Extraordinary leaves and layers
As you are cruising along the Adirondack Coast this fall, peeping at the magnificent colors, you are bound to admire the awesome scenery the historic Lake Champlain valley displays. From early European exploration, through conflict, and settlement, this fertile valley and its resources have been sought after and fought over. There are layers upon layers of American history here. Along this western shore are numerous opportunities to uncover the past. Historic sites and museums reveal a multitude of stories that have occurred here over the years.
Many of our historic sites and museums continue to welcome you into the autumn months. In fact, it’s a great time to visit. Here are a few sites to put on your list while exploring the Adirondacks this season.
Open daily from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. through October 29, no visitor should overlook this phenomenal opportunity to witness America’s history in an authentic and gorgeous setting. See history recreated right down to the minutest detail. Whether you are a military history buff, have an interest in early architecture, historic preservation, art, gardening, or landscaping, it is all here. Maybe you’d like a Lake Champlain boating experience, to accept a challenge in the Heroic Corn Maze, (open weekends and holiday Mondays after September 1), or perhaps you'd like to follow in a soldiers’ footsteps on the Battlefield Trail? You will find all of this and more at Fort Ticonderoga. Capture miles of a colorful scenic view from the summit of Mount Defiance and see how Lake Champlain, and other nearby historic waters, converge.
Paddle a canoe or take a cruise on Lake Champlain. Dine on heirloom vegetables grown in this historic ground and meet heritage livestock. Allow yourself plenty of time to visit — it will be a memorable experience! Don't forget to check out the special Fort Ticonderoga fall events and programs like the Heritage, Harvest and Horse Festival.
2. The Hancock Museum - Ticonderoga Historical Society
Open year round, Wednesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., excluding holidays, the beautiful structure known as the Hancock House is home to the Ticonderoga Historical Society. It is actually a replica of Thomas Hancock’s Georgian mansion on Beacon Hill in Boston, and is located at Liberty Circle in Ticonderoga on the western end of Montcalm Street. The original structure was built with the intent to house “American traditions in history and the fine arts.” At one point it was also the headquarters for the New York State Historical Association. Today, just seeing the architectural details of the building is a treat, but inside you'll find more layers of Ticonderoga’s significant history, three floors of noteworthy art collections, period furnishings, revolving exhibits, and an extensive research collection. Jump start your holiday shopping at their Book and Gift Shop.
This museum is open weekends from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. through October 8, which is the day of Penfield’s Applefolkfest. The Applefolkfest will be held 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. with live music, wagon rides, antique cars on display, assorted craft vendors, chili, hot dogs, and a variety of apple desserts.
The Penfield Homestead Museum has significant ties to the region's early iron industry and the Civil War. The collection in the main house, carriage barn, and other homestead outbuildings now includes a replica “bloomery forge.” Ironville considers itself the “birthplace of the electrical age,” since the first industrial application of electricity was here. Follow the self-guided tour, “On The Trail of the Monitor,” to learn of this community’s strong connection to the Civil War. The main house features a vast collection of artifacts from this period. Across the road is an extensive research library, open Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Two trailheads lead from the edge of Penfield Pond and will display some beautiful color during the autumn months.
4. Crown Point State Historic Site
This museum is open Thursday through Monday from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. until October 16. Look for the Knox Cannon Trail Monument, a new feature since 2017. This monument is dedicated to Colonel Henry Knox's heroic effort to move 59 cannons (29 from this site at Crown Point) 250 miles to Boston over the winter of 1775-76.
The grounds on this historic site are open year round from sunrise to sunset. Located in Crown Point, on the New York side of the Lake Champlain Bridge connecting to Vermont, you'll find approximately 500 acres waiting for your exploration within the entire Lake Champlain Bridge Heritage Area. Inside the museum, watch an audio-visual show that explains this critical geographic location along Lake Champlain. Also see century-old artifacts unearthed right here.
Outside, explore the ruins of two National Historic Landmarks, the French fort, St. Frederic, and the British His Majesty’s Fort at Crown Point. Once on the grounds, you are on the eastern terminus of the North Country National Scenic Trail — a 4,500-mile trail that extends into North Dakota. Several miles of hiking trails are available right on the grounds. This is also part of the Eastern Atlantic Flyway for migratory birds. Fall is a great time to visit to get a viewing of those species headed south.
5. Champlain Memorial Lighthouse
This magnificent lighthouse is located on NYS DEC’s Crown Point Campground, across Route 185 from the Crown Point State Historic Site. While the campground remains open until Columbus Day, access to the interior of the lighthouse is available on good weather days. The grounds to the campground are open all year for viewing the exterior which includes Rodin and Heber sculptures. Built as a humble navigational aid in 1858, the lighthouse underwent an elaborate transformation during the early 1900s to honor the 300th anniversary of Samuel de Champlain’s exploration of this vast lake.
6. Chimney Point State Historic Site
Open until Columbus Day, this historic site can be visited on Wednesday through Sunday from 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Step right into a 1780s historic tavern visited by former presidents. This museum is located on the Vermont side of the Lake Champlain Bridge and a short, incredibly scenic, bridge-walk from the Crown Point State Historic Site and lighthouse. Inside find exhibits and artifacts hundreds of years old. This was the original French settlement at this key location along the lake. When the British arrived in 1759 all the outlying buildings and houses were burned; only the chimneys were left standing, giving this peninsula the name it holds today.
The Iron Center will remain open until October 17. Visit on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday from noon until 2 p.m., or on Thursday from noon until 3 p.m. You also can call (518) 546-3587 for an appointment. Located on Park Place in the village of Port Henry, the entire town of Moriah’s history is strongly linked to the vast iron mining industry located within its hills from the early 1800s until the 1970s. Located within an original carriage house of that era, this museum will introduce you to all the workings of that industry, so much of which was not visible from above ground.
An intricately detailed diorama illustrates above and below ground iron mining activity. The second story of the museum houses the town of Moriah’s Historical Association where you can learn of “Arctic City,” Moriah’s early silent filmmaking industry, and more.
This museum is open through Columbus Day, Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. This vast regional museum is housed in a 100-year-old public school building on Court Street in Elizabethtown — the county seat. Multiple floors containing exhibits, collections, and over two centuries of artifacts will showcase the history of Essex County’s 18 individual towns. Climb a historic 58 foot Adirondack fire tower, now erected on its grounds. New this year are exhibits: Adirondack Suffragettes; Women and the Great War and Hiking in the High Peaks. The Rosenberg Art Gallery, contained within the museum, is hosting a special exhibit: Artists of War: Posters of WWI .
Since this historic cabin is visible year round from the Point Road in Willsboro, it is not to be missed during a visit in any season. Located on Willboro Point, a 3-mile-long peninsula extending into Lake Champlain, the drive is particularly scenic dressed in autumn’s colors. The cabin is thought to be one of the oldest log cabins in America, dating to the late 1700s. Built by a veteran of the Revolutionary War, Samuel Adsit, it was once home to a family of 16.
10. The North Star Underground Railroad Museum
Open until Columbus Day, the Underground Railroad Muesum can be visited Thursday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Located on Mace Chasm Road, adjacent to the entrance of Ausable Chasm, this great museum uncovers yet another layer of Lake Champlain’s significant role throughout American history. This museum details the Champlain Line of the underground railroad. Learn the stories of runaway slaves attempting to reach Canada during the mid-1800s and of the network of many area residents attempting to aid these freedom seekers.
Yes, get caught up in our autumn beauty, but don’t overlook our history. It’s captivating as well.