Seventeen years after Staten Island won a bid to house a National Lighthouse Museum, doors on the facility finally opened this past weekend.
Progress on the project was slowed throughout the years due to a variety of factors including the September 11th attacks, the recession, Hurricane Sandy, fundraising woes, and organizational struggles. Now, the national museum sits in a formerly abandoned 1863 foundry on the original site of the United States Lighthouse Service Depot.
The museum is located in St. George right by the ferry terminal, and while it has technically been open to the public since November, until now a collection of donated model lighthouses was the only display. The 22,000-square-foot center now houses exhibits on optics, lighthouse keepers, and artifacts like a 1920s foghorn. It will continue to roll out more of the collection, eventually expanding to a second building next door.
There are even plans to raise pieces of the Old Orchard Shoal Lighthouse, which was destroyed by Hurricane Sandy in 2012.
The U.S. has 600 of the 15,000 lighthouses in the world. Linda C. Dianto, the executive director of the museum, said that the museum aims to educate people about the role of lighthouses and preserve their history at a time when many are being repurposed or simply withdrawn from service.
"People forget the purposes were for safety and economic development," she told amNewYork.