Lake Champlain boasts more than 400 years of history and was the stage for the French and Indian Wars, the American Revolution, and the War of 1812. Evidence of these battles is still around today and can be experienced throughout the Lake Champlain Region. With so many places to explore, it can be a daunting task to decide where to start. Here are seven historical sites to get you started.
North Star North Star Underground Railroad Museum
Address: 1131 Mace Chasm Rd, Ausable Chasm, NY 12911
Hours: 11 a.m. - 4 p.m. (5 p.m. during July and August) from May 27 - October 9
The North Star Underground Railroad Museum is located in the Town of Chesterfield Heritage Center, which is adjacent to the entrance to Ausable Chasm. The museum reveals the hidden history of the Champlain line of the underground railroad, which encompassed the Upper Hudson River, the Champlain Canal, and the Lake Champlain corridor. In the mid-1800s, thousands of enslaved Americans fled to Canada seeking freedom. Head to this amazing museum to learn the stories of the enslaved Americans on their journey to freedom and the local residents that helped them. Admission is free but donations are gratefully accepted.
Adirondack History Museum
Address: 7590 Court St, Elizabethtown, NY 12932
Hours: Wednesday 10 a.m. - 4 p.m., Sunday 12 p.m. - 4 p.m. from Memorial Day - Columbus Day
The Adirondack History Museum is housed in a 100-year-old building that was formerly Elizabethtown High School. The museum features eight permanent exhibits, including Worked/Wild, Arto Monaco, the Land of Make-believe, Fire Towers, Transportation, and Hiking in the High Peaks. Beyond the indoor exhibits, guests can visit a colonial garden, a maple sugar house, a farmer’s market pavilion, and climb a historic fire tower that stands 58 feet tall. This regional museum also features artwork from Essex County residents, both historic and contemporary, at the Rosenberg Gallery.
Crown Point State Historic Site
Address: 21 Grandview Drive, Crown Point, NY 12928
Hours: Friday - Sunday, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., from May 19 - October 29
Crown Point is home to the preserved remains of two forts from the colonial wars between the French and the British. The site was also instrumental during the Revolutionary War when American colonists captured the fort in order to secure much needed cannons. Over the winter of 1775-76, Colonel Henry Knox moved 29 cannons from Crown Point to Boston, a 250-mile journey. The grounds are free of charge and are open to the public from sunrise to sunset. On Saturdays, Sundays, and holiday Mondays, guided tours are offered at 10:30 am and 1:30 pm, which are approximately 45-60 minutes. After exploring the historic site, guests can have a picnic by the lake at one of the many picnic tables adorning the peninsula. The expansive Champlain Bridge serves as a scenic backdrop, which connects New York state to Vermont.
Champlain Memorial Lighthouse
Address: 784 Bridge Rd, Crown Point, NY 12928
On July 4, 1609, Samuel de Champlain became the first recorded European to see the lake that now bears his name. In 1858, the Crown Point Lighthouse was erected. Years later, in 1912, the lighthouse was converted into a memorial in his honor. The memorial also served as an active lighthouse for fourteen years, but in 1926, its light was extinguished. Visitors can climb a circular staircase made of stone to the top of the limestone tower and take in expansive views of Lake Champlain. The lighthouse is accessible from the Crown Point Campground, which is across the street from the Crown Point Historic Site. There is a day-use fee to enter the campground ($6). Stop by the booth and let them know you are there to see the lighthouse. If you stop by the Crown Point State Historic Site, keep your ticket, it gives you free access to the lighthouse. This place is definitely worth the stop for the breathtaking views of Lake Champlain alone.
Penfield Homestead Museum
Address: 703 Creek Rd, Crown Point, NY 12928
Hours: Tuesday - Thursday, 10 a.m. - 2 p.m. from June - October (appointment only)
The Penfield Homestead Museum features rooms that depict life in the 19th century and an area dedicated to Crown Point’s involvement in The American Civil War. The grounds also include a Carriage Barn with carriages and a horse-drawn hearse and a Cow Barn with displays on farming, beekeeping, and lumbering. Across the road from the Homestead is a church and parsonage built in the 1840s. The latest addition to the museum is a replica trip hammer and forge, which highlights the area's history of iron ore processing, hence the name Historic Ironville. A short self-guided walk is available that highlights the Crown Point Iron Company manufacturing complex, which flanks the banks of Penfield Pond and Putnam Creek.
Hancock House - Ticonderoga Historical Museum
Address: 6 Moses Circle, Ticonderoga, NY 12883
Hours: Wednesday - Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (excluding holidays)
The Hancock House is a replica of Thomas Hancock’s famous Boston residence. His uncle, John Hancock, is most famous for being the first person to sign the Declaration of Independence. He was also the second president of the Continental Congress and later served as Governor of Massachusetts. For a taste of colonial architecture and four floors of exciting exhibits, the Hancock House is a great stop to add to your itinerary. The museum collection includes furniture and objects from the 18th and 19th centuries, including Duncan Phyfe and Chippendale pieces, colonial-era furniture, old toys, and local history displays.
Address: 102 Fort Ti Rd, Ticonderoga, NY 12883
Hours: Tuesday - Sunday, from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. through October 9
If you can only make it to one historical site in the Lake Champlain region, choose Fort Ticonderoga. Fort Ticonderoga is arguably one of the best-preserved forts from the 1700s in the US. This star-shaped fort was formerly called Fort Carillon, as it was originally built by the French in 1755. Over the years, the fort changed hands between the French, British, and Americans several times throughout the second half of the eighteenth century. In early American history, Fort Ticonderoga played a key role in America's quest for independence. There is so much to learn and explore, you could spend an entire day here. Come explore exhibitions featuring art, weapons, and equipment from North America to Europe that document warfare in Colonial and Revolutionary America. After you visit the exhibits, don't miss the King's Garden, musket and cannon-firing demonstrations, and driving to the top of Mount Defiance for a bird's eye view of the fort and Lake Champlain. For an even bigger experience, you can add on a boat cruise or other special tour. Fort Ticonderoga also has special events throughout the warmer months, so be sure to check out the events and programs on the website. In the fall, check out the Heritage, Harvest and Horse Festival (October 1) and the Heroic Corn Maze (open on weekends and holiday Mondays after September 1).
The Lake Champlain Region is full of legendary places. From scenic hikes to local farms, there's plenty to see and do beyond historical sites. Come stay awhile and experience all that the Lake Champlain Region has to offer!