NORWALK, Conn. -- Located a less than a mile off the coast of Norwalk, Sheffield Island Lighthouse offers guests the opportunity to experience Connecticut’s maritime roots.
The 53-acre estate contains rugged beaches, local wildlife, and one of the Long Island Sound’s oldest aids to navigation. The current tower and keeper’s house were completed in 1868, but the island has been a navigational point since the early 19th century.
Currently owned by the Norwalk Seaport Association, the lighthouse and surrounding island have been home to revolutionaries, politicians, business tycoons and even the occasional ghost.
The westward-most island in the Norwalk archipelago, Sheffield Island rises out of a dangerous reef that has resulted in dozens of wrecks. With the approval of the island’s owner, the U.S. government approved the construction of a 30 foot tower designed to warn passing ships of the hidden shoal, says Peter Bondi, Chairman of the Sheffield Island Lighthouse Committee.
From its commission in 1826 to its sale in 1914, the Sheffield Island lighthouse and its grounds were manned year-round by a family. According to local legend, the spirit of a young girl, possibly a keeper’s daughter, haunts the lighthouse. There is no denying the eerie calm and sense of remoteness that overcome the island after dark, but paranormal investigations have provided inconclusive evidence.
Additionally, Bondi claims that during his multiple overnight stays on the island, he has had no such encounters.
After its sale in the early 1900s, Sheffield Island took on new life as a summer retreat for America’s business elite. Due to its inaccessibility, the island was a reserved site for shrewd deal-makers to practice their craft free from prying eyes.
Remington Rand, the weapons manufacturer of Manhattan Project fame, hosted several of these private conferences on the island throughout the 1940s and 50s. Attended by high-level government officials, these conferences drew power players from New York, Washington, and beyond. In fact, rumors circulated that then President Dwight Eisenhower attended at least one of these covert sessions, Bondi says.
Ultimately, the island was sold to the Norwalk Seaport Association in 1986, which maintains and operates the lighthouse and grounds to this day. Today, the island offers visitors the opportunity to enjoy the Long Island Sound’s ecosystem in a uniquely historical setting.
Walk the grounds once strolled by America’s powerful, visit the quarters rugged keepers once called home, and you never know, you might just have an encounter with the supernatural.
Ferry cruises and island tours depart from Water Street seven days a week from June 24 to Sept. 2. For more information, visit www.seaport.org
John Haffey Jr. is a Norwalk resident and Long Island Sound enthusiast and has navigated and fished Coastal Connecticut for years.