Old Bethpage Village Restoration
WW II Armor Museum On The Grounds Of Old Bethpage Village Restoration
Aiding Nassau County’s Tourism Industry While Generating New Park Revenue
In a move designed to further strengthen Nassau County’s tourism and the county’s destination tourism industry while providing a new source of revenue for the county’s park system, the Museum of American Armor will build a 25,000 square foot facility just inside the grounds of Old Bethpage Village Restoration on Round Swamp Road, Old Bethpage.
The ability of the museum to create a military armored column that replicates the sights and sounds of American forces during World War II offers one of the most compelling educational tools our region has in telling the seminal story of American courage, valor and sacrifice. Placing it in this unique setting of vintage farm houses and country roads creates a virtual time machine that ensures a powerful regional, national and international destination for visitors.
This multipurpose effort of OBVR is also an unprecedented opportunity to expand the scope of the complex by creating a complimentary use and thereby reawaking public awareness, improving attendance and strengthening revenue for a county park system that has been hurt by the recession.
Lawrence Kadish, Chairman and founder of the Museum of American Armor, stated, “Seeing these vehicles cross an open field as Airpower’s vintage fighters fly overhead recreates a moment in time that allows us to begin to appreciate what was required by our grandfathers to defeat an evil that even today we cannot fully comprehend. Our goal is to bring the sights and sounds of American history to a new generation and thereby pay tribute to those who defended our freedoms.”
Visitors will walk through the museum’s camouflaged front doors that have been heavily sandbagged similar to the way important bunkers were protected some 70 years ago. Inside, a gift shop and administrative office will occupy a modest amount of space as the bulk of the building will be devoted to the display of some 30 vehicles. Half a dozen times a year, and in coordination with OBVR programming, these vehicles will be presented in the field or on the Village’s country roads as living historians offer displays on WW II tactics.
History Channel Historian applauds expansion of history tourism
Chief Historian for the History Channel, Dr. Libby O’Connell, observed, “This announcement marks a unique commitment by public and private sectors to preserve and present a seminal chapter in the history of our nation and our world. It also reflects a commitment to apply a variety of innovative resources to the task of funding the preservation of our history. By using complimentary periods within the same space, Nassau County has strategically enhanced the ability of Old Bethpage Village Restoration to be a stronger destination for local residents, tourists and those who live within the tri-state area.
The arrival of the Museum of American Armor at Old Bethpage Village Restoration will allow for a joint marketing program with the nearby American Airpower Museum at Republic Airport and Nassau County’s Cradle of Aviation Museum at Mitchel Field, Garden City.
Operational vehicles that will be on public display include an iconic Sherman tank, a Stuart light tank used extensively by the Marines during their Pacific campaigns, a potent 155 mm howitzer, reconnaissance vehicles that acted as armored scouts for American forces, anti aircraft guns and similar weapons that broke the back of the Axis powers during World War II. Other vehicles range from a classic LaSalle staff car in the markings of a Fleet Admiral to jeeps, weapons carriers and half tracks. Multimedia displays will augment the display of vehicles and visitors will be able to see tanks under repair and restoration.
Old Bethpage Village Is A National Treasure
Old Bethpage Village Restoration’s Role As Home Of The Museum Of American Armor
Does this announcement mark an unprecedented departure for what has been a Long Island Village set in the 1800’s? Does it damage itsoriginal premise?
This kind of innovative thinking creates new and exciting revenue opportunities for county facilities without imposing a burden on the taxpayer as there is no public money being used to build, maintain and sustain the armor museum. Old Bethpage Village is a national treasure and this multitasking of the park allows Nassau County to protect its future through these kinds of unique public-private partnerships.
Not only will the integrity of the Village be preserved but our ability to protect it in the future will be enhanced because attendance is crucial to its maintenance. Only by building awareness, public participation and additional attendance can Nassau County grow its heritage tourism and Old Bethpage Village Restoration sits at the heart of that effort.
How will a prefabricated structure of the 21st century complement the architecture of the early 1800’s that remains at the heart of Old Bethpage Village?
The armor museum’s building will not in any way intrude on the 1850’s. One of the great benefits of siting the armor collection here is that it can be tucked out of the way for those who wish to see this unspoiled time machine of Americana. The grounds can then be reinvented for a weekend when it is transformedfrom a pre Civil War village into the European summer of 1944 and then reinvented immediately as the 1850’s when the last tank is put back inside its shed but available for public inspection.
What will be the attendance revenue split with the Armor museum during those weekends when it is operating in the field?
There will be no attendance split. The County will keep all proceeds.
Will the armor collection be available for public display throughout the year?
Yes it will be although the armor will only be operating in the other parts of the Village during specific weekends designated by the County Parks system and the museum.
Do you envision a joint marketing alliance with the nearby American Airpower Museum at Republic Airport?
There is no question that these two organizations are going to create a growth in heritage tourism on Long Island that will be far greater than the sum of the parts. It also enjoys joint leadership so their goals and objectives are closely aligned. This was demonstrated last year when armor rolled down the museum’s flight line and we expect to see our American armor force enjoy air cover on some of its weekend events.
Will the armor collection ever be moved off site to veterans programs, parades and other county events?
That is already occurring and that commitment to be at events where armor serves as a reminder to say thanks to our veterans will not change.
Will any live rounds ever be fired during demonstrations at the Village?
Never. It’s illegal. Very illegal.
You made reference to heritage tourism. Can you tell us more?
Heritage tourism has become very big business across the country and Nassau County has an opportunity to grow its share of the market through this effort without cost to the taxpayer. The National Trust for Historic Preservation defines heritage tourism as: …traveling to experience the places and activities that authentically represent the stories and people of the past. It includes historic, cultural and natural resources.
The goal of heritage tourism is to preserve cultural legacies, to interpret stories by offering places to either see where events occurred or to encourage travelers to seek out the places that connect them to a time and place that still shapes us as individuals, as a region or as a nation. A national study of cultural and heritage travel conducted in 2009 reveals that 78% of all U.S. leisure travelers participate in cultural and/or heritage activities while traveling, translating to 118.3 million adults each year.
The report also found that heritage travelers spend an average of $994 per trip compared to only $611 for other leisure travelers. The study also found heritage travelers are more frequent travelers, reporting an average of 5.01 leisure trips in the prior 12 months vs. 3.98 trips by non-heritage travelers. They prefer their leisure travel to be educational and they spend more on cultural and heritage activities. Finally, they will travel farther to get the experiences they seek.
Sad to say, World War II veterans are leaving us at ever faster rate. Do you think this armor museum has the means to attract people to Old Bethpage Village?
During a discussion with History Channel Chief Historian and Executive Vice President Dr. Libby O’Connell we were reminded that World War II continues to attract enormous audiences as it remains a compelling era that never fails to captivate significant portions of their viewing public. Its role as a seminal event continues to connect with literally every family in America and makes World War II related events, displays, programs, museums and exhibits a center of economic and educational activity.
The taxpayer has seen firsthand what happens when World War II heritage programs are introduced into our parks system. Gate receipts soar. As stated, in May 2012, with modest marketing, a World War II encampment weekend that featured many of these armor assets brought 5,000 paying visitors to Old Bethpage Village Restoration. It was a “beta test” of the best kind. We are building on that success.