Staten Island is often overlooked by visitors to New York City. Those that do visit tend to ride the Staten Island Ferry to enjoy its great views, and then turn around and ride back to Manhattan.
However, there are many great spots to visit on Staten Island, and one of the best is located just steps from the St. George’s Ferry Terminal.
The National Lighthouse Museum is housed within a building that once served as the foundry for the United States Lighthouse Service General Depot.
The buildings all around the museum, which were also part of this depot, are in various states of decay. While they will hopefully be restored over time, I really enjoyed seeing the old, decaying architecture as I walked to the museum.
The National Lighthouse Museum was opened to the public in 2015. Because it is relatively new, there aren’t a significant number of artifacts on display. However, there is a lot of great signage at the museum, as well as a few artifacts that tell the story of lighthouses in the United States, and, in particular, the northeast.
My visit to the museum started with a docent sitting me down and giving me a very in-depth overview of the history of lighthouses in the United States. While this overview was focused on the lighthouses of the northeast, and particularly of those near New York City, it did touch on the general history as well.
While this talk was a bit unexpected, it really did add a lot to my experience and offered me a lot of new information and appreciation for lighthouses thanks to the docent’s words and the photos he showed me.
Since I paid my own way and they were unaware I was writing this review, I got the impression that this talk is something that they always offer to visitors. However, if you are there on a busy day, it’s possible your overview might be a bit shorter.
After the overview, its time to actually tour the museum. While there are plans to expand the museum in the future, the National Lighthouse Museum currently is housed in one large room. However, they put a lot of great information into the space.
On the first wall, there is a timeline of history that offers two concurrent timelines covering the history of lighthouses and the history of the site where the museum is located. Given that the museum’s building was part of lighthouse history, this is definitely an interesting timeline to read over.
In the center of the room, there are a small number of mostly large artifacts on display. These items include a historic fog horn, a Fresnel light, and more signs that offer a lot of great information on the history, purpose, and design of lighthouses.
The most noticeable part of the museum is a large red and white lighthouse that sits near the museum’s entrance.
This replica lighthouse is surrounded by smaller ceramic lighthouses that represent dozens of real lighthouses around the United States. It’s really neat to use these models to compare the many beautiful lighthouses throughout the country.
Inside the lighthouse, there is a four-minute film that offers a brief overview of lighthouses in the United States. If you are unable to get a talk from a docent for whatever reason, this is a nice alternative.
Overall, the National Lighthouse Museum is a nice stop on Staten Island. While it’s probably not worth a trip from New York City just to visit this museum, if you find yourself riding the Staten Island Ferry, it’s a great way to experience a bit of both local and United States history while in the area.
National Lighthouse Museum
Hours: Tuesday-Sunday: 11a-5p
Cost: Adults: $7, Kids: Free
Address: 200 The Promenade at Lighthouse Point