Resource for Historians, Educators, Students and Visitors since 1997
Just south of the ruins of the mighty French and British fortresses at Crown Point sits one of the most unusual lighthouses of its kind in the world. Located on an outcropping just below the great bridge also named for the French explorer; the Champlain Memorial Lighthouse still keeps its silent vigil over the narrow passageway between New York and Vermont.
Erected on the base of an earlier stone tower constructed in 1858, this imposing edifice was to serve a dual purpose. This reconstructed lighthouse, while still serving as an aid to navigation, would serve to honor the intrepid French explorer, Samuel de Champlain.
The very spot it stands on is among the most historic along the lake. It is possible that Champlain's battle with the Iroquois took place here. We know for certain that a fortified windmill was erected here by the French as an outwork of Fort St. Frederic. In 1759 the French fled north, destroying the structure behind them. There was an important redoubt (the Grenadier Redoubt) situated here that was utilized by both the British and the Americans during the Revolution. Today the historic light is open to visitors as a part of the Crown Point State Historic Site.
The structure itself is interesting enough. Yet one of its most remarkable features is a bronze bust by famed French artist Auguste Rodin. This marvelous work of art, a gift from France, was presented to the nation during grand ceremonies held in May of 1912. Also adorning this beautiful structure is a dramatic bronze statue by noted American sculptor Carl Auguste Heber. The completed lighthouse was dedicated on July 5th of that same year.
This particular lighthouse only was operational for a short time, various sources report the deactivation as either 1926 or 1929 at the completion of the Champlain Bridge. This great bridge itself is historic, in that it was the first bridge to connect New York and Vermont across Lake Champlain. The bridge rises dramatically in the center as it was built to accommodate the tall smokestacks of steamers traveling through the narrow channel.
The lighthouse was built in a neoclassical style with eight Doric columns surrounding the cylindrical shaft incorporated from the 1858 structure. The tower stands some 55' tall. The light had a fifth-order Fresnel lens, quite common in Lake Champlain lighthouses. It beamed a fixed white light that was visible for about 15 miles.
An adjoining lighthouse keeper's cottage was torn down at the time the Lighthouse was deactivated.
Click on an image above to view Slide Show
Champlain Memorial Lighthouse Dedication Ceremonies, May/July 1912
Modern day images of the Champlain Memorial Lighthouse
(Click on the thumbnails to see a large image)
The lighthouse is easily accessible from the NY State Campground at Crown Point Historical Site. It is open to the public and a visit to the top is highly recommended.
The Champlain Tercentenary: Report of the New York Lake Champlain Tercentenary Commission.1911:Prepared by Henry Wayland Hill, LL.D., Secretary of the Commission. Albany: J.B. Lyon Company, State Printers.
THE TERCENTENARY CELEBRATION OF THE DISCOVERY OF LAKE CHAMPLAIN AND VERMONT: A Report to the General Assembly of the State of Vermont. 1910: Issued by the Lake Champlain Tercentenary Commission of Vermont. Montpelier, Vermont: The Capital City Press
LA GRANDE SEMAINE: FÊTES DU TROISIÈME CENTENAIRE DE LA DÉCOUVERTE DU LAC CHAMPLAIN. 1909: RÉDIGÉ PAR J.-ARTHUR FAVREAU. Secrétaire de la Société Historique Franco-Américaine. Worcester, Massachusetts: Compagnie De Publication Belisle.
George Clifford, "Lake Champlain Lighthouses: An Illustrated Guide to the Historic Beacons". (Clinton County Historical Association, Plattsburgh, NY. 1999
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