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I attended the Grand Re-opening festivities for the Lighthouse and Post Museum at Sandy Hook last month. The historic lighthouse had been closed for about 10 months to correct issues with the foundation and structure that were manifesting themselves in stains on the exterior. The Fort Hancock Museum had been closed since 2010 and suffered a major setback during 2012’s Hurricane Sandy.
The $1.3 million dollar cost of the renovation was funded primarily by the parking fees beach-goers are charged during the summer months. The park’s non-profit partner, Sandy Hook Foundation, also raised money to restore both structures.
The program began with a presentation of the flag by a local academy’s color guard, along with the national anthem and pledge of allegiance.
The mayors of Highlands and Middletown, a county Freeholder, a senior Coast Guard official, the superintendent of Gateway National Recreation Area and the Commissioner of the National Parks of NY Harbor were all in attendance and spoke briefly about the significance of the Lighthouse and Fort Hancock.
Commissioner Joshua Laird spoke of the lighthouse as a member of the NY Harbor Parks family, having borne witness to two and a half centuries of American history. Superintendent Jen Nersesian spoke of the lighthouse as a survivor, having outlasted several wars and major hurricanes. And we were all reminded by the Coast Guard official that the Sandy Hook Lighthouse is older than Boston Light’s ‘new’ lighthouse and is therefore the oldest functioning beacon in the US.
The speeches were followed by a ribbon-cutting, first at the lighthouse and then at the Fort Hancock Museum (housed in the old military jail.)
There was cake and lemonade in the Lighthouse Keeper’s Quarters (which serves as the visitor center.) There were also some people dressed in Revolutionary War era costumes providing living history demonstrations.
After cake, I waited on the line for a few minutes to walk up to the top of the lighthouse. Because of the narrow and steep spiral staircase, only eight people were allowed up at a time. The line moved fairly quickly and before I knew it, I was at the top, looking down on Fort Hancock, the Batteries and the New York skyline.
I headed over to the museum for a slide show and talk about the archaeological digs conducted by Monmouth University while the renovation was in progress. Artifacts as far back as the revolutionary war were discovered.
This was a fun event and it was great to see the community involvement in saving these Historic Landmarks. I found out about it through Facebook, of all places, but I’m glad I did!
My other posts on Sandy Hook:
- Sandy Hook
- Grand Re-opening
- Sandy Hook Light (coming soon)
- Fort Hancock (coming soon)
- Women’s Barracks (coming soon)
Location: 128 South Hartshorne Drive, Highlands, NJ 07732
Designation: National Recreation Area
Date designated or established: 10/27/1972
Date of my visit: 9/30/2018