The famous lighthouse from which our friend and contributor Adam Suprenant derived his Winery’s name from, which is featured in Wine About the Weather Episode 3.
The Orient Point Lighthouse was constructed in order to make safe passage between the deep and narrow gap between Orient Point and Plum Island. This gap is called Plum Gut, and at ebb tide, the waters of Long Island Sound rush through at currents exceeding five knots, creating a churning mix of white-capped waves and dangerous riptides that is a challenge for even the most experienced mariners. Oyster Pond Reef, a dangerous obstacle lying just beneath the surface of the water, extends from Orient Point one-third of the way across Plum Gut, making the passage even more treacherous.
Construction began in October 1898, but it turned out to be the stormiest autumn in decades. Forty-eight prefabricated steel plates making up the lower two courses of the foundation cylinder had been barged to the site, fastened together, and sunk when a strong gale broke twenty of the plates and damaged nineteen others. Construction was halted for the year, and the following spring the replacement plates were delivered. The bottom course was in place by June 6, and by the end of June, the bottom three courses were finished and cement was poured to within three feet of the top of the second course. The caisson foundation was completed by August, and most of the superstructure was in place by the end of September.
In June 2011, Orient Point Lighthouse was declared excess to the needs of the United States Coast Guard and made available to eligible organizations under the provisions of the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act of 2000. Qualified entities were given sixty days to submit a letter of interest and were required to obtain an agreement from the State of New York to occupy the submerged lands on which the lighthouse stands. After no suitable caretaker was found, an online auction for the lighthouse opened on June 1, 2012. Nine bidders participated in the auction, which ended on September 25, 2012 with a high bid of $120,000. The winning bidder provided the additional deposit required within forty-eight hours of the end of the auction but failed to close on the lighthouse within the sixty-day closing period. As a result, another auction for the lighthouse was initiated on June 10, 2013. Seven bidders participated in the second auction, which ended on September 18, 2013 with a high bid of $252,000. The winner of the lighthouse has been identified as Randy Polumbo, an artist and owner of Plant, a New York City construction company.
Orient Point Lighthouse cannot be reached by land and is not open to the public, although it can be viewed from Orient Point. While the lighthouse can be approached by water in private vessels, care must be taken to avoid the shallow reefs surrounding the lighthouse. A year-round ferry that runs between Orient Point and New London offers good views of at least five lighthouses, including Orient Point, Plum Island, Little Gull Island, New London Ledge, and New London Harbor.
Due to the private ownership, Orient Point Lighthouse cannot be explored.