When visiting a new place, one of my favorite things to do is learn its history. Whether it’s hopping on one of those double-decker buses or taking a themed walking tour around a major city, I’m always excited to learn something new. Locally operated museums are often my favorite way to discover the authentic history of the place I’m visiting.
In 1894, getting to the bustling seaside town of Greenport from New York City was a difficult task. The Greenport train station — the first rail line this far east on Long Island — would be packed with passengers sometimes waiting days for the next train to take them back to the city.
That same train station has since been converted into the East End Seaport Museum, highlighting the grit and dedication that made Greenport the thriving community it is today. Since the 1990s, the museum and its board has worked to preserve the historical elements of the East End, telling the rich history of the area’s whaling and oystering industries.
“This year, our new exhibits feature the history of shipmaking in Greenport as well as the rise and fall of menhaden, the fish used back then to make fertilizer,” said Paul Kreiling, curator and chair of the museum board. “We have many self-explanatory exhibits, but there’s always a docent around to tell you about the history and the future of the village of Greenport as well as the East End.”
Another landmark associated with the museum is the Long Beach Bar Lighthouse, known locally as “Bug Light.” In the late 19th century, Bug Light served as a beacon for ships coming from the harsh waters of the Atlantic, but also as a symbol of prosperity for those who lived in the villages of the East End.
“In 1938 it was decommissioned after a hurricane destroyed the foundation,” said Tracey Orlando, executive director of the museum. “It still stood as a reminder of our roots. However, in 1963, the ultimate disaster happened — it burned down. It was like losing a member of the family.”
It was sorely missed throughout the community until 1989 when the suggestion came to rebuild it. The lighthouse was completely reconstructed and recommissioned as a working lighthouse in the early ’90s. And thus the East End Seaport Foundation and Museum was born.
“It took a village and some very generous donors, but we put her back,” said Orlando of the lighthouse. “We are so proud of our community and have so much history to share.”
Around 5,000 people each season are welcomed to the museum and as summer begins, the museum is excited to welcome many more with fresh exhibits, a renovated children’s area, and a new 850-gallon aquarium set to open on the east side of the museum at the end of May. Once-weekly boat tours are offered to guests who want to see Bug Light up close. Admission to the museum is always free, however, the lighthouse tours start at $59.
For more information, or to book your cruise around the lighthouse, visit eastendseaport.org.