TICONDEROGA, N.Y. (NEWS10) – Fort Ticonderoga has created a special program with Airbnb this summer. No, you can’t quite stay in the historic fort – but you can learn about it, and the northern New York community’s place in history, from aboard a replica 1920s-style tour boat on Lake Champlain.
The experience invites visitors aboard the Carillon, a type of replica boat most commonly seen in the Finger Lakes – although historical documentation shows that this wouldn’t be the first to set sail on Lake Champlain, or even Lake George. The enclosed 60-foot vessel becomes both a way to see the enormous Lake Champlain, and also becomes a stage for visitors to learn from a historian who joins them for the ride. As the boat passes locations along the lake, each one becomes part of the story.
“We pass by different parts of our story,” said Fort Ticonderoga Association President Beth Hill. “We highlight features on both sides (of the lake) and discuss just why this was so critical to the founding of our nation. Then we sprinkle it with centuries of stories; anything at Ticonderoga has a lot of layers.”
One prominent spot pointed out along the cruise is the now-underwater bridge built by American settlers in 1776, constructed to connect Great Camp Ticonderoga (the fort’s current home) to the Vermont side of the lake. Further north along the cruise, riders will see what historians believe to be the Block House, where Ethan Allen, Benedict Arnold and the Green Mountain Boys militia group met to capture the fort from British control.
The program runs through to Sunday, July 4, as part of the Civic Season, a program encouraging interaction with local history and the stories that make it up. The season runs between Juneteenth and the 4th of July. The movement behind it consists of over 150 museums, historical locations and societies looking to bring more, credible historical education to the next generation, for the sake of adding historical context to the future.
“Our history is an active discipline, just like scientists drawing conclusions,” Hill said. “It’s challenging, it’s drawing conclusions and building concepts. It’s a very active process we have here. We have to have context – if you have amnesia, you don’t know what’s going on. If you don’t have historical understanding, you can’t really be an engaged citizen, and without being an engaged citizen, you won’t have a healthy democracy.”
Meanwhile, the program run through Airbnb is just one of many examples of tourism in the North Country being given a new chapter, through services like Airbnb and Vrbo. Seasonal communities across Lake George, Lake Champlain and the Adirondacks have seen the impact, with more people getting ways to access those areas, whether for recreation, historic learning, or a mix of everything, especially in places that don’t have a lot of excess lodging.
At the same time, that influx does bring adjustments. Hill says that, in Ticonderoga, that influx creates an active need for places like the fort to partner with the companies bringing new faces to the area, to give them new experiences, like the new boat ride.
And yes, Hill has had the chance to take the ride herself.
“I don’t know who doesn’t love natural beauty, but I really love natural beauty,” she said. “It’s just so relaxing and enjoyable, and I love watching our visitors building memories together.”
Last week, Fort Ticonderoga finished the first phase of a $9 million restoration plan. The first stage involved restoring The Pavilion, a historic summer home that will be used as a historical center. Next up, the fort is moving forward on concept sketches for a new museum, giving Ticonderoga history another place to call home.