Transformation of the Nautical Museum

at Horton Point Lighthouse


Each May, Southold Historical Museum reopens the Nautical Museum at Horton Point Lighthouse for the season. Volunteers are getting ready to welcome visitors back once again on May 27, 2023. However, this year, the museum interior looks much different. The exhibits have been reinterpreted to emphasize several important local narratives including whaling, working on the bays, the history of the lighthouse and its keepers, and a scaled model of the famous Holland Submarine.

Southold Historical Museum Executive Director, Deanna Witte-Walker stated, “Historically, museums began as ‘cabinets of curiosities.’ In some ways, the Nautical Museum at Horton Point Lighthouse had a similar feeling. It was a collection of interesting stuff. When our volunteers expressed interest in making some changes, I realized the time was suitable to reimagine the exhibits.”

Beginning on May 27, when the museum reopens for the season, visitors will notice that while there might be fewer artifacts filling the cases, there is more to absorb. The interpretive labels help to share a story of what life was like for baymen who made a living throwing seining nets and using rakes to harvest the local waters.

Additionally, the whaling section highlights the story of Captain Henry Green who moved to Peconic after retiring as a whaling ship captain out of Sag Harbor. Modeled after similar wheels at the USS Constitution and the Cold Spring Harbor Whaling Museum, this section features the “Whaling Wheel of Fortune” which visitors both young and old alike are encouraged to spin to learn their fate as a whaler.

The section that examines the history of the Horton Point Lighthouse still centers around the impressive 3rd order Fresnel lens. This narrative is enhanced by artifacts related to the work of keeping a light which include brass lamps, workbench, chest, and tools from Horton Point Lighthouse, as well as other artifacts. The timeline which delineates the chronology of the lighthouse, alongside the years of the keepers as well as the years of the shipwrecks, makes for an attractive visual which is also chock full of information.

There are still finishing touches to be added and ideas are being explored for an interactive touch screen in the room with the model of the Holland Submarine, the early sub which was tested off New Suffolk (The U.S. Navy acquired the sub after the testing in New Suffolk.)

Witte-Walker stated, “Along with our Board of Trustees, I am proud of the work accomplished by our Manager of Collections, Amy Folk, and our volunteers. When the lighthouse volunteers approached me about the exhibits, I am not sure they knew what I had in mind, but together, the team was able to transform the museum so that what was old is new again. Much appreciation is extended to all involved.”

Southold Historical Museum is looking forward to welcoming first-time and repeat visitors of all ages. There is something for everyone to explore. Additionally, volunteers will be available to greet people at the top of the lighthouse tower.

One thing that hasn’t changed is the “Undercover: Stories of Rum Running in Southold” exhibit. The seasonal exhibit which explores the stories of local residents during Prohibition was originally planned to be installed for just one summer season. However, the exhibit has proved so popular that the Museum decided to keep it on view for the 2023 season as well.

Horton Point Lighthouse is one of seven historic lighthouses located in Southold Township. The tower and adjoining keeper’s residence were built on the “Cliff Lot” of Barnabas Horton’s original 1640 land grant.


The Nautical Museum at Horton Point Lighthouse is open May 27 to September 17, 2023 on Saturdays and Sundays from 11:30am-4pm.  Admission is $5 per adult, $10 per family, which entitles visitors to a passport that can also be used for admission to the Museum’s Maple Lane Complex (open July1 to September 17, 2023).

For more information about this or other programs,

please email or call 631.765.5500. 


Photo / left: 3rd order Fresnel lens

Photo / right: “Whaling Wheel of Fortune”


AAQ / Resource: Riverhead Buick | GMC