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New London – When the director of the New London Maritime Society received a phone call from an artist working on a depiction of the New London Harbor Lighthouse for a postage stamp, she though it was a prank.
Director Susan Tamulevich said the artist described the lighthouse as the “most beautiful and significant lighthouse in Connecticut,” and she soon discovered that the call was legitimate. At 10 a.m. on Saturday morning, as the SailFest vendors were setting up their booths, the stamp was unveiled in a ceremony behind the New London Maritime Society’s building on Bank Street.
At the ceremony, Tamulevich thanked the U.S. Postal Service for bringing attention to the nation’s lighthouses. The New London Harbor Lighthouse stamp is just one in a series of stamps featuring lighthouses across the country. On Saturday, five stamps were unveiled in New England, but the post office has been making lighthouse stamps since 1990.
Lighthouses are “pillars of maritime safety” that contribute something meaningful to our culture, said Rick Uluski, vice president area operations for the northeast area for the U.S. Postal Service, at the ceremony.
Uluski said the stamp will be a forever stamp, and that “like the lighthouse it honors, it is designed to stand the test of time.”
The 89-foot-tall New London Harbor Lighthouse — the oldest and tallest in the state — was originally built in 1761 and financed by a lottery held by the Connecticut colonial legislature. It developed a crack and was replaced with the current lighthouse in 1801.
From the top of the lighthouse, you can see more lighthouses at night than at any other place on Earth, said Tamulevich at Saturday’s ceremony.
She said she was thrilled to be holding the ceremony on the morning of Sailfest and called it “the highlight of what has been a very good summer.”
Last month, the New London Maritime Society acquired the deed to the Race Rock Light in the Long Island Sound, and they are also hoping to obtain the Ledge Lighthouse at the mouth of the Thames River, said Mayor Darryl Justin Finizio during the ceremony.
He said that the goal would be to “create a maritime history park here in New London.” The part would not just be in the city, said Tamulevich, but the entire eastern end of the Long Island Sound.
The ceremony wasn’t all about the speakers — the event opened with a presentation of colors by the U.S. Coast Guard Honor Guard and a performance of the Star Spangled Banner by members of the newly created New London Community Orchestra.
Folk artist Tom Callinan also sang a song he composed about the New London Harbor Lighthouse, which tells the history and purpose of the light.
Rear Adm. Sandra Stosz, the superintendent of the Coast Guard Academy, recalled relying on the New London Harbor Lighthouse to guide her down the Thames when she was a cadet, calling it a “faithful beacon.”
State Sen. Andrea Stillman encouraged those present to use the stamps even when they’re not sending as much mail as they used to.
“Every once in a while, send an extra piece of mail,” she said, “and put one of these beautiful stamps on it.”