To purchase a calendar
History of the Moorsfield Press (1919 to the 1980s)
"McLellan Collection" at the Special Collections,
Plattsburgh State University College
Clinton County Historical Association (CCHA)
Crown Point State Historic Site (location of the Crown Point Memorial)
Kent-Delord House Museum (adjacent to the Plattsburgh Memorial)
2009 Champlain Quadricentennial Calendar
The 400th Anniversary of Samuel de Champlain’s Exploration
of Lake Champlain
Main month photographs. Each month's photograph is about 9-10 inches wide and has a detailed description.
Photographs used in the 15 page Historical Essay.
The 2009 calendar also includes approximately 30 additional inset photos that are shown on the main calendar pages (not shown here). The inset images supplement the main month photographs.
The calendar contains over 90 photos related to the 1909 and 1912 celebrations.
Images courtesy Special Collections, Feinberg Library, Plattsburgh State University College,
the Clinton County Historical Association in Plattsburgh, New York or the author.
Manuscripts courtesy Special Collections, Feinberg Library, Plattsburgh State University College.
2009 Historic Essay.
Although this is written
in a calendar format for 2009, the publication contains
a 15 page historical essay in the back of the calendar,
very detailed monthly descriptions for 13 large format
images (as well as inset photographs for a total of
about 95 photos) and key dates related to the building
of the memorials. This is more than just a
calendar. In fact, the director of the Crown
Point Historic Site calls it a "big, new and
heavily-illustrated booklet (containing a tiny 2009
calendar) on the Champlain monuments at Crown Point and
A snippet of what is
written in the historical essay. There is
considerably more written for each section.
The Lake Champlain region had two celebrations related to the Tercentenary Celebrations of 1909. In July of 1909, the first Tercentenary celebration was held to commemorate the exploration of Lake Champlain by Samuel de Champlain three hundred years earlier. Celebrations on both sides of the lake included events at Crown Point, Plattsburgh and many other towns in the area over a one week period.
During the 1909 celebrations, no Champlain memorials existed on the shores of Lake Champlain. The only statue of Champlain in the United States was at St. Mary’s Church in Champlain, New York, and this was dedicated on July 4, 1907. The New York and Vermont Tercentenary commissions resolved to build a memorial to Champlain as early as 1907 but several years of planning still needed to be done. It was not until 1910 and 1911, respectively, that the Champlain monument sites at Crown Point and Plattsburgh were selected and money appropriated. It took another year to build the monuments and they were dedicated in 1912 on July 5 and 6, respectively.
This historic essay will focus on the design and building of the Crown Point and Plattsburgh Champlain Memorials. Much of what is written in the Tercentenary Final Reports of 1909 and 1913 is a literal transcription of the programs and speeches that occurred. In this essay, a behind-the-scenes look will explain the reasoning behind the selection of the two sites, the different designs contemplated for the monuments and the correspondence between architect Hugh McLellan and French Ambassador Jean Jusserand concerning the Rodin bust “La France”.
this calendar and historic essay is written for the
Quadricentennial (400th anniversary) celebrations of
2009 and shows photographs from the 1909 celebrations,
many of the events described here occurred well after
1909. The restoration and rededication of the
Crown Point and Plattsburgh memorials, however, will
be a significant part of the Quad celebrations
starting in late 2008 and lasting throughout
2009. So it is only fitting that a history of
the monuments be presented now for 2009 as well as a
summary of the Champlain celebrations of 1909, 1912
LINKS TO OTHER RODIN
"LA FRANCE" SCULPTURES
(note that several more have been found since the writing of the essay)
Hunterian Museum and Art Gallery, University of Glasgow
Hunterian Museum - wood engraving for the Champlain Memorial bust
Rodin Museum run by the Philadelphia Museum
Victoria and Albert Museum, England
House of Commons, Heritage Collection; Canada
Maryhill Museum of Art, Washington State
(image found on Flickr posted by patron)
Legion of Honor Art Museum in San Francisco, California (small 1998 study found on Flickr posted by patron)
Ville de Meudon (France)
Musee Rodin in France (general information)
Restoration of the Crown Point Rodin Bust - French Heritage Society
The Restored Bust - Boston.com
Decision to Celebrate the 1909 Tercentenary and Build the Champlain Memorials
In November of 1906, Vermont took the first step and voted to appoint a commission to celebrate the 300th anniversary of the exploration of Lake Champlain. Vermont governor Fletcher D. Proctor asked New York Senator Henry W. Hill (a future NYS Tercentenary commissioner) to introduce a similar resolution in the New York State legislature. On April 15, 1907, five months later, New York State formed a similar commission. Its first task was to come up with a set of resolutions and this was agreed upon on December 21. It was resolved that the State of New York, with the help of Vermont, would build a permanent memorial someplace in the Champlain Valley and that money would be appropriated for this purpose.
