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Visit Oswego’s Historic Sites and Museums

posted by Teresa Farrell at 2023-03-31 16:04:00

Oswego is rich in culture, with a variety of museums and historical sites begging to be explored. The area’s maritime and military history are of particular interest; get a glimpse into their particular history at the H. Lee White Maritime Museum, Fort Ontario State Historic Site, and the Safe Haven Holocaust Refugee Shelter Museum.

Oswego Lighthouse photo credit H Lee White Maritime Museum

The H. Lee White Maritime Museum, located in the city’s Historic Maritime District on the shores of Oswego Harbor, is dedicated to the preservation of the Great Lakes maritime history that this area is so rich in. What began as a small collection of local artifacts over thirty years ago has grown to include several exhibit rooms and a collection of vessels that cover over 400 years of that 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. Outside, a collection of historic ships are moored to the dock. The museum also offers tours of the Oswego West Pierhead Lighthouse, accessible by the shuttle boat that the museum runs. You can find more information and book a lighthouse tour on the museum’s website.

Tug boat with flags photo credit H Lee White Maritime Museum

Oswego is also home to Fort Ontario, an iconic local landmark that was a part of each of the wars that shaped early America. Originally constructed by British forces in 1755, the fort was burned down, attacked and rebuilt on numerous occasions leading up to and during the French and Indian War and the American Revolution before being surrendered to the American forces. It was attacked once more, during the War of 1812, before being rebuilt for the final time in the early 1840s.

The structure we see today is the product of restoration efforts that aim to recreate life at the fort between 1867 and 1872, while it was still occupied by American military troops. The fort is open to the public for tours from May to October, and the grounds are a popular spot in the summer for watching the Fourth of July fireworks or enjoying a sunny afternoon outdoors. Details are available on the fort’s website.  

Fort Ontario sign photo credit Fort Ontario

You’ll also find the Safe Haven Holocaust Refugee Shelter Museum, which commemorates America’s only shelter for Holocaust survivors, in Oswego. During World War II, under the Direction of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Fort Ontario provided a Safe Haven in America to 982 people of mixed religious backgrounds and nationalities who escaped Hitler's tyranny in Europe. The survivors remained at the fort from August 1944 until February 1946, during which time they were able to build a community, attend the local school, marry, have children, and live without fear of persecution at the fort.

After the war ended, many were able to become American citizens, going on to lead rich and fulfilling lives around the country. Today, the museum stands as a testament to the remarkable story of these survivors, ensuring the preservation of this little-known but important event in our nation’s history. Learn more on the museum’s website.

A FREE APP  showcasing the Safe Haven Museum Tour can be downloaded to the iphone or android by going to the App Store or Google Play, and viewed on Computer HERE.

Safe Haven museum photo credit Safe Haven Museum and Education Center


Oswego Lighthouse photo credit H Lee White Maritime Museum
Tug boat with flags photo credit H Lee White Maritime Museum
Fort Ontario sign photo credit Fort Ontario
Safe Haven museum photo credit Safe Haven Museum and Education Center
posted at: 2023-03-31 16:04:00, last updated: 2023-04-01 13:21:10

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