Welcome to Chimney Point. My name is Millard F. (the F is for Fillmore) Barnes. I was born in 1856 and I own this property. It looks like I will be the last male member of my family to live here and own this historic place. My grandfather Asahel Barnes, a clockmaker from Bristol, Connecticut, purchased the old tavern and surrounding land back in 1821, which has been a site of a farm and many businesses.
I learned to love history from my father, who was also named Asahel. He often pointed out to friends the line of old French earthworks that were plowed down on the Point, and the former location of the old French chimneys that gave name to this spot. I read everything I could find about the history of Chimney Point, as I was curious to understand its past. After I bought the place in 1890, I used the tap room as a museum. Having held various positions in local and state politics, and as a farmer and the Chimney Point postmaster, I have met many people who shared their stories with me about the old days here at Chimney Point.
Down below the old tavern is a beautiful sandy beach. Sometimes ancient artifacts, such as stone arrow points and gun flints from the French and Indian War time and the American Revolution, wash up on the beach or pop out of the sand. My driveway is the old road that went down to the two ferry docks; old maps show this same road was used first by the French for their 1731 fort here. Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, two future Presidents of the United States, visited in 1791, the year Vermont became a state.
I like to think the tavern was where Ethan Allen planned his 1775 attack on Fort Ticonderoga, but some people tell me it was built about 1785, after the American Revolution was over. It must have been very dangerous during the war, with all the activity on the lake.
When I acquired the property I thought the tavern would be a fine place for a summer resort. In 1897 I hired J.H. Bruffee, an architect and builder from across the lake in Port Henry, New York, to update the place and make rooms suitable for guests. He added the wooden section and built the big wooden porch that wraps around three sides of the building. I admit the porch makes the old building look much more inviting. We also built a five-hole privy. I put rocking chairs, a wooden chair swing, and a hammock on the porch. Paying guests came from places like Troy, New York, to get away from the city. They would take out the rowboat, and ride the ferry over to Crown Point to walk around the ruins of the 1734 French fort, St. Frederic, which I named my resort after, and the 1759 British fort. In the fall some guests would come for duck hunting. We closed in the winter as it is too difficult to heat the rooms, but I did invite friends to come in after a day of ice-fishing to warm up by one of the wood stoves.
In the late 1920s there were big plans to build the first permanent vehicular bridge across the lake right at this location. I found that upsetting as I feared it would spoil Chimney Point’s view of the lake and mountains. With increasing automobile traffic the ferries were not practical any more, and my lawyer advised me to come to an agreement with the bridge commission. I admit the engineer did work very hard to keep the bridge as far away as possible from the old tavern and to make the shape of the bridge blend in with the mountains. As they were digging holes for the bridge pier footings, they uncovered old French artifacts that must have been from the 1731 French fort or maybe from the house of one of the French settlers who lived here until the British scared them away in 1759.
I spent part of my life outside Vermont, but it was always my dream to return home to Chimney Point. To my mind Chimney Point is one of the most beautiful and historic locations on Lake Champlain. When you look around and up and down the lake, it is evident why it has been such a strategic and important point for thousands of years. Say, why don’t you plan on a visit this summer? We’d be pleased to have you, and we’ll even put out the rocking chairs.