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Isle La Motte Lighthouse

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1880. Northwest tip of Isle La Motte, off Shrine Rd. Visible only from Lake Champlain

This is the most notable of the ten lighthouses established in the nineteenth century along the New York and Vermont shores of Lake Champlain to facilitate shipping. In 1879 Congress authorized funds to replace the first lighthouse on this site—a stone pyramid with a lantern, tended by a local farmer. Taking its place was a wood-frame keeper's house, a fog bell, and this twenty-five-foot conical tower, visible for thirteen miles. The tower is cast iron, which had been used as early as 1846 for the twenty-five-foot-tall Juniper Island Lighthouse near Burlington (reputedly the oldest standing iron lighthouse in the United States). The design here is similar to lighthouses at Chatham and Nobaska, Massachusetts, and identical to the Point Montara, California, light. The Isle La Motte version is three segments high, with a round-headed door and, at the top, small circular windows and brackets that carry a balcony with iron balusters and drop pendants. The polygonal light chamber with fixed windows has a conical roof topped by a ball finial. Originally painted a bright red, the tower has faded to light pink. In the 1930s the U.S. Lighthouse Service replaced the Champlain lights with automatic beacons on lower-maintenance skeletal towers and sold this and other complexes to private owners. Along with Windmill Point Lighthouse (1858) in Alburg, a forty-foot stone tower and keeper's house, the Isle La Motte lighthouse passed into the hands of the Clark family, who maintained both structures. Faced with the deterioration of the skeletal replacements, the Coast Guard collaborated with the Clarks in 2002 to reactivate both historic towers. Though they remain inaccessible to the public, they are visible from the lake.

Writing Credits

Glenn M. Andres and Curtis B. Johnson


What's Nearby


Glenn M. Andres and Curtis B. Johnson, "Isle La Motte Lighthouse", [Isle La Motte, Vermont], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Cover: Buildings of Vermont

Buildings of Vermont, Glenn M. Andres and Curtis B. Johnson. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2013, 185-185.

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