Lighthouse for sale boasts ghostly past

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FAIRFIELD, Conn. (AP) – For sale: $1 property surrounded by Long Island Sound off the coast of Fairfield. Must be able to cope with possible haunting.

The U.S. General Services Administration is seeking a buyer for the Penfield Lighthouse, which was built in 1874 about 1.1 miles from Fairfield Beach and is said to be the site of strange occurrences following the drowning of lighthouse keeper Frederick Jordan in 1916.

The agency is offering the lighthouse for $1 in “as is” condition to local, state or federal government agencies or nonprofit organizations. Those interested will have to submit an application identifying their proposed uses of the lighthouse, besides that of a navigational beacon, and how they will pay for that use and maintenance.

Fairfield First Selectman Kenneth Flatto said the town is very interested in acquiring the property, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

“Obviously, the first choice would have been for the federal government to continue to take care of the lighthouse,” he said. “But since they want to dispose of it, the town feels obligated that we want to save it.”

The town is looking into how much it would cost to fix and maintain the property, and how it could pay for it. It has also talked with the Fairfield Historical Society and Fairfield Beach Residents Association about their helping with maintenance.

The 51-foot-tall lighthouse sits on a concrete foundation surrounded by rocks. It is attached to a two-story keeper’s residence made with granite and timber frames.

According to a 2004 report by the town of Fairfield, the foundation, structure and roofs were in good condition, but the wood framing that supports a balcony around the light tower needs major repairs.

There is also asbestos tiles on the floor, lead paint on the walls, mold on all levels and decaying brick and mortar in the basement, the report said.

The last repairs were done in 2003, the U.S. Coast Guard said.

There is also the reported haunting to deal with. According to legend, Jordan drowned in December 1916 when his boat capsized near the lighthouse and appeared as a ghost two weeks later to his assistant, Rudolph Iten, the Connecticut Post reported Sunday.

Iten took over for Jordan after his death. In his log, Iten wrote that Jordan’s apparition glided down the tower’s stairs and disappeared into darkness. Iten then found the keeper’s log opened to the page that documented Jordan’s death, the Post reported.

Iten also reported that the lighthouse’s light began “behaving strangely” when Jordan’s apparition appeared.

In the strangest folk tale, two boys who were rescued after their boat capsized near the lighthouse in 1942 identified Jordan as their rescuer after seeing his photograph.

Jeremy D’Entremont, who wrote “The Lighthouses in Connecticut,” said many lighthouses have ghost stories, but the Penfield Lighthouse’s tales are more believable because they are based on a well-documented death.

D’Entremont said other lighthouse keepers reported seeing Jordan’s ghost over the years, and Iten had them sign affidavits about what they witnessed.

He said it may be difficult for the new owners to raise money for repairs and maintenance because the lighthouse is offshore.

“You have to be creative. You kind of have to bring the lighthouse to the community,” D’Entremont said. “I really wish the (federal) government could set up a fund that would help with the maintenance of these lighthouses.”

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