CROWN POINT - The Crown Point State Historic Site will mark its 100th anniversary this year.
With the assistance of a rejuvenated "friends" group, plans are being made for a centennial celebration, according to Tom Hughes, site manager.
"Today, the Friends of Crown Point State Historic Site are readying to likewise make a positive difference for Crown Point, with a similar intention of public benefit," said Hughes, noting the history of the site. "And special programming at the site this year will include the public in the centennial celebration."
The historic fort ruins at Crown Point became a permanently-preserved state park April 22, 1910.
"Some powerful people, such as Port Henry businessman Walter C. Witherbee and Gov. Charles Evans Hughes, took action on behalf of the public," Hughes said. "The establishment of Crown Point State Historic Site seems to have also been inspired by the Champlain tercentenary celebrations of July 1909."
The governor and Witherbee attended a Champlain tercentenary celebration in July 5, 1909, which set the stage for the development of the Crown Point State Historic Site.
"This event was impressive and well-attended by the public and it provided an opportunity for Gov. Hughes and Walter C. Witherbee to consider together the future of the Crown Point fort ruins," said Hughes, who has been researching the site's history. "Walter Witherbee and his brother Frank would lead the preservation effort, which would involve buying some historic property and offering to deed it to the people of the State of New York."
Hughes has found letters from Witherbee and Hughes discussing the Crown Point Historic Site's creation.
On March 25, 1910, Witherbee sent a letter to the governor urging the preservation of the Crown Point site.
"Among the most interesting historical ruins of the country are those at Crown Point ... on Lake Champlain. Witherbee, Sherman & Company, Inc., who have conducted their business in iron mining in the vicinity since 1849 have secured possession of these ruins and desire to present them, through you, to the state of New York for the purpose of creating a state park to preserve them for all time," the letter read. "The tract ... contains the well-preserved ruins of two important fortifications... The proposed park is as rich and preeminent in historical interest as any locality in this country...within its borders very likely was fought the far-reaching battle of Samuel de Champlain with the Iroquois.
"Our corporation have felt that these ruins, which are perhaps the most extensive and best preserved of any in the country ... should pass into the hands of the State of New York, and we tender this gift for the purpose of creating a state park, which shall be open forever to the public, and it is our expectation that - if accepted - the state will make suitable provision to protect the ruins from spoliation to the end that they may be preserved in their present condition, so far as may be, for all time," Witherbee wrote.
April 4, 1910, Gov. Hughes' secretary delivered to the New York State Legislature a message and the letter from Witherbee, Sherman & Company.
Hughes wrote, "It is most desirable that these ruins of such extraordinary interest should belong to the people of the state and should be properly cared for in their interest. We have recently celebrated the 300th anniversary of the discovery of Lake Champlain, and we have fittingly commemorated the course of events which through savage strife and the rivalries of foreign powers led ultimately to the establishment of the nation. This celebration has quickened the desire to preserve the priceless memorials of these fateful struggles; and we should most heartily congratulate ourselves that private generosity has provided this noteworthy act of beneficence on the part of the business men who are associated in the donor corporation.
"They deserve and will receive the sincere thanks of the people, and I take pleasure in recommending that your honorable body take appropriate action for the acceptance of the gift and for the preservation of the property," Hughes wrote.
Assemblyman James Shea and Senator James Emerson immediately introduced bills to accept the deed of gift. According to the Public Papers of Gov. Hughes, upon passage, the governor, on April 22, signed the deed of gift, accepting the Crown Point garrison grounds on behalf of the people of the State of New York. The next day, he transmitted the deed to State Comptroller Clark Williams.