sadly, the state of the ironwork and the pounding of the sea has taken a toll and the light is not open to visitors at this time.  View of the Light can be made from Avery Point in Groton, Fisher’s Island, NY, and New London’s shoreline Harbor Lighthouse.  My recent  “best” view is from a nine foot kayak just off from the Harbor Lighthouse on Pequot Avenue in New London.  And, that lighthouse is now openning to the public for tours.  The Orient Point Ferry and the Fisher’s Island Ferry pass several meters away on their trips.  Maybe Ernie will be waving from the lantern.

New London Ledge Lighthouse Foundation
P.O. Box 855
New London, Connecticut 06320

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