Recently, on a road trip home from Shelburne, VT (and yes, I will be writing about the lovely Shelburne Museum very soon), I happened to spot a sign just off of the NY State Bridge that indicated I was very near to an Adirondack historic site that I’ve been looking forward to seeing for quite some time. Chris and I hurriedly pulled off the road, anxious to explore the Crown Point Historic Site. It was an incredibly hot day, and we were happy just to get out of the car for a little while and enjoy the lake breeze.
Found at the south end of Lake Champlain (and not all that far from the much more famous Fort Ticonderoga), Crown Point has a similarly episodic history.
The first occupation of the site was French, and began with the construction of Fort Frederic (1734–1759). This limestone fort stood approximately four stories tall, and was manned with cannons on each level.
Fort Frederic was lost to the British in 1759, and was destroyed by the French during their retreat. The British then erected ‘His Majesty’s Fort at Crown Point,’ the remains of which can be seen (and walked through) on the site today. They were also responsible for the creation of the earthen mounds that surround the fort. While difficult to visualize from ground-level, the shape of Crown Point’s earthen works are structurally akin to the design of Fort Ticonderoga.
This extremely ambitious fortification complex contributed to the British conquest of Canada, the last French stronghold, and control of Lake Champlain as a communication highway. (source)
In 1775, at the outbreak of the Revolutionary War, the rebellious colonists captured the fort and secured sorely needed cannons and heavy ordnance. Crown Point was occupied by General John Burgoyne’s army in 1777 after the American evacuation to Mount Independence and remained under British control until the end of the war. (source)
The ruins are very well interpreted – there are strategically placed signs that indicate which parts of the fort served which purposes, and direct visitors to interesting viewpoints, and areas from which you can see the surrounding star-shaped structure of the terrain.
Chris and I spent about an hour just wandering around the site, enjoying the views of Lake Champlain, and reading the graffiti carved into the natural limestone surrounding the fort. It looked as though soldiers may have started the trend of carving their names into the soft stone, and there were quite a lot of additions to the carvings from the 30s, 40s, and 50s, indicative of historical tourism to this site during that era.
The site also has a relatively new museum which was unfortunately closed when we visited. Admission to the on-site museums is $4 for adults, $3 for seniors and students, and free for children under 12.There is no fee if you just want to tour the ruins.
If you find yourself driving to Vermont or back using the NY State Bridge, I highly suggest that you make a quick stop at the Crown Point Historic Site. Unlike the fully restored and heavily interpreted Fort Ticonderoga, Crown Point is still in a relatively raw state, and lends itself to a peaceful walk amidst the remainders of some pretty incredible historical events.