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Repairs on Oswego lighthouse to begin soon

Kenneth Schunk

The city of Oswego is moving forward on its plans to restore the West Pierhead Lighthouse. But there will be several steps to the restoration process before it can be opened to the public.

In the late 1960s, the iconic Oswego lighthouse was automated, and ever since then, it has been unoccupied and has fallen into disrepair. The city of Oswego took over ownership of the structure in 2009.  Safety improvements and a lot of cleaning are needed, according to Ted Panaytoff, chairman of the Oswego Lighthouse Development Committee.

"One of the problems we've had lately is that people have been gaining access into the lighthouse and done some vandalism inside, which is very sad because this just makes restoration more difficult and more expensive," said Panaytoff.

However, Panaytoff says there is more to the restoration process than just cleaning up the site. Not only does the lighthouse have to remain fully operational during restoration, any repairs have to be approved by the New York State Historic Preservation Office.

"Anything we do is restoration and therefore has to be approved by them," said Panaytoff. "That means we can't go out there and paint it with pink stripes or something. Anything we do has to preserve it's historic nature."

Many of the renovations will be paid for by the $225,000 grant awarded to the city of Oswego by the State Canal Corporation. But Panaytoff says there is still the question of the lighthouse's upkeep -- especially if it is going to be open to the public.

"Right now since the building belongs to Oswego it falls under the responsibility of public works so some of the maintenance might be done by them," he said. "But again, we don't want the building to become a burden on the tax payers of the city of Oswego."

The city may perform some of the maintenance, but, Panaytoff says, the development committee is hopeful that the site will eventually become self-sufficient through the help of volunteers and the sales of souvenirs.