City, Marine Museum Consider Pact To Preserve The Lighthouse

OSWEGO, NY – At its meeting Tuesday night, the Physical Services Committee gave a favorable recommendation to a partnership between the H. Lee White Marine Museum and the city.

Mary Vanouse, community development director, requested authorization for the city to enter into a lease agreement with the museum for Oswego West Pierhead Lighthouse.

“The museum has been a partner in this since (the city) has taken over the acquisition of the lighthouse,” she told the committee.

A sailboat passes the Oswego West Pierhead Lighthouse.
A sailboat passes the Oswego West Pierhead Lighthouse.

Museum officials proposed that they enter into a lease agreement with the city to take over the development and restoration of the Oswego icon.

The agreement would make it possible for the museum to oversee the restoration project and apply for additional grants to address the on-going restoration project and museum exhibits that need to be installed in order to meet the obligations to the US government to restore and maintain the property and provide limited access for public visitation in the future, she explained.

The Oswego Lighthouse Development Committee has been instrumental in guiding the development and restoration work that has already been undertaken, Vanouse added.

Monetary donations as well as donations of floating docks (from the US Coast Guard Auxiliary) and other equipment has been realized through the Oswego Lighthouse Development Committee’s work.

“They (the committee) want to take a bigger role in the interpretation of the project,” she said.

“I just want to know, you’re going after the grants yourself?” Councilor Shawn Walker asked.

“The way it works is you (the city) would still have to sign as owner. As a matter of fact, we have a grant right now for funding for a structural survey; so you’d have to sign off as the actual owner,” explained Mercedes Niess, executive director of the H. Lee White Marine Museum. “But, we’d apply for the grant … and we would administer it.”

They would also report to the city on a yearly basis, the director said.

“And, we’d keep Mike Smith (DPW Commissioner) and Mary Vanouse in the loop at all times,” she added. “It’s still your structure. So you’re still kind of held responsible, in the sense of making sure that it stays as a historically preserved building,” Niess said.

Councilor Bill Barlow said he met with Niess previously and she filled him in regarding the project.

“I think the public will be supportive of it,” he said. “It would be a good thing for the community. The lighthouse is something that we all take pride in. It’s definitely symbolic for Oswego.”

“They are several (people) who have taken the task of preserving the lighthouse very, very seriously,” Council President Ron Kaplewicz said. “I think this is a great option for us.”

The city’s resources are tied up in other needs that the city has, he pointed out.

“The agreement covers all the parameters, including the significance as an historic landmark. And, I understand that any work that would be done would be consistent with both federal and state law.”

He added that he expects the lighthouse committee keep the city up to date on the project more than just once a year.

Councilor Mike Myers asked if the grants would require matching funds from the city.

“It would be funding that we would get under our not-for-profit (status) and then, if we had to match it or whatever, we would go to the community and have fundraisers and things like that,” Niess replied.

As a matter of fact, they are planned a fundraiser for later this fall (probably in November), she added.

See story here:

The request was sent to the full council for consideration.


  1. This city has sooo much more to worry about than the lighthouse. Are these people living on the same town/ Earth that I am? I am all for the lighthouse and its restoration, however in its time. Right now were chasing people away from Oswego and this is headline news? How about working on more important projects like everydaylife and its fees.

  2. The lighthouse will almost certainly generate ‘tourism dollars.’ Since we have few industries to generate taxes, we NEED (desperately, if you ask me) other revenue sources besides property taxes. SO MUCH of Oswego is not taxable, that to pass over the OPPORTUNITY to generate money from visitors. They would work somewhere else, and SPEND here. HOW can that be a bad thing? Lighthouses are destinations for fans of this history. IF we can get a shuttle to take them over there and then have a gift shoppe either on site or at the Marine Museum, that will generate MORE money. IF they stay overnight in Oswego, shops here will make some sales tax revenue, which some of will remain working for us so we have LESS property tax.

    Can’t anyone else see the bigger picture. Spend a little here and there, make more over generations. And, quite frankly, isn’t anyone else PROUD of what the Museum and the City has done to SAVE this landmark???

    Debbie Engelke

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