Lake Champlain, bordering New York, Vermont and Quebec, was once a bustling waterway. More than ten lighthouses were built on the lake in the nineteenth century, on the New York and Vermont sides. A light was established at Isle La Motte, at the northern end of the lake, about 1829 – actually a lantern placed in an upper window of a house. The present 25-foot cast iron lighthouse was built in 1880 along with a wooden keeper’s dwelling. A skeleton tower with an automatic beacon replaced the lighthouse in 1933. The station was sold into private hands, and the lighthouse remained dark for nearly 70 years. In 1949 the property was bought by the Clark family.
Meanwhile, a handsome 40-foot stone lighthouse tower was built in 1858 at Windmill Point in Alburg, Vermont, about six miles north of Isle La Motte. In 1931, the light was removed from the lighthouse at Windmill Point, and it was relocated to a nearly steel skeleton tower. The lighthouse and keeper’s house passed into private hands. In 1963, Lockwood Clark, better known as Lucky Clark, purchased the property, making two lighthouses in the family.
In 2001 the Coast Guard began looking at the possibility of reactivating some of Lake Champlain’s lighthouses. 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. Then, on the evening of October 5, 2002, the Isle la Motte Lighthouse returned to service at dusk.
Rob Clark, son of Lucky Clark and the longtime owner of these two lighthouses, is the interview subject in this episode of Light Hearted.
Jeremy D’Entremont is the author of more than 20 books and hundreds of articles on lighthouses and maritime history. He is the president and historian for the American Lighthouse Foundation and founder of Friends of Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouses, and he has lectured and narrated cruises throughout the Northeast and in other regions. He is also the producer and host of the U.S. Lighthouse Society podcast, “Light Hearted.” He can be emailed at Jeremy@uslhs.org