|Juniper Island, VT|
Description: Samuel de Champlain was the first European to record seeing the lake that now forms the boundary between upstate New York and Vermont. In July of 1609, Champlain and two of his men sailed down the 120-mile-long lake, upon which Champlain had bestowed his name, in company with Algonquin Indians on their way to battle with the Iroquois.
During the next two centuries, several countries battled for control of the important waterway. After the final naval conflict of September 11, 1814 and the construction of the Champlain canal in 1823, which connected the Hudson River with the lake, Lake Champlain became a major passageway for iron ore and lumber.
Lights were needed to guide vessels on their way, and private beacons were set up around the lake without much rhyme or reason.
The original Juniper Island Lighthouse was a thirty-foot conical brick tower, and its light, consisting of an array of ten lamps backed by reflectors, was lit for the first time on May 11, 1826. The lighthouse replaced a light mounted atop a pole that had been erected by a commercial shipping company. The workmanship on the original tower must have been inferior as by 1838 the lighthouse was in disrepair, and in 1846 it had to be replaced.
The new tower consisted of four cast-iron rings stacked to form a twenty-five-foot cylinder that was topped with a sixteen-pane lantern room. A white, two-story stucco dwelling, attached to the tower, served as the keeper’s quarters. The iron tower is similar to the Monomoy Point Lighthouse and is the oldest surviving cast-iron lighthouse in the United States.
A fourth-order Fresnel lens replaced the reflector lamps in 1853. Located atop precipitous shale cliffs, the fixed white light had a focal plane of ninety-three feet above the lake and was visible for seventeen miles. Juniper Island also had a fog bell, positioned above a wooden shed, which could be automatically rung by a clock mechanism every fifteen seconds when needed.
In 1954, the light was replaced by a 60-foot steel skeleton tower, located on the south shore of the island. Two years later, the island was sold at auction to a private owner.
Tragically, the keeper’s dwelling was severely damaged in 1962 by an uncontrolled camper’s fire. The iron tower and wooden bell house fortunately survived. The scorched dwelling slowly crumbled away over the years until just an outline of the foundation topped in places by a few rows of the reddish bricks remained. In late 2001, the current owners of the lighthouse started to reconstruct the dwelling using 17,890 bricks salvaged from the original structure. The exterior of the dwelling is now complete, and reconstruction of the passageway linking the dwelling and tower and restoration of the tower itself are still planned.
Several lighthouses on Lake Champlain have had lights placed once again in their lantern rooms, starting with the Windmill Point Lighthouse in 2002. It is doubtful that the old tower on Juniper Island will be reactivated as only its tip can be seen from the water, due to dense brush and foliage that covers much of the island. The modern Coast Guard tower on the island will have to serve mariners for now, but just a few yards away, the oldest light station on Lake Champlain is being reborn.
Located on Juniper Island, just over three miles offshore from Burlington. The lighthouse and island are privately owned. Grounds/dwelling/tower closed.
The lighthouse and island are privately owned. Grounds/dwelling/tower closed.
Pictures on this page copyright Kraig Anderson, used by permission.