Still long from finishing its own rescue, the historic U.S. Life Saving Station 30 hosted a public event Saturday as part of the statewide Lighthouse Challenge.
The Life Saving Station at Fourth Street and Atlantic Avenue is in the early stages of a restoration that will give the public a glimpse of how it looked and operated in the year 1905.
Representatives of the nonprofit organization facilitating the restoration gave the public an update on progress.
John Loeper, chairman of U.S. Life Saving Station 30, showed the public how "selective demolition" of the interior helped locate original doors and windows.
He said architects currently are working on final blueprints, and the city will soon solicit bids first for exterior work, then for interior — a project that could take a "couple years."
When work is complete, the public will be able to visit a living maritime museum at the site.
"I'm just amazed," Mayor Jay Gillian said in brief remarks during the event.
He said his administration is committed to seeking grants to help continue the restoration.
The Life Saving Station also displayed a model of a breeches buoy — a rescue device consisting of a rope, a pulley and a buoy, similar to what many people know today as a zip line.
U.S. Life Saving Station 30 operated in Ocean City from 1885 to 1915. The U.S. Life Saving Service was a precursor to the modern Coast Guard.
Though the station sits two long blocks and a quarter-mile from the beach, it has never moved. In its day, the station was on the beach. The same storms in the early 1900s that eroded 10 blocks of Longport deposited sand on the north end of Ocean City, according to Loeper.
Three stations in Ocean City and others up and down the U.S. coast were positioned not only to rescue ships and sailors in distress but to serve as places of shelter and medical clinics on shorelines that were often sparsely inhabited and remote.
The city bonded for nearly $1 million to purchase the property in 2010 and end a decade-long battle to save the station from demolition.
The city has also funded a portion of matching grants for the restoration of the building, but the nonprofit group has promised to reimburse the city for the full cost of the restoration and developing the museum.
Lighthouse Challenge weekend is a two-day opportunity to visit 11 land-based lighthouses, two museums and two lifesaving stations on the New Jersey coastline. Participants in the Challenge may purchase a souvenir passport for only $1 and have it stamped at each stop along the way.