Home sought for museum of maritime history in North Wildwood

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Photo by Jen Marra/ Now a machine shop for the marine division of the state police, some want to see this historic building become a maritime museum.  Photo by Jen Marra/ Now a machine shop for the marine division of the state police, some want to see this historic building become a maritime museum. NORTH WILDWOOD—Steve Murray believes he is closer than ever to accomplishing his mission for 10 years — to establish a maritime museum in North Wildwood.

Murray is chairman of the Friends of Heritage Inlet Lighthouse, who also want to be friends of a Historic Anglesea Maritime Village they seek to create next to the lighthouse at the north end of Central Avenue. It consists of three quarters of an acre of land and three buildings that he says are barely used. The land is owned by the state Department of Environmental Protection and its tenant is the New Jersey State Marine Police.

So recently Murray and a representative of Mayor Bill Henfey made their way to Trenton to plead their cases before the attorney general and the high ranking governor’s office of policy. They were well fortified, bringing with them petitions that have been signed by 5,000 supporters during the past eight years and letters advocating the venture from numerous officials, including U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo.

The reaction was good, Murray reported.

“I am absolutely confident we will achieve this in the very near future,” an optimistic Murray said as he awaits the proposal to go through the still-higher channels of government.

The coveted site has a history dating back to 1852 when it first was a lifesaving station. It later was used by the Coast Guard and then the state police in 1964 for law enforcement of law on the water as well as helping in rescue efforts. One of its ironies, according to Murray, is that there is now no place to launch boats from the site. History has recorded that when the need arose boats were towed by automobiles to other sites with launching docks, he said.

Today the site is mostly used by mechanics for repairs of state police vessels, Murray said. Given local history of ships wrecked and sailors rescued in the nearby waters of Hereford Inlet and the ocean, the site is a natural fit for a maritime museum, according to supports of the proposal.

Some of the artifacts are visible in the next door lighthouse but more space is needed to accommodate the existing exhibits as well as new ones.

The lighthouse has a story to tell that is parallel to the efforts of the maritime museum people.  Closed in 1964, deteriorating and used only for storage, the lighthouse got a new life in 1982 after an 18 year mission by the then Mayor Anthony Catanoso. It now is a major tourist attraction, its visitors ranging each year from between 25,000 and 35,000.  They have included tourists from every state and 35 nations.

Much of its history is told in Murray’s prize winning book, “Guardians of the Hereford Inlet.”  He is working on a second edition which will soon come off the press and will be available for purchase at the lighthouse.

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