|Crown Point, NY|
Description: Located at a site steeped in rich history, the Crown Point Lighthouse today serves as a navigational beacon and as a monument to the exploration of Lake Champlain.
A windmill was the first structure built at the site around 1737 by the French, as part of Fort St. Frederic, but it was blown up in 1759, when the French relinquished the fort to the British. Using the French fort as a foundation, the British built their strongest defense on Lake Champlain, Fort Crown Point. Remains of part of the outer fort, The Grenadier Redoubt, can be seen today, just south of the lighthouse.
During the Revolutionary War, Fort Crown Point was surprised and taken by a detachment of “The Green Mountain Boys” under the command of Seth Warner. On the same day, Ethan Allen took Fort Ticonderoga, located ten miles south of Crown Point. The British eventually took Fort Crown Point back and held it until the end of the war.
A sister to the Point Au Roche Lighthouse and the Windmill Point Lighthouse, the Crown Point Lighthouse was a 55-foot octagonal limestone tower connected to a wooden Cape Cod style cottage. The one and a half story dwelling had a kitchen, pantry, dining room, and parlor on the first floor and three bedrooms on the upper. The lighthouse, which was first activated for the opening of navigation in 1859, was built by O'Neal and Ellis of Malone and Champlain, NY with a subcontract to S. W. Clark & Co. of Willsboro Point for the blue limestone to build the tower. Trapezoidal windowpanes encased the lantern room, from where a fifth-order Fresnel lens beamed a fixed white light at a focal plane of eighty-three feet.
And as such, the Crown Point Lighthouse faithfully served for over 50 years.
Samuel de Champlain discovered the lake on which his name would be bestowed on July 4, 1609. A few years before the tricentennial of this event, the states of New York and Vermont each established a commission to determine fitting events to celebrate Champlain’s discovery. The resulting festivities commenced at Crown Point on Monday, July 5, 1909 with a sham battle, an address by Governor Charles E. Hughes of New York, Indian pageants, and fireworks. Over the next four days, events were held at Ticonderoga, Plattsburgh, Burlington, and Isle La Motte. Among the many dignitaries of note who witnessed parts of the celebration was William H. Taft, President of the United States.
Besides planning the week-long celebration, the commissions from New York and Vermont also desired to erect a suitable and permanent memorial to Champlain. One suggestion that appeared in a local newspaper’s Letters to the Editor was to convert an existing lighthouse into a memorial. The lighthouses at Windmill Point and Split Rock appeared to be the early front-runners for conversion, but it was the Crown Point Lighthouse that, with the blessing of the Lighthouse Service, was eventually selected in 1910. With $50,000 in funds left over from the celebration, work on the memorial to Champlain and the exploration of the lake began.
On the side of the memorial facing the water is a sculpture, crafted by American Carl Heber, depicting Champlain flanked by a crouching Huron Indian and a French soldier. The sculpture was cast by the Roman Bronze Works in Brooklyn, while the monument was designed by Dillon, McClellan, and Beadel.
The French donated a bronze bust by Auguste Rodin to be incorporated in the monument. At the dedication of the bust on May 3, 1912, the president of the visiting French delegation remarked “The United States is raising a monument to a Frenchman, and France sends you, through us, her tribute of gratitude. Once more, the two great democracies are thinking and acting in unison.” The Rodin is mounted on the memorial below the sculpture of Champlain.
The official dedication of the completed monument, presided over by President William H. Taft, was held on July 5, 1912 and featured remarks by John A. Dix, Governor of New York, and Colonel William C. Sanger.
In 1926, the navigational function of the Crown Point Memorial Lighthouse was assumed by a skeletal tower erected near the water's edge and control of the lighthouse was turned over to the State of New York. The tower stood sixty-seven feet above the water's surface and, powered by acetylene, had a characteristic of a half-second flash followed by two seconds of darkness. A battery of ten tanks at the base of the tower stored a year's worth of gas.
With the completion of the nearby bridge at Crown Point, the usefulness of the modern light was short-lived, and in 1931 the tower was relocated to Windmill Point where it was used to aid anti-smuggling activities. At its new home, the light was paired with a similar one on Rouses Point and used by the customs service to sweep the narrow channel in search of smugglers trying to sneak liquor into the area in violation of Prohibition.
The keeper’s quarters attached to the memorial lighthouse was eventually removed after the property was conveyed to New York State. In 2004, Governor George Pataki, speaking at a press conference held at the Crown Point Pier, announced that the state would be "providing $730,000 from the State Environmental Protection Fund to fix this historic covered pier to make sure it is handicapped-accessible and at the same time, to restore the historic lighthouse ... that has been such an incredible symbol of Crown Point." The funds will be matched by federal Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) monies. The restoration of the lighthouse should be completed in time for the quadricentennial celebration of Champlain's historic voyage.
Located just south of the Highway 17/903 Lake
Champlain Bridge in the Crown Point Public
Campground and across the street from the Crown Point State Historic Site. The lighthouse is owned by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Grounds open, tower open in season.
The lighthouse is owned by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Grounds open, tower open in season.
Pictures on this page copyright Kraig Anderson, used by permission.