In 1966 the State of Vermont bought the Chimney Point property from Mary Barnes, the widow of Millard Barnes, to protect it from unsuitable private development. In 1971 Chimney Point was listed in the National Register of Historic Places for its long and significant history.
The Vermont Division for Historic Preservation, part of the Agency of Commerce and Community Development, restored the property and reopened the historic tavern and summer resort building 1991 as a museum. In 2009 the historic Lake Champlain Bridge was closed for safety reasons, and demolished at the end of the year. A new bridge was opened in 2011. As part of the project to demolish the old Lake Champlain Bridge and construct a new bridge, the grounds of Chimney Point will be improved in 2013 with outdoor interpretive signs along a path and seating area, and a permanent boat launch with fishing access.
The Chimney Point State Historic Site is located on the eastern shore of Lake Champlain at the foot of the Lake Champlain Bridge, one of the most dramatic gateways to Vermont. The site explores the history of the area’s three earliest cultures, the Native American, French Colonial, and early American, and showcases the artifacts each left behind. Enjoy the historic c.1785 tavern building, the sweeping porch with beautiful views of the lake, and the permanent and special exhibits. There are programs for school groups, a variety of lively events including the popular annual Northeast Open Atlatl Championship, and many perfect spots for picnics.
Recent archaeological and historic research has confirmed Chimney Point is one of the most strategic and historically significant locations on Lake Champlain. It has seen every period of human habitation, since the first people arrived nearly 9,000 years ago. Visitors can imagine the millennia of Native Americans fishing, hunting, camping, meeting, and trading here on the bluff or sandy beach. After the first Europeans came in 1609, this site was important for interactions between the Native peoples and Europeans. In 1690 the English watched for their French enemies navigating Lake Champlain. In 1731 the French took a stand here, building a fort to keep the English out of the lake and blocking easy access to Canada. This was the frontier of New France, the first long term French settlement in the region. This site also saw significant military activity during the French and Indian War and American Revolution. Following the Revolution, the tavern was built, welcoming visitors ever since.
Nearly 9,000 years ago, in what is called the Archaic period (7,000 to 1,000 B.C.), temperatures rose in what would become the Lake Champlain Valley of Vermont and New York as the glaciers melted and over the centuries the waters of the inland Champlain Sea receded. Vegetation and species of animals evolved significantly and the first humans came into the area.
Stone tools made and left behind at what would become Chimney Point, and all over the region, are evidences of adaptation to the changing climate and seasonal migration of peoples to hunt, fish, and gather food. These early inhabitants hand crafted spear throwers (today called atlatls) and stone spear points for hunting animals, and stone tools for cutting, scraping, and working wood. The stone materials also provide evidence of a widespread trading network. The raw materials of stone tools found at Chimney Point come from all over the Champlain Valley, the Hudson River Valley, central New York, and as far away as northern Canada.
The period from 1,000 B.C. to 1,600 A.D., immediately before Europeans began to explore this area, is called the Woodland period. The Woodland people were the ancestors of today's Abenaki or "people of the Dawnland." The Lake Champlain region continued to be an important travel route, and stone and other materials such as copper and shells from distant places were traded.
As bows and arrows were developed around the world, the Native peoples made fine, sharp stone points for the arrows as well as sharp stone blades. Many such projectile points have been found at Chimney Point and elsewhere. At the start of the Woodland period, Native Americans were beginning to make pottery, domesticate wild plants, and live in villages. At Chimney Point archaeologists have found shards of clay pots, including some made with clay that contained iron (there are iron sources just across Lake Champlain in Moriah, New York, and elsewhere).
Chimney Point was a pivotal strategic location on Lake Champlain, with its bluff overlooking the lake to keep an eye out for friends and enemies, a sandy beach and flat area to gather, and the narrows for easy crossing to the west side of the lake.
One feature, a large hearth discovered at Chimney Point as part of the archaeological work for the 2009-2013 Lake Champlain Bridge project, illustrates the Woodland occupation. The reddened hearth soil contained charcoal, bits of burned animal bones, fish scales, freshwater mollusk shell pieces, pottery, and stone tool flakes. Laboratory analysis identified many animals (rock bass, pike/pickerels, catfish, gar, walleye, snapping turtle, ruffed grouse, duck, red fox, beaver, woodchuck, and muskrat) and plants (butternuts, wild rye, and raspberry/blackberry).
In 1609 Frenchman Samuel de Champlain became the first European to explore this region and the lake that bears his name, traveling at least as far south as the Chimney Point area. This was the start of what is called the Contact Period. Europeans were excited about the wealth of natural resources, and by the late 1600s were vying for control of the waterways and land, and trying to capture the Native American fur trade. This development and the subsequent wars that occurred brought dramatic and rapid change to the native culture.
There was significant active trade between the Native Americans and Europeans of utilitarian items such as clothing, blankets, fabrics, food stuffs, armaments, and tobacco. Archaeological evidence at Chimney Point reveals a long history of this trade, and the use of European items for other purposes. For example, the Native peoples transformed broken or spent European gunflints and shards of green bottle glass into tools for scraping.
Interactions at Chimney Point between the Native Americans and Europeans continued well into the 1800s, but during that time many Abenaki, in order to survive either concealed their heritage or left the area.
