Chimney Point to host open house Aug. 1
CROWN POINT, N.Y./ADDISON, VT. — With the Lake Champlain Bridge landscape restoration project on the verge of completion, Chimney Point State Historic Site and Crown Point State Historic Site will together host a unique New York/Vermont afternoon of learning about preservation and restoration.
“Historic preservation is in our DNA,” declared historic site administrators Elsa Gilbertson and Tom Hughes in a joint statement. “Both of our sites are part of the respective states’ Divisions for Historic Preservation, but most often the preservation work is conducted somewhat behind-the-scenes. For three hours on June 30, we will put a spotlight on a variety of restoration and preservation efforts.”
In the 1730s, the French military built forts right here, on both sides of the lake, claiming the region for New France. A quarter-century later, when the British Army arrived, they added a very large fort complex at Crown Point and defensive earthen works at Chimney Point in Addison, Vermont.
The event requires participants to follow the tour leaders on foot or bicycle. The progression begins at the Chimney Point tavern at 1 p.m. Guests should purchase their tour ticket ($8 for one person; $15 for two) upon arrival at the entrance to the Chimney Point museum. Apart from the considerable intact archaeological resources underfoot at Chimney Point State Historic Site, the oldest standing structure on the property is the late-1700s tavern section of the main building.
The second stop is outdoors, where Chimney Point landscape preservation will be explained. In 1966, the state of Vermont bought the Chimney Point property to protect it from private development. The next topic will be the commemorative trail, newly installed to interpret the previous Lake Champlain Bridge (1929-2009) using kiosks, wayside signs, indoor displays, and even a salvaged original piece of the steel bridge substructure.
After the members of the tour have crossed the new Lake Champlain Bridge (opened in 2011), the tour continues at 2 p.m. at the steamboat pier (completed in the 1930s) and Champlain Memorial lighthouse (completed in 1912), both of which were the focus of exterior restoration efforts in 2008-2009. The Champlain Memorial features four bronze figures in sculpture, including Hebert’s Samuel de Champlain and “La France” by Auguste Rodin. The lighthouse and pier are part of the Crown Point Reservation Campground, operated by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.
Next, the tour arrives at the former bridge toll collector’s house, now the Lake Champlain Visitors’ Center, which contains an excellent exhibit and several brief videos commemorating the original Lake Champlain Bridge. The toll collector’s house was built at the same time as the 1929 bridge and it was the subject of restoration work, including slate roof replacement, during 2008 and 2009. Admission to this travel information center is free.
At 2:45, the tour arrives at the authentic remains of Fort St. Frédéric (1734-59). The limestone walls here, dating back to 1734, require considerable preservation attention year-round. For the past 37 years, the ancient masonry walls on the grounds of Crown Point State Historic Site have been getting expert attention from specialist Darrell LaFrance, who will actively demonstrate his masonry skills — rain or shine — on the 279-year-old walls of the French-built fort at the lakeshore. Mr. LaFrance will be assisted, as he has been since 2001, by mason tender Robert Lacey. The limestone ruins of both the French-built fort and of the two-story barracks of the British fort, in both cases are registered National Historic Landmarks.
Next, guests will be shown evidence of landscape and viewshed preservation at the British Crown Point fort and the surrounding acreage. These garrison grounds were donated to the state of New York, for the expressed purpose of preservation, in 1910.
The tour concludes with a 3:30 p.m. tour of award-winning renovation work completed recently on the former farmyard barns that are located just outside the vast British fort ruins. LaFrance and Lacey will show foundation, structural support, and window and door work, which they led and performed with a team of staff employed by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. This special tour will end by 4 p.m.
For more information about the sites or the event, the public may contact the site administrators at 802-759-2412 (Vermont) or 518-597-4666 (New York).
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