Believe it or not, of course if I am writing about it in this blog you can definitely believe it, early navigators in 1726 using Lake Ontario to the Niagara River used the plume of vapor hanging above the Niagara Falls as a navigation aid. On a clear day it could be seen up to 40 miles. Unfortunately, unless they went to night school, it was not much use other times.
Some sort of navigation light was needed. It was not until about 1779 that a beacon was placed on top of Fort Niagara (that building behind the woman seen on Day 400). This light was removed about 1803, and was the first navigation light on the Great Lakes.
Subsequent lights were used at the Fort until 1872 when this stone lighthouse was constructed.
This light was located further up the Niagara River at what is now called The Whirlpool. It remained in use until 1993 when it was replaced by a brighter light at the U.S. Coast Guard Station Niagara.
Could it have been because 100 watts was not enough?
It is hard to believe that we have been traveling the United States for 400 days. Today we are on Lake Ontario where it meets the Niagara River in Western New York.
As early as 1678 the French claimed the area of what is now Canada and Northern New York, Ohio, and Michigan. All the area around the Great Lakes. However, by 1720 the British were encroaching with their 13 colonies and claims in Canada. To protect their interests, the French wanted to build a Fort where the Niagara River flows into Lake Ontario. This was a strategic area as the narrow river would allow the French to control who entered the river which connected to the other 4 Great Lakes.
The Iroquois Confederacy, which consisted of 5 tribes, did not want the French building forts where they lived. In 1725 the French approached the Iroquois and ask if they could build a “House of Peace” as a trading post to help them trade with the Indians. The Indians said they could.
The French built the building behind this woman who got in my shot.
It is really a fort in disguise. The building is three stories tall with thick stone walls and floor. The dormer windows are actually gun ports. They protrude from the building with a trap door so hot oil could be dropped on enemy intruders. It housed about 60 soldiers. It had a room for arms and munitions, chapel, bakery, and water well.
In 1755 the fort was expanded as tension with England grew. Ramparts were built as well as earthworks with cannon protecting the entry to the river.
In the French and Indian War, the fort fell to the British in a nineteen-day siege in July 1759. The fort remained in British hands for the next thirty-seven years.
Fort Niagara was ceded to the United States after the Treaty of Paris ended the American War of Independence in 1783. Because the new United States did not have sufficient troops to claim the area, the region remained effectively under British control for another thirteen years until US troops showed up on August 11, 1796.
On December 19, 1813, the British attacked the fort and took it from the American garrison. The conclusion of the war brought the fort back under an American Flag on May 22, 1815.
Hanging out with the truckers on our way to Niagara Falls.
The first European to visit this area was Frenchman Robert de la Salle, born November 22, 1643, who was exploring the Great Lakes area for France around 1667 with Belgian priest Louis Hennepin, who was the first known European to see the falls.
The City of Niagara Falls was incorporated on March 17, 1892
Alexandra Bay, NY to Niagara Falls, NY: 244.9 miles
So, who was Sophia LaLonde? Stay tuned for the thrilling answer.
John M. Clayton, born July 24, 1796, was an American lawyer and politician from Delaware. He served in the Delaware General Assembly, became a U.S. Senator from Delaware, and served as U.S. Secretary of State under President Zachary Taylor. For some reason they named this seaside town in New York after him.
We strolled through the town to visit the 1000 Islands Museum. I hoped to find some interesting facts about the islands.
When we were on Heart Island, we were informed that George Boldt would have lavish parties on his yacht on the St. Lawrence River. During one of those parties, the chef forgot the dressing for the salad and made a concoction of ingredients he had on board, which was named 1000 Island Dressing.
The 1000 Islands Museum had records that showed the dressing was actually made by, you guessed it, Sophia LaLonde. Her husband was a charter fishing boat Captain and Sophia, a gourmet cook, served this dressing at her “shore dinners” for his clients after the trip.
After this exhausting research, we stopped at Coyote Moon Vineyards for refreshments on their outside deck.
They had this interesting chandelle in their restroom:
Dark Island, in the St. Lawrence River, New York, was first charted as Bluff Island in 1818. The Island was purchased by Frederick Gilbert Bourne in 1902.
Bourne was President of the Singer Manufacturing Company between 1889 and 1905, where he made his fortune.
He hired architect Ernest Flagg to build a hunting lodge on the St. Lawrence River, as his island retreat.
This hunting lodge was based on a book written by Sir Walter Scott in 1826 called Woodstock. The book describes an elegant castle with secret passageways, tunnels, and a dungeon. This castle is known as Singer Castle, and we toured it today.
The most impressive part of the castle were the secret passages. One located in just about every room.
This one, in the library, is opened by an electronic switch under a mantel.
The passages are interconnecting leading to all the rooms. In this room, a picture is slanted so you can view from the passage.
This man had more money than he knew what to do with. The kitchen had an experimental combination cooking top and refrigerator:
This bathroom had a skylight in the floor to the bathroom underneath which had no windows.
From the ramparts was an excellent view of the river:
You can book an overnight stay at the castle for a mere $700.00.
George C. Boldt was born April 25, 1851 on the island of Bergen auf Rügen, Germany, on the Baltic Sea coast. He immigrated to the United States in 1864 and became a self made millionaire in the hotel industry.
In 1900millionaire Boldt bought an island in the 1000 island area of New York, which he named Heart Island. He set out to build a full-sized Rhineland Castle on this island. The Grandiose structure was for his wife Louise. Over the next 4 years, 300 workers fashioned the six story, 120 room castle, complete with playhouse, powerhouse, Italian Gardens, a drawbridge, and a dovecote.
Not a single detail or expense was spared. Unfortunately in 1904, just months before it’s completion, Louise died. Boldt, who had also purchased 3 or 4 other islands, plus had homes in other states, ordered all the workers to lay down their tools and leave the island. He never again stepped foot on this island, and for 73 years it remained vacant and abandoned. In 1977 The Thousand Islands Bridge Authority assumed ownership and has spend in excess of 30 million dollars to restore the dilapidated castle. We strolled through the Castle as well as the playhouse, a neat arch, stone gazebo, flower gardens, and Tower.
We could not go in the powerhouse as it was underwater.
So, how did the 1000 Islands come to be? Lore has it that Manitou said to the Indians: “I will give you paradise, if you stop fighting”. According to legend, the Indians did not stop fighting, so Manitou put paradise into a bag and threw it into the horizon. The bag broke apart and a thousand pieces fell down into the St. Lawrence River, creating the Thousand Islands.
The Islands range in size from 1 foot to 40 square miles.
Actually, by my count, there are 1,864 islands that dot the St. Lawrence River and comprise the 1000 Island Region. It took me 3 days to count the Islands. In fact, I did it twice to be sure.
What are the criteria to be an “Island” here? It must be above water level year round, have an area greater than 1 square foot, and support at least one living tree.
We will be spending the next few days traveling on the St. Lawrence River exploring the islands. If I wrote on all of them, you would be terribly bored, so I will just pick a couple.
No island is divided by the international border, meaning each is either wholly within the United States or Canada. That causes the international border to zig zag across the water instead of forming a straight line between the two countries.
Most of the islands are privately owned, with the bigger ones having electricity.
Heavy rains during the previous month has caused the river level to rise 2 feet, putting many docks and buildings under water.