Historic image of the St. George Depot on Staten Island facing Upper New York Bay. This view shows the experimental lighthouse tower, working pier, and temporary structure where new materials, lamps and equipment were tested; lighthouse tenders and lightships often tied up at the docks. During its heyday under the U.S. Lighthouse Service, the Depot had 22 buildings and was the receiving facility for all imported Fresnel lenses. The lenses were uncrated, inspected, recrated, and sent to the Districts for installation in lighthouses. All oil purchased by the Service was shipped to this base and then distributed. Most of the brass implements for the Service (dust pans, oil measures, service kits, etc.) were manufactured here as well as experiments with optics, illuminants, electric lamps, etc. (Keepers Log, Summer 1995) Photo, ca. 1890, courtesy National Archives No. 26-LG-15-59)
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: July 11, 1998
CONTACT: RALPH ESHELMAN (410) 326-4877
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The former U.S. Lighthouse Service depot on Staten Island has been selected as the home of the new National Lighthouse Center and Museum, leaders of America's lighthouse preservation movement announced today.
Selection of the Staten Island site, listed in the National Register of Historic Places, capped a lengthy planning and site selection process that started with formation of a National Lighthouse Center and Museum Steering Committee in March 1997.
"The idea of a National Lighthouse Museum has been expressed since the early 1970s," said committee chairman Ralph Eshelman, a Maryland-based maritime history and heritage consultant. "Staten Island offered not only an historic site, but an outstanding location easily reached by large numbers of visitors."
Negotiations now begin between committee members, representing a number of national, regional and local lighthouse preservation groups, and site and government representatives, to work out details of the new museum, envisioned as a $20 million construction and exhibitry project with a $20 million endowment.
The site, once the main national base of a Lighthouse Service that was later absorbed by the Coast Guard, shares space with docks and terminals of the Staten Island Ferries, which carry millions of commuters and tourists each year. Restoration of the decaying Lighthouse Service buildings will be coordinated with adjoining Staten Island redevelopment projects. Burough president Guy Molinari has pledged $1.2 million toward immediate stabilization work on the structures, while New York City Mayor Giuliani and Gov. Pataki have offered $1.9 million each in city and state assistance.
Funding will be sought from government, foundation and corporate sources. The museum will serve as both an exhibit center telling the rich and colorful story of America's lighthouses, and an archives research and workshop center for the largely volunteer lighthouse preservation movement.
Fourteen sites expressed interest in hosting the museum when the project was announced last year, and the steering committee developed a comprehensive, numerically based rating system to augment careful proposal reviews. Six finalists eventually were selected for a detailed round of site visits, more extensive numerical ratings, and design and financial proposals.
"Any of the finalist sites could host a good museum, and the level of enthusiasm was nothing short of astounding," Eshelman said. "Picking a final site was an extremely difficult and lengthy task, and we deeply appreciate the efforts of the volunteer and government groups at all the sites."
Other finalists included Mackinaw City, Michigan; Point Judith, Rhode Island; Hull, Massachusetts; Rockland, Maine; and New London, Connecticut.
This process galvanized several communities to submit proposals that may result in the development of regional lighthouse museums. The committee supports their efforts.