Fort Ontario

Jason Smith / WRVO News (file photo)

The House of Representatives Committee on Natural Resources has approved a bill that would launch a study to determine if Fort Ontario and the Safe Haven Holocaust Refugee Museum in Oswego should be elevated to national park status.

The legislation, which was authored by central New York Rep. John Katko, passed unanimously out of the committee and now heads to the full House. The 260-year-old Fort Ontario has been involved in several major American wars and the Safe Haven museum commemorates the 986 Jewish refugees who were granted shelter at the fort during world war two.

Gino Geruntino / WRVO News File Photo

During a hearing on Capitol Hill, Rep. John Katko (R-Camillus) urged his colleagues to designate Oswego's Fort Ontario and Safe Haven Holocaust Refugee Shelter Museum to National Park status. The Republican congressman is sponsoring a bill that would trigger a study to determine if the historical sites are worthy of becoming part of the National Park system.

Beit Hatfutsut Museum / Safe Haven Holocaust Refugee Museum

When Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump suggested recently that the U.S. should block Muslims from entering the country over fears of terrorism, he cited former President Franklin Roosevelt's infamous decision to place some Japanese citizens into internment camps following the attacks on Pearl Harbor. But, FDR also opened a different kind of camp in Oswego in spite of the anti-immigration sentiment from Congress at the time.

Payne Horning / WRVO News

A group of volunteers in Oswego are working with state officials to elevate Fort Ontario and its Safe Haven Holocaust Refugee Museum to a national, and even possibly global, status.

First constructed in 1759, Fort Ontario has undergone many changes in its history. It was defended and destroyed by both the British and the United States. Then during World War II, Fort Ontario became a refugee camp for European Jews and in 1953, it opened as a state historic site. Now, a grassroots campaign hopes to see the fort transform once again. 

For the past month, members of the Oswego community have been rehearsing a historical play based on real events, commemorating the 200th anniversary of the area's involvement in the war of 1812. WRVO's Mark Lavonier met with members of the production team to learn more about the play.

The play "The Great Rope" will be performed inside the grounds of Fort Ontario tonight at 6pm in Oswego.

Gino Geruntino / WRVO

Oswego's Safe Haven Museum is marking 70 years since Fort Ontario served as a camp for Jewish refugees fleeing Europe during World War II. To celebrate the event, one Oswego resident who lived near the fort at the time talked about what it was like and tells the story of her long-lost friendship with one refugee.