A Little Museum with a Big Name and a Big Purpose
There's a museum in Erie County that a lot of people may not know about. In fact, it's kind of tiny compared to other museums in the area. However, it plays a big role in honoring the men and women who served our country in the military.
It’s the Wesleyville Area Museum of Armed Forces Small Boats. It's a large name for a building that's so small. The museum building measures 12 feet by 24 feet. I have to wonder how many museums in the country are smaller.
"There are some that are, says Guy Lombardozzi, Museum Co-Founder and Curator. “A closet. Some of them they have like a glass cube 20 feet by 20 feet in some corporate foyer. So we're probably middle of the road for some smaller museums."
The room is 12 by 24, but it is jam-packed with fascinating artifacts from conflicts ranging from World War I to the War in Iraq. The museum also honors Wesleyville area citizens who served in those conflicts. The main focus is on small boats that served in U.S. amphibious operations. The museum has an outdoor display that includes a 17-foot patrol boat and a 9-foot lifeboat.
"During World War II there were over 300,000 small boats in the amphibious forces. Today, there are less than 3,200. It's simply the technology is advanced so that many number of boats aren't needed anymore,” says Guy.
Guy wants to preserve the history of those boats. He served two tours in Vietnam during his four years in the Navy. Guy also served many years in the Coast Guard Reserves including 11 years in Erie and 6 years in Ashtabula. He donated to the museum the boonie hat he wore in Vietnam. He also donated his Mustang suit that he wore at Coast Guard Station Erie.
Many people have donated artifacts to the museum. An Army blanket from World War I. Japanese currency from World War II. A high-pitched boatswain's pipe used to give commands on ship. There's an official coffee mug from the Erie Coast Guard Station.
The small museum is now full. The directors are working to get a state grant to soon move into a bigger building. In the meantime, visitors are welcome to walk through this tiny museum with the long name.
"We would love to have folks show up here,” says Guy. “I tell them, ‘Save yourself 10 minutes of your life and come on in and we'll take you on the Grand Tour."
The museum is located at 2911 North Street behind the Wesleyville American Legion. It is open on Saturdays beginning at noon, except September 30 when it will be closed all day. Admission is free. The donation of items is always appreciated.