Each week, reporter and history-lover Mariana Dominguez visits a historical location on the South Shore. This week, she visited the Long Island Maritime Museum in West Sayville.
Long Island’s South Shore is intrinsically intertwined with a seafaring lifestyle. Therefore, it is only fitting that the Long Island Maritime Museum be located in West Sayville, with grounds encompassing 14 acres and butting up to the Great South Bay.
Founded in 1966, the Long Island Maritime Museum is located on the grounds of Meadowedge, the former estate of Mr. and Mrs. Anson Wales Hard. The museum is dedicated to “preserve Long Island’s maritime history and heritage for educational purposes.”
As a kid, I remember visiting the Maritime Museum on school field trips and participating in their summer camp program every year, but I never actually took the time to explore the exhibits and everything the grounds have to offer. There are multiple buildings on the grounds that can be explored, and all serve a different purpose in explaining the history of seafaring on the South Shore.
The most recognizable building is the Main Building, which was once the garage on the estate. Today, the building houses the museum offices, classroom, permanent displays and library. The permanent displays include a display on the United States Lifesaving Service and an exhibit about shipwrecks around Long Island. It has been fascinating learning about the United States Lifesaving Service and its intertwined history with Long Island, as there is also lots of information on the USLSS at the Fire Island Lighthouse, which I visited a few weeks ago. The USLSS was a government agency that assisted stranded or shipwrecked vessels. In 1915, it merged with the Revenue Cutter Service to form the U.S. Coast Guard. On display is equipment used by the service.
A great part of the Main Building is the 13-foot shipwreck mural with several interactive touchscreens with a searchable database that make it really easy to learn more about the sites and history of all the shipwrecks around Long Island. You could spend the better part of an hour just going through the database and looking at the photos.
The Bayman’s Cottage is another building on the property that was moved from 45 West. Avenue to its current location. The house was built around 1890 and was the home of Mr. and Mrs. Leonard Beebe. Inside, the house has lots of great pieces and is set up like a traditional Dutch bayman’s home.
The Everitt-Lawrence Small Craft Exhibition Building is a really cool building and one kids would love, as it houses the museum’s small-craft vessel collection. All of the vessels are gorgeous and even the building itself has history to it, as it once served as an aircraft support building at the Naval Air Station during WWI.
The Rudolph Oyster House showcases the history of the oystering industry in the Great South Bay, which flourished between 1890 and 1910. The house was originally located on Shore Road in West Sayville, but was relocated in 1975.
The LIMM is a great place to visit, especially on a beautiful fall day because in addition to the exhibits, you can walk the gorgeous grounds and enjoy the beauty of the Great South Bay.