By MADDY VITALE
The Ocean City Life-Saving Station 30 has been closed for all but small, private tours due to the restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic.
But this weekend, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday, the museum will open its doors for the Lighthouse Challenge.
The event will give visitors once again a glimpse back into the building, where re-creations of maritime life, artifacts and reproductions tell a tale of those who risked their lives to save others in the early part of the 20th century.
The Life-Saving Station museum, at the corner of Fourth Street and Atlantic Avenue, is part of New Jersey’s Lighthouse Challenge, and during the annual event visitors may tour the state’s historic lighthouses and museums, which will raise funds for preservation and restoration.
John Loeper, a local historian who serves as chairman of the Ocean City museum, said he is looking forward to showcasing some of the new pieces to the Life-Saving Station and also some new facts uncovered through research over the past year.
“We have some new items that we have gotten over the course of the year. We are excited to have the museum opened again,” Loeper said. “We have a lot of small things we have gotten this year. We have been doing a lot of research.”
He emphasized that the building will be wide open to create an open-air environment that will protect visitors from the spread of COVID-19.
“All the doors and all the windows will be open. Masks will be required and six-foot distancing,” Loeper said. “We are also limiting the number of people, so it does not get overcrowded. It’s a building that can safely be opened.”
One of the volunteers will be at a table protected by a plastic shield, where people may make donations to the museum.
Loeper noted that more than ever, especially with the lengthy closing of the museum due to restrictions of the pandemic, donations are greatly appreciated. The museum has been closed to the public during the coronavirus crisis except for small, private family tours.
The Life-Saving Station building dates back to 1885 and is one of a few surviving examples of life-saving stations in the country. A forerunner to the U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. Life-Saving Service was responsible for rescuing the passengers and crew from the many shipwrecks that occurred in the late 1800s and early 1900s in the busy shipping lanes along the East Coast.
Ocean City’s station was occupied by the Life-Saving Service until 1915. The Coast Guard took over then and continued to use it for life-saving operations until the 1940s.
A succession of owners had it as their private home for decades before the city bought it in 2010. While the building dates back to the late 1800s, the museum re-creates the life-saving station’s prime period, around 1900 or 1905.
One of the biggest and perhaps most impressive new pieces that will be on display for history buffs at the museum is a surf boat.
In August, the museum acquired a 17-foot, 65-year-old Seabright skiff, commonly known as a surf boat. It is of the smaller surf boat variety, but of the same design dating back to the 1850s as that used by the men in the Life-Saving Station.
Other interesting pieces that add to the museum’s collection of artifacts are two original axes that were in surf boats and used by surf men in their rescue efforts.
Throughout the year, Loeper and some volunteers, spent their time digging deeper into the history of the Life-Saving Station.
“We know the second Life-Saving in New Jersey was built on this site in 1852,” Loeper said of some new information they discovered about the location of the original Ocean City station.
“What that does for us now is, it opens up a whole other pile of research,” he added.
For more information, visit the Facebook page to find out more about the U.S. Life-Saving Station 30 in Ocean City.