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Windmill Point Light
Alburg, Vermont
Windmill Point Light main page / History / Bibliography / Photos

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History

Alburg was settled by the French in 1735, and was home to Abenaki Indians before that. After an embargo in 1808 local smugglers sledded contraband from Alburg over the ice to Canada.

Through the centuries northern Lake Champlain has been the scene of many sightings of "Champ," a Loch Ness Monster-type creature. In 1954 a high school principal and three other men were boating near Alburg when they saw a 20-foot long animal swimming in the lake.

One of more than 10 lighthouses built on busy Lake Champlain in the 19th century, Windmill Point Light was established, according to some sources, as early as 1830. The first light at Windmill Point, reportedly the site of an early windmill, may have been a makeshift lantern on a post.

old photo of lighthouse and keeper's house
U.S. Coast Guard photo
stairs and window
Windmill Point Lighthouse has a limestone spiral stairway
fossil in limestone
A fossil snail in the limestone stairs

The present handsome 40-foot stone tower was built in 1858 along with a keeper's house attached by a passageway to the tower. Similar towers were built around the same time on the New York side of the lake at Point aux Roches and Crown Point. The lighthouse originally held a sixth-order Fresnel lens exhibiting a fixed white light.

The light's first keeper was a woman, Clarina Mott. Mott was born in Alburg in 1803. The third keeper at the station, Herbert C. Phelps, another Alburg native, was a Civil War veteran. Phelps graduated from medical school in 1874, while he was serving as keeper, and he went on to work for many years locally as a doctor and surgeon. 

Windmill Point's last keeper was Edward H. Hill, son of Wilbur Hill, longtime keeper of the nearby Isle la Motte Light. Edward Hill and his wife, Lillian, raised eight children at the light station.

In 1931, the light was removed from the lighthouse and was relocated to a nearly steel skeleton tower. The lighthouse and keeper's house passed into private hands. In 1963, a local man named Lockwood "Lucky" Clark was showing his bride-to-be around the area. As he was pointing out the lighthouse, the owner approached and asked if they were interested in buying it. Clark soon purchased the propery, making two lighthouses in the family -- his father had bought Isle la Motte Lighthouse in 1949.

Rob and Lucky
Rob and Lucky Clark at the top of Windmill Point Lighthouse in September 2003
 

In 2001 the Clarks were approached by the Coast Guard about the possibility of relighting their two lighthouses. This was something the family had thought about for years, so they gladly began work to prepare the towers. The Coast Guard provided the optics and solar panels to provide power, while the Clarks did some refurbishing of the lighthouses. Lucky Clark and his son Rob estimate that they spent about 400 hours and about $400 on their lighthouses to get ready for the relightings.

On August 7, 2002, National Lighthouse Day, over 300 onlookers cheered as the lighthouse was relighted at Windmill Point. For the first time in almost seven decades, Lake Champlain had a working lighthouse. 

Chief Warrant Officer Dave Waldrip, the lighthouse manager for the First Coast Guard District, explained the process, "We are keeping the signal for the mariner and putting some history back into Lake Champlain."

At the relighting on 8/7/02. L to R: Lighthouse owner Lockwood "Lucky" Clark, his son Rob Clark, and Senior Chief James Steudle, Group Commander U.S. Coast Guard Station Burlington
Photo by PA3 Michael E. Hvozda, U.S. Coast Guard Public Affairs Detachment

The relighting ceremony was the result of cooperation between the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum, the State of Vermont, the U.S. Coast Guard and the Clark family, owners of the lighthouse. At 8:33 p.m. everyone counted down from ten and the light was switched on.

Lighthouse buff Sue LeFever, who attended the relighting, says that the Clarks were "ordinary folks who take extraordinary pride in their accomplishments and enjoy sharing with others. They are true lightkeepers."

Lucky Clark, lighthouse owner and preservationist, died in 2009 at the age of 92. Click here to read more about him.

Windmill Point Lighthouse is private property and is not open to the public.


Keepers:  (Thanks to David E. Cook for providing this list in his book The Light-Keepers of Lake Champlain.  If you have any information on the keepers of this lighthouse, I'd love to hear from you. You can email me at nelights@gmail.com. Anyone copying this list onto another web site does so at their own risk, as the list is always subject to updates and corrections.)

Clarinda Mott (1859-1862); William Brayton (1862-1867), Herbert Phelps (1867-1889), Jonathan Bowman (1889-1908), Edward Hill (1908-1931)

Last updated 10/21/10
Jeremy D'Entremont. Do not reproduce any part of this website without permission of the author.

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