H. Lee White museum, lighthouse tours opening this week

The Oswego West Pierhead Lighthouse, seen above, will open for tours this Friday via the H. Lee White Maritime Museum, officials announced Monday.

OSWEGO — As the Port City continues its cautious process of re-opening for summer recreation, one local institution says it’s ready to set sail.

The H. Lee White Maritime Museum announced Monday it will unlock its doors to visitors Wednesday after its spring opening was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Officials couldn’t be happier to join Phase 4, the New York state virus protocol relaxing coronavirus restrictions. The city of Oswego entered Phase 4 Friday, June 26.

“We’ve been working very hard to prepare for Phase 4, doing a lot of research and developing procedures for people to have a safe visit to the museum,” said museum Executive Director Mercedes Niess. Visitors are welcome from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and are expected to wear face coverings and practice social distancing. The World War II vessel and National Historic Monument LT-5 tug, as well as derrick boat 8, will be open for visits as well.

The maritime museum, located at the terminus of the West First Street pier, is a non-profit organization founded in 1982 that promotes and protects the maritime history of the Oswego River, Port of Oswego and Lake Ontario.

Museum officials hope the re-opening will encourage Oswegonians who are not yet ready to venture too far from homes to experience one of Oswego’s treasures of, and tributes to, its past.

“We have such a short summer season and people are already staying home on staycations, so this is an opportunity for people to re-visit their own community in a way they maybe haven’t before, or haven’t in a while,” Niess said.

This Friday, the H. Lee White Maritime Museum will also offer a ferry service available nowhere else: a voyage across the Oswego Harbor and into the famous West Pierhead Lighthouse. Each Friday and Saturday through July and August, starting at 12:30 p.m., visitors will be whisked from the museum to the lighthouse via light watercraft. Prior registration is required.

“(The lighthouse) looks fantastic and really held up well this winter,” said Niess, citing the harbor’s “winds and waves” as some of the hazards that crash upon the 86-year-old structure. Interior renovation work, an ongoing project at the lighthouse for years, is nearly complete with the exception of the unfinished concrete basement, Niess said. The work is done by an all-volunteer staff and has transformed the dilapidated monument into a shining 21st century beacon.

“We’re really excited,” Niess said. “We know we’re one of the few museums that are opening and we’re looking forward to seeing our guests come in, have fun and learn something about our fascinating maritime history.”

For more information on visiting the H. Lee White Maritime Museum or to find out how to volunteer, call 315-342-0480 or visit hleewhitemarinemuseum.com.

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