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Learn About Lake Ontario’s History at the H. Lee White Maritime Museum

posted by Teresa Farrell at 2019-01-23 07:44:00

Even in Wintertime, Oswego's H. Lee White Maritime Museum is a great place to spend an afternoon learning about the area’s unique maritime history.  

Located in the city’s Historic Maritime District by Oswego Harbor and the Oswego Canal (the northern-most extent of the famed Erie Canal), The H. Lee White Maritime Museum was founded in 1982 as a tribute to the local maritime history and culture. Under the direction of Historian Mercedes Neiss, the Museum Complex now stands on Oswego Harbor’s West Side Pier next to the Wright's landing Marina, and is directly across the Harbor from the fascinating West Pierhead Lighthouse. This lighthouse, dubbed the 'Icon to Humanity,' can be toured in the Summer months by taking a boat shuttle across the Harbor, and should NOT be missed!

On the East side is the Port of Oswego, which serves as an International Shipping Port on the Great Lakes, where people can watch giant transport cargo ships come and go. And what began as a small collection of local artifacts over thirty years ago has now grown to include 12 exhibit rooms and a collection of vessels that covers over 400 years of local Oswego maritime as well as Erie Canal and Great Lakes history!

Kids can learn fun facts about maritime history and terminology from Sailor Sam, a cartoon sailor whose interpretive signs are scattered throughout the museum, and visitors of all ages can enjoy the bounty of historical exhibits and artifacts the museum has on display. New additions geared toward more recent history and local culture complement the 1800s-era exhibits that form the collection’s foundation, creating a timeline that tells the story of Oswego, the harbor area, and Lake Ontario in an interesting and interactive way.

The museum’s rooms are lined with artifacts and artwork, a mix of old and new that blends the eras into a comprehensive timeline. And, of course, the museum includes an exhibit on its namesake, H. Lee White, an Oswego native who served in the navy, made a name for himself as a prestigious lawyer, and went on to found the Oswego Shipping Company, which eventually expanded to form the American Steamship Company of today.


Outside, a collection of historic ships are moored to the dock and open May through October for visitors to climb aboard and tour, so a trip back during warmer months is a must. The collection includes NYS Derrick boat 8, the last steam powered barge still in existence along the canal system; 42-foot 1948 fishing boat Eleanor D., the last US commercial fishing vessel to work on Lake Ontario; and the US Army Tug LT-5, a designated National Historic Landmark tug boat that crossed the Atlantic Ocean during World War II, participated in the Normandy invasion, and shot down an enemy plane. An indoor exhibit tells the LT-5’s story year-round, so you can still learn about her history during the winter months.

Please take note, the H. Lee White Maritime Museum is generally open seven days a week in the winter from 1-5 p.m.; but for full, up-to-date hours and admission info, check the website or Facebook page before you head out.

HLeeWhiteMaritimeMuseum outer view photo credit Doncram
Oswego West Pierhead Lighthouse photo credit Harini Rath

LT 5 Tug photo credit Doncram
H Lee White ship model photo credit H Lee White Maritime Museum

posted at: 2019-01-23 07:44:00, last updated: 2019-01-31 13:36:04

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