Welcome to the Ashtabula Maritime & Surface Transportation Museum, including railroads as well as the history of Ashtabula and of the Great Lakes.
Our Museum is housed in the former residence of lighthouse keepers and the Coast Guard chief. Built in 1871 and added on to in 1898, we opened as a museum in 1984.
Season Opens Memorial Day weekend and continues every weekend thru September. June, July & August – Friday, Saturday, Sunday:September – Saturday, Sunday. Not open during any holidays.
SMALL CHARGE FOR ADMISSION
New Displays at Marine Museum
BY ROBERT LEBZELTER & BOB FRISBIE
ASHTABULA — If you had difficulty seeing everything at the Ashtabula Marine and Surface Transportation Museum before, it’s going to be even more of a challenge.
That’s because of the numerous new displays. Like the world’s largest piece of beach glass, 275 pounds. Director Bob Frisbie said a Cortland couple Lynn & Larry Brady walking along the beach between Ashtabula and Conneaut spotted it and started digging it out. It is 12 inches high and has a diameter of 17 inches. It is on loan for this year and in 2019.
There’s a new model from the Ashtabula train disaster, showing what happened to the train just as the bridge began to collapse.
This and other works were created by Dick Mullen, local model maker.
There’s a display of the U.S. Ashtabula Life-Saving Service (USLSS), a nationwide effort to bring lifesaving crews of seven to eight to the nations oceans, lakes, rivers and beaches. It had a service station that was built in the Ashtabula Harbor in 1892-3.
This model shows a seven-man life-saving crew, trying to save someone from a sinking schooner. They are using what was called a “Bosons Chair”. Today we are still using these, but we now call it a “Zip-Line” and it is used for entertainment, not for rescues! This display is eight-foot long.
There’s also a “G” gauge model of a 1905 trolley car like those used to go all around Ashtabula City.
The museum boasts of a six-foot model of the TITANIC, telling the story of a survivor who came to America to settle in Ashtabula.
Anna Sofia Turja was born in Finland in 1893 and decided to immigrate to Ashtabula and work for her brother-in-law. She also had a brother in Conneaut. She survived the sinking and instead of working, met the man she would marry and had six children with.
She did not know much English, but her son took her to see the 1953 film “TITANIC” and interpreted it for her. After the movie was over he saw she was crying, so he asked her what was wrong? She said, “If a camera was so close why weren’t more people saved by them?”
If you are feeling nostalgic about the New York Central depot that was just demolished on May 29, 2018, there is a model made showing it as it looked back in the early 1950’s.
Construction of another building to house the growing donated artifact collection is expected to start in 2019, Frisbie said.
They are raising $1.5 million for building an additional space on the west side of the present museum building. Ashtabula County Commissioners approved using Block Grant funding to help demolish the old, decaying museum storage building so work can soon progress. They own the property and will be replacing it with a new 7,000 sq. ft. building which will be called the Museum and Learning Center.
“We are awaiting a few more financial donations, then we will announce the buildings addition in more detail,” he said.
People may visit the museum’s pilot house from the Great Lake ship the “Thomas Walters”.
The bell from the U.S.S. Ashtabula is on loan there. It isn’t named for the city or the county, but after the Ashtabula River.
There is a feature display on Dennis Hale, the 26-year-old Ashtabula man who boarded the Daniel J. Morrell. Out deep in Lake Huron and off the coast of Port Hope, Mich., the freighter encountered cold temperatures, 35-foot waves and winds close to 60 mph. The ship couldn’t withstand the barrage and broke in two.
Hale was the sole survivor and after suffering for several years with some frost bite and mental feelings of “Survivor’s Guilt’ he began traveling the country and telling his story to try to ease his mind. Unfortunately, he died in September 2015 at 75 of cancer.
The museum also has Coast Guard boats and other such models on display. Along with these, they also have on loan from the U.S. Coast Guard the original forth order Fresnel Lens from the 1914-5 Ashtabula Light House.
Frisbie has a large display of Huletts, which were used to scoop materials out of the hulls of ships. It was invented by George Hulett of Conneaut. Ashtabula had eight of them. They remained popular until the advent of self-unloaders. The museum has one of the only partial actual and all original Huletts on display in Point Park across Walnut Blvd. Street out front of their museum.
Outside they have on display: a 13’ high buoy, 10’ high ship air funnel, an actual life boat taken off of a Great Lakes iron ore carrier, just before it was scrapped, a Very accurate weather station, several actual company smoke stack letters off of scrapped ships from years ago plus the one removed from the Great Lakes Tug Boat office in Ashtabula Harbor just before it was torn down, a couple steel ships steering wheels, a 1800 iron ore bucket, an early railroad bridge bell and several early ships anchors!
The museum is open noon to 5 p.m. Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays until Labor Day. The rest of September, it is open Saturdays and Sundays. They are not open on any of the holidays.
This article was originally written for the Jefferson Gazette Newspaper: NorthCoast, Outdoor Recreational Guide, Early Summer, 2018.