Effort continues to restore New York’s Titanic Memorial Lighthouse to its original 1913 condition

April 26, 2021

The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Picture Collection, The New York Public Library. (1915). Seamen’s Church Institute of New York, 25 South Street

The campaign to landmark and restore the Titanic Memorial Lighthouse, a monument in New York City built in 1913 to honor those who died aboard the Titanic, continues. Designed by Warren and Wetmore, the architecture firm behind Grand Central Terminal, the 60-foot-tall lighthouse originally sat atop the roof of the Seamen’s Church Institute and featured a working time ball that dropped down the pole each day, along with a green light. Preservationists are now raising funds that would help restore the lighthouse, currently located at the entrance to the South Street Seaport, to its original condition.

Photo by Andy C on Flickr

One year after the tragic April 15, 1912 shipwreck, the memorial was installed on top of the Seamen’s Church Institute at 25 South Street as a tribute to the 1,496 passengers and crew who died on the Titanic. Overlooking the East River, the lighthouse was fully functioning, with a time ball that would drop each day to signal noon to ships in the harbor. It also radiated a green light that could be seen throughout the Harbor and as far as Sandy Hook.

Following the demolition of the Seamen’s Church Institute in the late 1960s, the lighthouse was donated to the South Street Seaport Museum and installed at its current location at Fulton and Water Streets in 1976.

An advocacy group is now leading an effort to restore the lighthouse to its original working condition after decades of neglect. Earlier this year, the Friends of Titanic Lighthouse Restoration (FOTLR) launched a GoFundMe fundraiser to raise funds for a Historic Structure Report, the first step in the restoration process.

“With its original restored 1913 features, the ‘time ball’ will be the only working one in the US; its green lantern will be the only working lighthouse in Manhattan; the names of the passengers and crew who perished will at last be recorded,” as the GoFundMe fundraiser, organized by FOTLR founder and president Adrian Saker, reads.

The group hopes to unveil the restored lighthouse for the 110th anniversary of the tragedy on April 15, 2022. As of Monday, $2,296 of the group’s $25,000 goal has been raised.

Change.org petition has also launched to nominate the lighthouse as a national landmark, with calls for the memorial to be placed on the National Register of Historic Places. It has since collected over 950 signatures.

The effort has been supported by public officials and descendants of passengers and crew aboard the Titanic, including Helen Benziger, great-granddaughter of Margaret Tobin Brown, who fought for the creation of the original memorial, according to the organizers. The restoration is also supported by the British Titanic Society, the Belfast Titanic Society, and the Titanic Historical Society.

Last July, State Sen. Brian Kavanagh voiced his support for landmark status in a letter to the State Commissioner of Historic Preservation.

“Today, the memorial is a cherished historical landmark that serves as a legacy of its founder, Margaret Tobin Brown—famously regarded as ‘the Unsinkable Molly Brown’—whose spirit of humanitarianism and advocacy continues to be honored and remembered,” Kavanagh said. “Standing at Pearl and Fulton Street, where it was moved in 1976, the lighthouse continues to welcome visitors and residents alike to the South Street Seaport today.”

He added: “For these reasons, I urge you to give favorable consideration to this application for the Titanic Memorial Lighthouse to be recognized as a structure deemed worthy of preservation and restoration to its original architectural state.”

FOTLR has also proposed relocating the lighthouse to the end of Pier 16 as a way to further open up the waterfront and attract more foot traffic to the Seaport Museum. Under this plan, Titanic Memorial Park would be “redesigned to include the names of the deceased in a place of reflection and remembrance,” as Saker told 6sqft in an email.


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