When Hurricane Sandy slammed into the Connecticut coast last October, the New London Harbor Lighthouse, built in 1801, found itself in a vulnerable spot. Standing at attention where the Thames River meets the eastern edge of the Long Island Sound, there was nothing to protect the lighthouse from Hurricane Sandy’s severe lashing. Members of the New London Maritime Society, the lighthouse’s current stewards, anxiously awaited the passing of the storm to survey the damage.
When the skies cleared and the waves receded the lighthouse itself emerged stoic as ever, but the wreckage at its feet was significant. A masonry walkway that bridged the gap from the Keeper’s house to the lighthouse, and a brick seawall bordering the property were clobbered by waves, which resulted in disastrous structural damage.
Without the funds to repair the estimated $42,255 in damage, the New London Maritime Society applied for assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
One year later, with the application approved and $31,691.25 in FEMA funds, Susan Tamulevich, Executive Director at the New London Maritime Society’s Custom House is happy to report that the rebuilding of the walkway is all but finished. She explained that the city of New London gave them granite curbing for the rebuilding of the walkway, which is now very strong, level, and smooth. “It’s so level that someone in a wheelchair can now enter the lighthouse, which wasn’t possible before,” said Susan. She noted that previously there was one steep step and an uneven surface leading to the lighthouse door.
The New London Maritime Society has a $10,533.75 bill left over after the federal share of 75 percent is taken care of, but Susan plans to sell the bricks from the damaged sea wall to raise the money. Work on the sea wall is slated to begin in two weeks.
The lighthouse has weathered many hurricanes in its 212 years, including the hurricane of 1938, which was one of the top ten deadliest hurricanes to make landfall in the U.S. Today the lighthouse still serves as an aid to navigation, as well as a long-loved attraction for school groups, tourists, and local appreciators. Susan was happy to note that the New London Harbor Lighthouse is featured in the U.S. Postal Service’s New England Coastal Lighthouses stamp collection this year, prompting many new visitors this past summer.