After $2.4 million renovation, historic lighthouse near Norwalk open for tours, overnight stays
Tim Pettee is a lifelong boater who grew up near the Greens Ledge Light, in the waters off the coast of Norwalk, Connecticut. As he sailed those waters, he grew to love the lighthouse.
“And, over the years … we watched it … kind of fall into disrepair,” Pettee said. “But we took it for granted. I mean, it was a lighthouse. That’s government property.”
Then, one day, he and his family were boating off the coast of Norwalk near the lighthouse when his daughter, her head buried in her phone, said something he didn’t expect.
“She said, ‘Dad, it’s for sale. The light is for sale.’” Pettee recalled. “I said, ‘No, honey, they don’t sell lighthouses.’”
It turns out, they do. So, when he saw that the lighthouse was both in need of repair and for sale, he and his family saw an opportunity. They first bought the more than 120-year-old lighthouse from the federal government, which mandates that the U.S. Coast Guard have access to both the horn and the light at the lighthouse, and that they both continue to function as navigational aids. They then transferred it to a new nonprofit and began fundraising for a $2.4 million renovation. The first order of business was to fix the failing foundation into which the lighthouse itself was built.
“What needed to be done was the shoring up or rehabilitation…of the foundation,” Pettee said. “Job one, as we said a few years ago, was to fix the foundation because if we didn’t do that, all the tricking out we did, all the paint, whatever else we did to it could have been laid waste.”
Now the foundation is secure. In addition, one of the bedrooms is redone and ready for guests, and there’s a well-appointed kitchen. And for a gift of $4,500, you can spend the night there. (That offer is limited to five trips a year.) Tours also start the weekend of Sept. 17.
Pettee says it’s fun to go there to show the place off and preserve a bit of history. Any money that’s raised goes to the expected annual costs of maintaining the property. But he sees the effort as one of love and community.
“Once that new coat of paint went on a couple years ago, everybody lit up,” Pettee said. “So it’s really been a solid community effort, both Norwalk and Darien, that have got us to the point where we can say it’s not going to fall down. But we can also say, ‘Hey, do you want to stay there?’”