OSWEGO, NY – Members of the Common Council and public received an update Monday night as to the on-going project to save the Port City’s historic West Pierhead Lighthouse.
Mercedes Niess, Rich Bush and Ted Panayotoff of the Oswego Lighthouse Committee updated members of the Common Council on the progress of the lighthouse restoration project.
Bush, president of the H. Lee White Marine Museum Board of Trustees, told councilors the project is “well under way.”
“We recognize the lighthouse as an icon in our community. It celebrates the waterfront, it creates a sense of pride for Oswegonians for more than 80 years,” he said.
Niess, executive director of the museum, said when the group signed the agreement last year to take over the project on the city’s behalf, they promised to come and give the council updates.
“We were thinking January. But it’s been a very exciting season and we wanted to give you an updated version now of what has been going on,” she said.
The committee has been working very hard on several fundraising events, she said.
The Lighthouse Auction Committee had planned the event for last month. However, they have rescheduled it for April 25, 2015, “In order to maximize the auction as a fund-raiser for the lighthouse,” Niess explained.
“This will allow us more time to pursue quality donations. The restoration project will be extensive and we’d like to maximize the funding that we can raise to benefit the lighthouse restoration project,” she told the councilors.
Donations are still being accepted and are strongly encouraged from the community.
In June of this year, they held the first-ever Lake Ontario Central New York Lighthouse Challenge.
The challenge was scheduled in honor of the Oswego West Pierhead Lighthouse’s 80th anniversary.
“It had never been done before in our area. We had people fly in from Colorado; they came from Kentucky, Montana, New Jersey and Pennsylvania just to participate in this challenge,” Niess said.
The challenge was to visit six unique New York lighthouses within two days. The official challenge route started with Oswego’s West Pierhead Lighthouse, then moved east and west from the Thousand Islands to Rochester.
“Lighthouse enthusiasts will travel all over the country. They will schedule their entire vacation around visiting lighthouses,” she said. “And, you know what? They spend money. This is an untapped source of potential revenue for our community in sales tax and bed tax, shopping – all the things that are going to go on when these folks start coming to our community.”
The project has received two grants to aid the restoration.
“One was from the Preservation League of New York. We also received one from the National Trust and we were going to turn it down because it sort of for the same thing. But they said, ‘No, we want to be part of this project.’ That’s the National Trust that wants to be part of this project,” she pointed out.
They have had an architect visit the site and draw up some plans, which they will share with the council at a later date.
The lighthouse represents not only the city and county, but the entire region, she said.
Niess thanked the city’s Community Development Office, which received the first grant for the project (from the Canal Corporation). It was a quarter million dollars to get the hazardous materials out of the lighthouse.
“We couldn’t have done it without that grant. It really is an important department to our city,” she said.
“Are you planning any tours out there, events?” asked Councilor Shawn Walker.
“That’s the plan,” replied Panayotoff. “We’d start off slow.”
“It’s pretty impressive, the transformation the lighthouse interior has undergone,” Council President Ron Kaplewicz said.
He asked Panayotoff what the plans were for the exterior of the lighthouse and what types of security did they have in mind for the landmark.
Although the bulk of the planned volunteer work is in the interior, there are some exterior tasks that can be done by volunteers, Panayotoff said. One in the plan for 2015 is repainting of the caisson deck railings and railing stanchions, he said. These were painted in the fall of 2012 by a contractor, but are starting to need repainting.
The committee’s first work trip to the lighthouse this year was May 13 and the last was Oct. 13. There were 27 trips, during which about 450 manhours of work was done at the lighthouse.
A major effort was the work accomplished by members of the SUNY Oswego track team, they sort of adopted the lighthouse, Panayotoff said.
In addition, about another 50 manhours of work was done on shore directly on lighthouse components such as windows.
An extensive restoration process is under way.
Thus far, volunteers have replaced two ceiling panels in the signal room, restored various windows, and prepared the bathroom for painting and more.
Outside work was also completed to improve the security of the basement window shutters and secure the deck hatches. Volunteers were also able to install video surveillance and warning signs on the deck.
All ten window lanterns have been replaced and the interior and exterior of the lanterns and lantern gallery deck and railings have been repainted.
In 2014, there were no break-ins at the lighthouse; the first year this has happened.
For more information about the auction, how to donate or purchase tickets to the event, call 342-0480 or visit www.hleewhitemarinemuseum.com
They could use some more volunteers, if anyone is interested, Niess added.
“We appreciate all the work that you guys have done. It’s obvious that you have a passion for what you’re doing. It’s important to note that you’ve worked very hard to find funds outside of city tax dollars,” Kaplewicz told the committee members.
“This is very much a community effort, the success of it,” Panayotoff said.