Lauterborn Blog Search

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Preservation Committee Shines Light On Cause

Preservation Committee 
Shines Light On Cause:
Campaigns to take ownership of 
Penfield Reef Lighthouse
By Mike Lauterborn
© 2011. All Rights Reserved.

Fairfield, CT – The weather outside was frightful, but inside it was so delightful as several dozen people braved blustery, bone-chilling conditions to gather at Penfield Pavilion for an evening soiree Thursday hosted by the Penfield Reef Lighthouse Preservation Committee. All had come to support the noble cause of acquiring the lighthouse, which sits less than a mile off Fairfield Beach and just beyond the reach of Penfield Reef. For a minimum donation of $25, attendees enjoyed wine, beer, hors d’oeuvres and a silent auction. All donations are tipped into a general fund set aside to make the purchase.

The Committee was formed earlier this year through the efforts of co-chairmen Sandye Mann and Bill Sapone, with support from former acting first selectman Sherri Steeneck. Its mission is two-fold: (1) Investigate and review whether the Town of Fairfield should seek to acquire the Penfield Reef Lighthouse, which has been declared surplus by the General Services Administration, and will be sold according to the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act. (2) If successful in acquiring the Lighthouse, the Committee will restore it, returning it to its aesthetically pleasing and historical character and honoring its unique coastal position in our town, state, and country on the waters of Long Island Sound.

“In a town like Fairfield, we have a heritage going back hundreds of years,” said First Selectman Michael Tetreau. “The Lighthouse is part of who we are and it’s important to save. We’ve got a great turnout of private citizens coming together out of deep respect for this heritage and wanting to maintain it for the next generation. It’s the ultimate act of generosity. Long after we’re all gone, the light will shine on.”

Former Fairfield Police Chief Dave Peck, who served in that capacity from 1979 to 2010, said he was asked to be on the Committee. “As a third generation Fairfielder, I thought it important to preserve the icon of our town – the alternative is to knock it down and put up a pole with a beacon. It is mandated that there be a light there, as a navigational aid, but this has been here since 1874.”

The initial reason for the construction of Penfield Light, according to literature featured at the evening event, was the increase in shipping activity in Bridgeport Harbor after the Civil War. Penfield Reef jutted out dangerously close to the route of steamers and schooners operating between Bridgeport and New York and numerous vessels were lost or grounded as shipping traffic grew. In a petition to the House of Representatives July 27, 1868, shipowners, captains and pilots urged Congress to establish a light station at the outer part of the reef. The lighthouse was built at a cost of $55,000 and is, today, on the National Register of Historic Places.

Peck explained that the auction has been an online process and the minimum bid was $5,000. He said the land under the lighthouse (known as “bottom land”) is owned by the state of Connecticut and that a long-term lease would have to be negotiated or the land would have to be deeded over. “The successful bidder would then have to abide by certain state historic commission guidelines,” he said. “We’ve gotten an estimate from the Town Engineer and Town Facilities Manager, of close to $250,000 in necessary work.”

Peck stressed that no tax dollars were being spent and that all funding was derived from private donations. “Tonight’s dinner helps us reach our goal, with the cost of individual dinners, private contributions and silent auction bids,” he said.

Silent auction items – 75 in all -- included lighthouse birdhouses, sea-themed clocks and clocks, paintings, books and hats with lighthouse imprints. These and much more were donated by businesses and individuals. “Everyone has been very supportive,” said Committee member Deanna Hoffman.

Perhaps one of the greatest supporters, however, is Craig Smith. Born and raised in Fairfield, the former blacksmith, tool & die worker, welder and union carpenter created woodcarvings, that included depictions of the lighthouse, and was selling them for the cause. That is to say, they would become the property of the individual or individuals who successfully acquired the lighthouse for the town. “I was inspired by everyone trying to preserve the lighthouse and started the carvings,” he said.

The Penfield Reef Lighthouse Preservation Committee is currently accepting tax deductible donations to its fund to preserve the Lighthouse for future generations.

Donation categories are:

Lighthouse Keeper $25.00

Petty Officer $50.00

Ensign $100.00

Lieutenant $250.00

Commander $500.00

Captain $750.00

Admiral $1000.00

Fleet Benefactor Above $1000.00

Tax deductible donations can be made out to:

Penfield Reef Lighthouse Preservation

Mail to:
Penfield Reef Lighthouse Preservation
Independence Hall
725 Old Post Rd.
Fairfield, Connecticut 06824

In the event that the Town of Fairfield does not assume ownership of the Penfield Reef Lighthouse, all donations will be returned. Anonymous donations will be donated to a charity.

For more information, contact Sandye Mann at or Bill Sapone at

No comments:

Post a Comment