Officials close Chimney Point historic site indefinitely
ADDISON — State officials closed the Chimney Point State Historic Site in Addison on June 14, citing safety concerns resulting from the nearby construction of the replacement Champlain Bridge.
The site, which is usually open from late May to October, will remain closed at least for the remainder of the year.
Tayt Brooks, the commissioner of the Vermont Economic, Housing and Community Development Department, said he closed the historic site after he learned that the contractor rebuilding the Champlain Bridge had reached an agreement to use private property adjacent to the historic site as a staging area for construction equipment.
Brooks — whose department oversees the Division of Historic Preservation — had previously believed that the contractor would store the equipment on a barge on the New York side of Lake Champlain.
Heavy machinery will use a narrow Route 17 roadway — the same road that leads to the historic site — in order to access the new staging area. After visiting the site last week with officials from the Agency of Transportation and the Division of Historic Preservation, Brooks determined that it would be unsafe for the general public to share the road with the construction vehicles.
“It would be premature to say if the site will be open or closed next year,” Brooks said, explaining that that decision will depend on construction of the new bridge, which is scheduled to be completed in the fall of 2011.
Last year, 2,962 people visited the historical site, which includes a historic 1780s tavern. It includes exhibits about the Native American, French and early American groups that lived in the strategic location on Lake Champlain.
The site also hosts the Northeast Atlatl Championship and Festival of Nations every summer, an event celebrating native culture and the Atlatl dart throwing technique. Brooks plans to relocate the Atlatl event to the Mount Independence State Historic site in Orwell.
Five part-time employees work at the Chimney Point site, and Brooks foresees continuing to keep them employed.
“There is a backlog of research to be done at the site,” he explained. He added that some of them might work temporarily at other nearby historic sites.
Archaeological work on remnants of a French settlement will also continue, despite the construction.
Over the past year, the site has generated $12,000 in revenue from gift shop sales and admissions. A press release from the Department of Economic, Housing and Community Development stated that the Agency of Transportation would reimburse the Division of Historic Preservation for lost revenue.
Lisa Cloutier, owner of the nearby No Bridge Restaurant, said she does not expect the closure of the historic site to have a significant impact on her business.
Although she understood the safety concerns that caused the closure, she called the situation “sad,” and hoped that the area will return to normalcy once the new bridge opens — with its historic site open to the public.
Reporter George Altshuler is at [email protected].