The Design of the Champlain Memorial Lighthouse at Crown Point
for the design of the Crown Point monument, considerable
progress had to be made to enable the monument to be
completed by July 1912, which was only 17 months
away. The architects had to write to the Lighthouse
Bureau to get documentation for the lantern and
specifications for the existing lighthouse, finish the
design of the monument, get it approved by both
commissions as well as by the Bureau, decide on the types
of granite to use, select a contractor through a bid
process, and then select a noted sculptor who could design
a fitting statue of Champlain and have it completed for
the dedication ceremonies.
By March 28, 1911, three drawings for the Crown Point
memorial were submitted to the Lighthouse Bureau.
The new design added five feet to the height of the
lighthouse and this required the approval of the
Bureau. The design would place the lantern 50 feet
above the ground and 101 feet above the Lake and make the
entire structure 73 feet tall. To understand how the
lighthouse was built, the Lighthouse Bureau sent the
architects the blue prints and contract for
inspection. The blueprints dated October 8, 1856
indicated that the foundation extended below the ground by
only three feet and that there was no cellar in the
keeper’s house. The problem was, there was a cellar
and the contours of the site indicated other
discrepancies. In order to design the foundation
correctly, the architects needed to know if the lighthouse
was built on rock or earth. It was proposed that
test holes be dug around the old tower by lighthouse
keeper Ezra Kelsey. The plan was to use the old
foundation and extend it outwards to hold the increased
weight of the base and eight Doric columns (about 850
tons). The test holes revealed that charred wood and
ash were present about seven or eight feet below the
ground, and below this, flat stones were present.
The ash was from the French windmill that was burned down
in 1759 and the stones were part of its foundation.
It was concluded that the lighthouse was built almost
exactly on the original French windmill (see January’s
description). The plan also called for the removal
of the outer limestone shell to expose the brick inner
wall but photos of the construction show that this was not
The Building of the Monument
The building of the Crown Point monument started around September of 1911. A temporary light tower was built adjacent to the tower to ensure that the light was unaffected by the construction (it was originally thought the lantern would be jacked up in place by five feet). A derrick (crane) was erected and the first of the cut stone was about to be shipped. By the end of the month, the foundation was complete.
The Rodin Bust “La France"
In November of 1908, two months after the NYS Commissioners decided to make a memorial with a statue of Champlain as the centerpiece, architect Hugh McLellan met with French sculptor Jules Edourd Roine who had just finished making an Abraham Lincoln centennial medal to commemorate the birth of Lincoln (McLellan’s father had been friends with Lincoln while living in Springfield, Illinois, and was now one of the top five collectors of Lincolnonia in the country.) He described his meeting with Roine and his desire to use a French artist for the Champlain statue in a November 23, 1908 letter: “as to the question of the Champlain statue in bronze, we have had the pleasure of lunching today with Monsieur Roine, a sculptor of considerable note and great talents, a Frenchman, some of whose works are exhibited in the Luxembourg Gallery at Paris..... I (Mr. McLellan) met him through a friend [Robert Hewitt Jr.] who had commissioned him to design a medal to commemorate the centennial of Lincoln and, which medal has but just been issued. On the strength of this interview we called up Mr. Pell and had a pleasant talk with him. Mr. Roine would be glad to submit to your commission not only a design for a medal, but also model of the statue of Champlain; both to be done without compensation, simply in the hope that, should work be done, his design would receive consideration. It seemed appropriate that such work be done by a countryman of Champlain.” Several years would pass without a decision on the choice of sculptor.
