Digest>Archives> October 2009

National Lighthouse Museum Items Thrown in Trash

Man Mugged While Trying to Save Them

By Timothy Harrison


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The administration building of the Lighthouse ...

Contents from the offices of the proposed and now defunct National Lighthouse Museum (NLM) in Staten Island, NY, have been tossed in the trash and lost forever. And the man who tried to save the items was mugged. Does this sound like fiction? Unfortunately it is all true.

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Ron Meisels sporting a black eye and head wound ...

While walking home from a baseball game, Ronald Meisels, who has been leading a private and valiant last ditch effort to try and save the National Lighthouse Museum (NLM), came across piles of trash thrown out in front of the museum's office. The first thing that drew his attention was a large presentation board with the NLM logo and mission statement. There were boxes, all labeled with a number, other placards, several computers with their hard drives, and hundreds, if not more, teaching and educational supplies for the lighthouse children's program that was being developed.

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One of the buildings of old Lighthouse Depot on ...

Meisels couldn't believe what he was seeing, especially since he had been working since September of 2008 to draw pubic attention to saving the National Lighthouse Museum. At that time, when he read that the National Lighthouse Museum Board was being disbanded, he formed a group called L.A.M.P. (Lighthouse Action and Mobilization Planners) that was started as a petition drive to save the museum.

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This view through the fence shows a serious state ...

Meisels took as much of the material as he could from the trash and brought the items home. Then he returned for more. But, suddenly, and without warning, as he described it, "Just like the when the Nantucket Lightship LV117 was struck by the RMS Olympic, I had the unexpected encounter with fate."

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Educational supplies for children are among the ...

Three hoodlums jumped him. One of them encircled his neck in a choke hold while the other two assaulted him. He fought back. But he was no match for the three of them, especially after one of the thugs used a short pipe to beat him on his head to the ground while the others rifled his pockets.

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Stacks of newspapers containing over 100 articles ...

He eventually ended up in the police station looking at mug shots until the police finally convinced to seek medical attention. Finally by 5 AM he was released from the hospital.

Meisels and his girlfriend immediately headed back to the former offices of the National Lighthouse Museum at 30 Bay Street, Staten Island, NY, to salvage the rest of the thrown out items. But they were too late. Everything was gone, probably picked up by the trash collectors.

And perhaps the last vestiges of materials of what once could have been a great lighthouse museum have been lost forever. Unfortunately, we may never know what was in the boxes and bags of trash that went to the dump. We also wonder what happened to some of the artifacts that had been donated to the museum early on. And, what happened to the research material of noted lighthouse historian F. Ross Holland that had been donated to the museum and other items such as old photographs, written memories and logbooks? Some reports indicate some items may have gone to a museum in Connecticut, but at press time we have been unable to verify if that actually happened.

The history of the NLM and what has happened behind the scenes is confusing and may never be fully understood. However, it is estimated that over $6 million was spent on building renovations and interpretative displays. Two structures were renovated and others were stabilized and improvements to the public plaza were made. Other historic buildings were given to developers to be used for upscale shopping and condos. Millions more were spent to rehabilitate the pier, but the Lightship Nantucket LV112 has never been allowed to dock there and sits rusting away in Oyster Bay, Long Island.

What happened and what went wrong may never be known. It's all hidden in vast amounts of paperwork that may never be deciphered. However, perhaps if the museum were allowed to have opened on a smaller scale, rather than the big grandiose plans originally envisioned it would have gained more grass roots financial support. In fact, this could probably still be done if one building with exhibits were opened now.

But for now, unless someone steps forward with some additional money and real dedication, for all practical purposes the National Lighthouse Museum is defunct.

This story appeared in the October 2009 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.

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