GREENWICH, Conn. (AP) - After going dark more than four decades ago, the Great Captains Island lighthouse is shining once more.
Situated on the eastern point of the island 1½ miles off the Greenwich coast, the 51-foot granite and cast iron tower now features a 4-second flashing green light, according to Superintendent of Building and Construction Alan Monelli .
Maintained by the town, the light, which began operating in November, is ornamental and does not replace the Coast Guard navigational aid located about 300 feet from the lighthouse, Monelli said.
"After a lot of phone calling back and forth to the Coast Guard, we applied for (the light)," Monelli said. "We purchased a solar-operating unit. It has a range of 6 nautical miles."
In contrast with the new lighthouse light, the Coast Guard navigational light is red and white, Monelli said.
The new lighthouse feature will be appropriately marked on updated navigational charts and costs nothing to maintain, he said.
Ian Mcmillan, Greenwich harbor master, said the light installed in the Great Captains Island lighthouse is similar to what a boater would see on a channel marker.
"It is decorative," he said. "It doesn't serve any real navigational purpose."
Supporters of the lighthouse restoration wanted an operational navigation aid installed, but the structure of the building presented problems, Mcmillan said.
"The logistics of doing that are apparently overwhelming," he said. "It's not what a lot of us wish it would be."
Several transformations of the lighthouse took place over the past two centuries before it became the structure that now stands on the precipice of Long Island Sound.
The first lighthouse, built for about $3,000 and finished in 1829, contained a system of 10 lamps and reflectors that sent light in every direction, according to the website New England Lighthouses: A Virtual Guide.
An 1838 inspection found that the 30-foot stone tower had been poorly constructed, according to the website. A new lens emitting a fixed white light was installed in 1858 and then moved to the current lighthouse, which was built in 1868 after the previous one succumbed to disrepair.
In 1966, the town of Greenwich purchased 13 acres on the island from the Aerotech Corp. for $90,000, according to the town's website. The town acquired the remaining 3½ acres around the lighthouse from the U.S. government in 1973.
In the late 1990s, the Greenwich Chamber of Commerce and Indian Harbor Yacht Club launched a campaign called "Return the Light" to restore the lighthouse.
Ben Fisher , who helped champion the cause, was killed in the World Trade Center attacks in 2001, and a portion of the donations toward the project were made in his name. The town also committed funds to the project, and the $1.3 million restoration was completed in 2009.
As part of the Return the Light project, a 9/11 memorial with the names of the 26 people with ties to Greenwich who died in the attacks was erected on the island. Installation of the new light marked the final touch on restoration efforts in and around the lighthouse.
Henry Marx, president and owner of Stamford-based Landfall Navigation, which offers nautical charts, publications and marine-safety equipment, said he is happy to see the lighthouse shining once more.
"From a historical standpoint, I applaud it," he said.
As a navigator, Marx said it is important the two lights on the island flash in different sequences so that they don't obscure each other or confuse boaters.
"Each lighthouse has a different flashing pattern," he said.
Monelli said he is pleased the lighthouse is finally operational.
"It took us 10 years to get where we got," he said.
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