After money for the project was finally appropriated, French Ambassador Jean Adrien Antoine Jules Jusserand started communication with Architect Hugh McLellan in June of 1911 concerning the design and sculptures for the monument. The correspondence continued until well after the celebrations in 1912.
June 19, 1911 letter marked “Confidential”, Jusserand
wrote that the noted French artist and sculptor, Auguste
Rodin (1840-1917) had expressed an interest in
contributing a sculpture. Starting in the early
1900’s, Rodin had risen to be one of France’s most
famous artists. His most well known bronze statue
is “The Thinker” which is seen in Paris as well as many
other cities around the world. Jusserand wrote:
“...that Rodin has been approached on the subject; he
has shown great interest in it and he is thinking of an
allegorical figure that might, in some way, complete the
ornamentation and meaning of the monument. Nothing
definite has yet been settled, and Rodin will not, in
any case, take any decision as to what he should do
before he receives the plans and photos I am forwarding
by this mail.”
In a January 1912 letter to Commissioner
LaFontaine, Hugh McLellan gave a history of the
correspondence between Ambassador Jusserand and
himself. He wrote, in part, “You know that when
Monsieur Jusserand first approached us, he hoped that the
gift would be the statute of Champlain by
Rodin. From France, he wrote us that this was
too ambitious, and that Rodin was unable to undertake new
work and that the cost would be too great. He said
that the gift would probably take the form of an
allegorical bas-relief; and then we had a letter dated
December 7, saying that the gift would take the form of a
small bust representing France, and we were asked to
designate a proper setting for the gift. Of course
it was impossible to do anything but comply with this
Dedication of the Rodin Bust “La France” on May 3, 1912
with a large French delegation on April 26, 1912, at New
York harbor. Rodin had chosen to make a replica of
his 1904 “Byzantine Empress” bronze sculpture. It
showed a likeness of his assistant, Camille Claudel, who
is represented in many of Rodin’s other sculptures.
For this version, Rodin added an inscription that was
dedicated to Samuel de Champlain. See the April
description for more information.
of the Champlain Memorial Lighthouse at
On July 5, 1912, the Champlain Memorial Lighthouse at Crown Point was to be dedicated. But because of the delay in selecting the sculptor, the three bronze statues would not be completed in time for the dedication.
Oxidation of the Rodin Bust
In April of 1913, a year after the completion of the monument, a large storm destroyed the wooden dock and took out the embankment below the steps. Commissioner Walter Witherbee, who lived near Port Henry, traveled to the monument to inspect the damage. It was then that he noticed the oxidation of the Rodin bust. Originally, it was a shiny black color but now it was turning green.
In a December 8, 1913 letter, McLellan wrote to Auguste Rodin in France and informed him of the change in the color of the bust: “As architects for the Champlain Memorial Lighthouse, we wish to write to you about your bust of “La France” which was affixed to the monument as a token of the appreciation by the French people of the American efforts to honor one of your compatriots. It was, you will remember, brought to America by a distinguished delegation headed by M. Hanotaux and its presentation was..........
The Champlain Monument in Plattsburgh
When the location for the Crown Point memorial was formally agreed on by the states of New York and Vermont, the New York commissioners decided to build a smaller monument in Plattsburgh. The architectural firm of Dillon, McLellan and Beadel also won the contract to make this monument.
The budget for this monument was considerably smaller than the Crown Point monument and the architects had to continually modify their design to come up with the most economical plan. The size of the monument, the choice of sculptor, the number of sculptures (as well as the composition), the type of seawall and even the composition of the stone steps had to be considered carefully. The funding was from the unspent appropriation for the Crown Point monument and was originally set at $17,000 but was later increased to $20,000 with the addition of stone steps and a bronze tablet. If a part of the Crown Point project cost more than expected, it would reduce the amount of money that could be spent on the Plattsburgh monument.
The Selection of Sculptor Carl Heber
In March of 1911, it was contemplated that the sculptor who made the statue for Crown Point could make a replica for the Plattsburgh monument. This was well before the correspondence with French Ambassador Jusserand concerning Rodin’s participation. After the discussions started in June, the selection of a sculptor was delayed, with the approval of the commissioners, until it was known what France would contribute.
