The Sheffield Island Lighthouse has stood steadfast for more than 140 years, a symbol of Connecticut's rich maritime history. Built in 1868, this structure is nearly identical to other nearby lighthouses in Greenwich and Noank. "It's one of six lighthouses that has the same architectural and engineering foundation to it," says Lighthouse Keeper, Greg Goomrigian who spends days and nights on the island in the summertime. "This is my office. When I wake up in the morning, I get a sunrise," smiles Goomrigian. "And when I go to sleep at night, I get a sunset. You can't beat it!"
A ferry boat leads visitors from a dock near the Maritime Aquarium in South Norwalk through the Norwalk River and out into the harbor. Sheffield Island is the westernmost chunk of land in a string of small islands throughout the area. "There are 14 islands in the chain," adds Goomrigian. A guide points out various bustling landmarks along the shore, such as SONO Seafood and the area's famous oyster fisheries. "People who don't live in this area don't realize there's a lot of beauty out here," says Goomrigian. The picturesque trip lasts for 40 minutes before the group arrives at the 52-acre island which sports hiking trails. "There's wildlife out here. We have deer on the island, raccoons. We have an inordinate number of birds," he says.
But the highlight of the trip is the tour of the historic structure which has been lovingly restored and renovated by the Norwalk Seaport Association. "You don't get many old buildings like this," says Goomrigian, as he leads people through lovely rooms, decorated with period furniture, vintage photographs and old maps. This museum in the middle of the Sound is even part of Norwalk's Quilt Trail, which celebrates the artistry of these hand-sewn items throughout the years. The lighthouse no longer burns bright. It was decommissioned in 1902 because it was built too far inland. Now, nearby Greens Ledge Lighthouse guides boats into shore.
There are always notorious ghost stories associated with lighthouses but Goomrigian insists he's never experienced the supernatural: "No, I haven't heard anything! No, no, or seen anything!"
Many visitors have never been so close to an actual lighthouse. "It's like a regular house with the top of a lighthouse cut off and put on top of it," explains 9 year old Justin Mossa from Darien. This is an easy, nearby daytrip that is filled with beauty and history. "We call it the best kept secret and when you do get out here and experience it, it's wonderful," says Goomrigian. "And you get people coming back out here time and time again."
Weekday cruises run until September 9th and weekend cruises operate through September 26. The dock is at the corner of Washington and N. Water Street next to the Stroffolino Drawbridge and The Maritime Aquarium in South Norwalk. Round-trip ferry tickets are $22.00 for adults, $12.00 for children ages 4-12 and $5.00 for kids ages 3 and younger. Reservations are recommended. Log onto www.seaport.org or call (203)855-1017.