In 1690 the British governor of New York sent Captain Jacobus de Warm from Albany to Chimney Point to watch the French on Lake Champlain. It is believed he built a small stone defense that he, 12 English, and 20 Mohawks occupied for about a month at this site.
In 1731 the French decided to firmly establish their presence on Lake Champlain and block the lake route from the British colonies to Canada by building a fort on the eastern (Vermont) side of the lake on a bluff overlooking the strategic narrows between Chimney Point and Crown Point, New York. The French called this area Pointe-à-la-Chevelure, or Crown Point, the crown referring to the top of a person's head (rather than to the monarchy).
The fort was a wooden stockade of posts, a fort de pieux, about 100 feet by 100 feet in size and could hold up to 30 men. It had chambers for the commandant, chaplain, and the guard, and a kitchen, bakery, and storehouse. Twenty soldiers garrisoned the first winter. This was the start of the first long term French settlement in the Champlain valley. In 2010, archaeologists discovered a large French ax head, pieces of distinctive French ceramic dishes, bits of window glass from the fort, and more.
The fort protected French interests until 1734, when construction began on a larger fort, St. Frédéric, on the west side of the lake. In 1743 King Louis XV granted a large tract of land, a seigneury, on the east side to Gilles Hocquart, the presiding officer or intendant of New France, to encourage settlement. Families built houses; cleared land to grow wheat, other grains, and peas; and planted apple trees. By 1753 there were 21 houses on the east side of the lake and 19 houses on the west side.
The struggle for control in the new world intensified during the French and Indian War (1754-1763). In the summer of 1759, as British Major General Jeffrey Amherst and his army closed in, the French retreated northward to Canada, blowing up Fort St. Frédéric and burning their houses. All that remained of the houses were the chimneys and a new name--Chimney Point.
In December 2009, archaeologists working under the 1929 Lake Champlain Bridge in preparation for removal of the bridge discovered a small section of stone wall and in 2010 revealed the base of an H-shaped chimney. It may have been the chimney of the fort bakery. A c.1760 British map labels “the chimney” in this location—the chimney of Chimney Point.
In 1759 General Amherst built a grand new fort at Crown Point, NY, and ordered completion of the military road across Vermont that connected Crown Point to Fort No. 4 in Charlestown, New Hampshire. After the war was over in 1763, new settlers came to the area via the military road, whose terminus was two miles south of Chimney Point, and by traveling on Lake Champlain.
In 1775 with the start of American Revolution military activities in the Champlain Valley, most settlers left this area because they were in the path of war and danger. In the summer of 1776, as the northern American army made improvements to the old Crown Point fort, their engineer, Col. Jeduthan Baldwin, laid out some breastworks on Chimney Point. Several regiments and Americans soldiers with small pox were stationed for a time on Chimney Point.
The next summer, when General John Burgoyne and his British and German forces pressed southward on Lake Champlain as part of his plan to split New England off from the rest of the American colonies, Burgoyne stopped for a short time at Crown Point. German General Baron von Riedesel and his men camped at Chimney Point, where Burgoyne established a guarded depot for provisions and stores. What are known as “Hessian” buttons have been found by archeologists at Chimney Point. In mid-October, as the British were deciding whether or not to hold onto the captured forts of Ticonderoga and Mount Independence further south on Lake Champlain, they planned to set up a fortified camp at Chimney Point with two regiments, artillery, and supplies to maintain communication between Canada and the forts.
The main, two-story section of the Chimney Point tavern was likely constructed c.1785, after the Revolution was over and it was safe to live here again. The tavern was a welcome sight for weary travelers on the lake. County court was held here occasionally and in 1785 regular sail ferry service to Crown Point began. In May 1791 future U.S. presidents Thomas Jefferson and James Madison visited Chimney Point and were fascinated by many small red squirrels with black stripes, perhaps chipmunks.
Brick veneer was added to the wood frame building in the early 1800s and several additions followed. In 1821 Asahel Barnes, Sr. of Connecticut bought the property. He and his family made clocks and ran the tavern, a farm, and the ferry. A post office and store also were on the property, making Chimney Point an important lakeside commercial center.
In 1890 Barnes' grandson Millard acquired the property. In 1897 he hired J. H. Bruffee, an architect and builder from Port Henry, New York, to update the doors and windows on the old tavern and build the sweeping porch. In 1905 Barnes added on the small post office section. Barnes also added the wood-frame section and operated Chimney Point as the St. Frederic Inn, a relaxing summer resort, until about 1920. During this time the Port Henry Steam Ferry Company ran their ferry, the G. R. Sherman, from the landing at Chimney Point to Port Henry and Crown Point. The ferry ran until the Lake Champlain Bridge opened in 1929. The Chimney Point post office was closed in 1934.
Your visit to the Chimney Point State Historic Site brings you to one of the most scenic and historically significant locations on Lake Champlain.
Your first stop is the museum in the historic tavern building to get your ticket and interpretive brochure. The first floor of the building is handicapped accessible. The building has exhibits with artifacts, film clips, and interactive displays, a museum shop, and restrooms. Children’s activities are found indoors and outside. The site interpreter is happy to talk with you and answer your questions.
Outside, walk on the grounds, have a picnic, or stroll across the Lake Champlain Bridge to New York State. Go boating or fishing at the Chimney Point Access Area at the foot of the driveway.
Please note that any digging, metal detecting, or artifact collecting are not permitted. Pets must be on leashes.