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Lakes to Locks: Westport Heritage House, Crown Point

This weeks stop on the Lakes to Locks Passage takes us through the soon to be Waypoint Community Visitor Centers at Crown Point and Westport. Both locales are hamlets in the Lake Champlain region that work together as part of the Champlain Valley Heritage Network and both are scheduled to be functional in their duel role as historical landmarks and area Visitor Centers by the 2009 Champlain Quadricentennial. The Westport Heritage House, as it is known today, is located directly across from Ballard Park in Westport at the old Baptist church. Built in the early to mid 1800s, the church was recently refurbished due to old age and re-opened two years ago at the towns annual Heritage Festival. The plan is to be ready to serve its new, complete role as a Waypoint Community Visitor Center beginning in 2009. The 2009 Champlain Quadricentennial is a rallying point in time to reinvigorate our understanding of Westports rich history, said George Maffey, vice president of the Westport Chamber of Commerce and project leader for the Westport Heritage House Community/Visitor Center. The Westport Heritage House Visitor Center is being developed as a focal point in that effort. Six years ago a Westport Heritage Festival was started, mainly serving as a fund raising function for the Visitors Center; the town has been working to generate community involvement and interest leading up to 2009. This years festival is hosting the Lake Champlain Antique and Classic Boat Society which will serve as a direct lead to next years 400 Years of Boating on Lake Champlain, featuring replica boats thoughout all periods of history on the lake. Also ready to transition to a fully evolved Visitor Center in 2009 is the Lake Champlain Visitors Center in Crown Point. Formerly a tollkeepers house, the stucture sits at the foot of the Lake Champlain Bridge on Bridge Road. This stretch of land has been significant throughout history as it is the shortest distance across the water. Before the bridge was built in 1929 a ferry serviced the across water travelers. Before the ferry came, however, Native Americans, animals, and soldiers in war had laid claim to this land for it obvious geographical benefits. Crown Point has long been and continues to be the gateway into the Adirondacks for all of New England, said Suzanne Maye, Lake Champlain marketing coordinator. If you are coming west from New England you are crossing our bridge and it is our hope that travelers will stop into our hamlet and allow us to lead the visitor through a historical and educational experience unique to this area. The former toll keepers house is going to be ready for a grand re-opening in time for the Quadricentennial with improved visibility from the road and water, plus all new exhibits consisting of interpretive panels showcasing unique features of all Waypoint Communities. Chris Ward is the Communications Manager at the Lake Placid/Essex County Visitors Bureau and can be reached at chris@lakeplacid.com.

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