The 21st century has been bright so far for the lighthouses of Lake Champlain, the sixth largest lake (435 square miles) in the U.S. Two historic lighthouses on the Vermont side of the lake have been relighted, and two others have been reconstructed off the waterfront of Burlington. Cumberland Head Light on the New York side was relighted in 2003 after nearly seven decades in darkness.
Now the Bluff Point Light on Valcour Island, near Plattsburgh, NY, has been restored, relighted and opened to the public thanks to years of hard work by volunteers of the Clinton County Historical Association. A Coast Guard crew officially restored the light to the lighthouse at 4:08 p.m. on November 16, 2004.
Bluff Point Lighthouse, established in 1874, is very similar to several other lighthouses built in the same period in the northeastern U.S. In fact, except for an extra window in the light tower mounted on the front part of its mansard roof, it's a near twin of Penfield Reef Light on Long Island Sound. The lower part of the structure is constructed of blue limestone, like many historic buildings on Lake Champlain.
The active light was relocated to a skeleton tower in 1930, and the lighthouse was purchased some years ago by the State of New York. The Clinton County Historical Association now has a conservation easement to maintain Bluff Point Lighthouse, the only Lake Champlain lighthouse on the National Register of Historic Places.
Volunteers of the historical association, led by Linda Harwood, have completed extensive renovation of the interior of the lighthouse over the past three years. Linda and her husband, newly elected Clinton County Historical Association president Roger Harwood, live on the mainland next to Peru Dock with a direct view of the lighthouse. They've done much to preserve their local history.
According to Roger Harwood, who is a retired technology teacher, inmate crews from nearby prisons have also provided assistance with the lighthouse renovation. He adds, "During this past season interpretive displays were added to tell the story of this lighthouse, its keepers, and the history of this immediate area."
The summer of 2004 was the first season that the Weatherwax, a near replica of the double-ended sailing ferry that was common on Lake Champlain in the 19th and early 20th centuries, was used to transport visitors to the lighthouse. The vessel leaves from the Peru Dock to the north of Valcour Island, and passengers disembark in a protected cove near the lighthouse. About 225 people took advantage of this unique opportunity this year.
The Clinton County Historical Association opens the lighthouse to the public from 1 to 3 p.m. on the Sunday before Memorial Day and every Sunday from July 4th weekend through the Sunday of Labor Day weekend. The Weatherwax is scheduled to be operating again in 2005, and a formal dedication of the relighted lighthouse is planned for early summer. You can get more information about visiting the lighthouse or volunteering by contacting the Clinton County Historical Association at (518) 561-0340.
This story appeared in the
Jan/Feb 2005 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.
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