The Dedication of the Champlain Memorial at Plattsburgh on July 6, 1912
After the dedication of the Crown Point monument on July 5, all of the commissioners, the NY governor and the French dignitaries (Count de Perette de la Rocca, M. Hanotaux, M. Cormon, and others) traveled on the chartered Ticonderoga to Port Henry and then to Bluff Point and stayed in the newly re-built Hotel Champlain.
image shown above)
image shown above)
In 1859, the federal government built a lighthouse on
the site of a burned down French windmill. The lighthouse was built by
contractors Ellis and O’Neal of Malone,
During the planning for the foundation in the winter of 1911, the architects had the lighthouse keeper dig test holes around the lighthouse to determine the composition of the earth. They needed to determine whether any reinforcing stone was needed for the eight Doric columns that would be placed on the foundations. The test holes revealed that the lighthouse was built almost on top of the original French windmill. In describing the excavation, Architect Hugh McLellan wrote, in part (see inset photo): “We found at A, B and C; first, brick-like red clay in lumps, not compacted — and at 7’-6” to 8’-0” down a layer of damp charred wood and ashes about 1” thick. Under this a layer of flat stones 10“ to 12” thick, in good lime mortar, and under this, compact damp gray clay, apparently the original soil. At D the soil is uniform, firmly compacted clay with small stones, old....................
This bust of “La
Left: The original design of the monument did not have the bust incorporated. Considerable correspondence took place between Ambassador Jusserand and Hugh McLellan as to what type of sculpture Rodin would make and where the best location for it would be. In keeping with Jusserand’s wish to place it in the stone in front of the monument,...................
FOR THE BUILDING OF THE CROWN POINT AND PLATTSBURGH
1914 – In a letter by French sculptor Auguste Rodin, he
addresses the concern that his “La
23, 1912 – The New York Commissioners vote to increase
the appropriation for the
23, 1912 – The New York Commissioners vote to increase
the appropriation for the Champlain Memorial Lighthouse
30, 1914 – The Treasury Department authorizes the
collector of customs in
31, 1911 – The House of Representatives passes HR 31600
and authorizes the commissions of
1912 – Carl Heber is given the sculptor contract for the
7, 1911 – U.S. Representative David Foster’s bill
authorizing the construction of a memorial at
8, 1911 – The firm of Dillon, McLellan and Beadel is
awarded the contract to design the Champlain Memorial
February 26, 1914 - HR Bill No. 11277 is introduced to provide for the construction of a $15,000 to $20,000 granite keeper’s house. Unfortunately, the house is never built.
1912 – French Ambassador Jusserand writes to say that
Rodin is placing the finishing touches on his bust “La
1910 – New York Commissioner Walter Witherbee donates
1912 – A large French delegation arrives in
- Rodin’s “La
Newspaper articles about the 2009 Quadricentennial
Press-Republican - 2009 calendar details Samuel de Champlain monuments
Press-Republican - Calendar a small and separate part of quadricentennial celebration
North Countryman Newspaper - Quadricentennial commemorated in latest calendar
About the sources of material for this calendar series
All images in the 2009 calendar are courtesy the Special Collections, Feinberg Library at Plattsburgh State University College, the Clinton County Historical Association in Plattsburgh, New York or the author.
All manuscript material not found in the Tercentenary Final Reports is courtesy the Special Collections, Feinberg Library, Plattsburgh State University College. The Special Collections houses the "McLellan Collection" which contains the original correspondence, blueprints and photographs of architect Hugh McLellan.
The Clinton County Historical Association (CCHA) also owns numerous photographs and blueprints of the monuments that had been in the possession of Hugh McLellan.
The Special Collections at the Plattsburgh State University College also provided manuscript and photograph material for the 2002 through 2008 calendars. CCHA also provided photographs for the 2008 calendar.
To purchase a
This calendar, with a
15 page expanded historical essay on the building
of the Crown Point and Plattsburgh memorials, will
benefit the Glenwood Cemetery Association
of Champlain. The
proceeds will be used to restore the Pliny Moore
gazebo. It can be purchased at
many locations in the Champlain area, Plattsburgh,
Elizabethtown and Crown Point.