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Seaport Museum's 110-year-old lightship to be restored to its glory days

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The ship will undergo a $4.5 million restoration thanks to city officials

A model of the Lightship Ambrose
Via South Street Seaport Museum Archives

One of the South Street Seaport Museum’s most prized possessions is set to undergo a major restoration. The Museum announced on Monday that the city had contributed $4.5 million towards restoring the Lightship Ambrose, which is currently docked at Pier 16, as part of the Museum’s collection of five historic vessels.

Built in 1907, Lightship LV-87, as the ship is officially known, served as a floating lighthouse that guided ships from the Atlantic Ocean “into the broad mouth of lower New York Bay between Coney Island, New York, and Sandy Hook, New Jersey.” This could often be a treacherous stretch because of the sand bars and shoals in the area.

Ambrose was the first lightship to be fitted with a radio, to help boats navigate when visibility levels were poor. The lightship remained in service until the 1960s, after which it was donated to the Seaport Museum.

Now the Museum plans to restore it back to its glory days, and subsequently use it as a space where people can learn about the science and technology behind navigation, about immigration to the city, and of course experience the boat’s “radio shack.”

“The lightship Ambrose is an iconic symbol of New York,” Jonathan Boulware, the executive director of the Seaport Museum, said in a statement. “For millions of immigrants, Ambrose was the literal light of liberty. Passing Ambrose lightship meant that you'd arrived at America's shores. Ambrose's light was the beacon of liberty visible long before the Statue of Liberty.”

The announcement of this latest restoration follows a $16 million renovation of the 132-year-old sailing ship Wavetree, last year. Ambrose’s restoration was made possible by contributions from the Mayor’s office, the City Council, and the Manhattan Borough President’s office.

“The Lightship Ambrose is a vital part of our history as one of the world's greatest port cities, and preserving it for generations of New Yorkers to learn its story and walk its decks is a priceless investment,” Gale Brewer, Manhattan’s Borough President, said in a statement.

South Street Seaport Museum

12 Fulton Street, Manhattan, NY 10038 (212) 748-8600 Visit Website