Tree Time

By Eloise Beil on April 26, 2016

White Oak seedlings 2
White oak seedlings. Photo by Jennifer Pauk

Earth Day (April 22), for many people the best known part of National Environmental Education Week (April 17-23), is a wonderful time to be thinking about trees. For weeks as we make the transition from winter to spring, the first buds on the trees transform the monochrome landscape with a flush of yellow, green, or red – more subtle than foliage season, but such a boost to the spirits!

This year, spring also brought Lake Champlain Maritime Museum (LCMM) some wonderful photographs of White Oak seedlings from George Pauk. The seedlings are growing in Washington DC at the home of his daughter and granddaughter – and some of them are destined for the Champlain Valley. These particular seedlings represent a new beginning: a partnership between LCMM and Vermont Family Forests that will involve students in the Champlain Valley and beyond, visiting some of the places where mature White Oak trees can be found, and seeking places where White Oaks used to grow, and might again.

White Oaks have a special place in many of the stories that we tell at Lake Champlain Maritime Museum, because they were long prized for ship building. The gunboats in Benedict Arnold’s 1776 fleet were constructed of white oak framing and planks, with masts of lighter-weight pine and ash sweeps (oars). After the Revolutionary War, Levi Allen, who had moved to Canada, contracted to deliver Champlain Valley timber to Quebec firms. A December 1785 order included 20,000 cubic feet of squared white oak, and 10,000 cubic feet of white oak pipe staves – the raw material used for rot-resistant wooden water pipes. Between logging for market, clearing for farmland and fuel, the vast old growth forests of the region vanished. In 2000, when we began work on our replica 1862 canal schooner Lois McClure, there was not enough local White Oak for the project, bringing the connection between preserving our heritage and preserving our environment into sharp focus.

One of my favorite landmarks on the daily drive along Basin Harbor Road to the Maritime Museum has always been a pair of open fields, each with a single oak tree. The scene inspired my 2003 painting White Oaks, Winter – one of a series called “Vanishing Points,” in which I captured the changing light and weather in landscapes that feel timeless but will only endure if people help to care for them. Last year, time caught up with that particular landscape – one of the oak trees was felled in a storm. While I could accept the loss of this tree to natural causes, I still feel a sense of loss driving by.

White Oaks, Winter - oil painting by Eloise Beil
White Oaks, Winter – oil painting by Eloise Beil

Working with trees involves planning ahead – thinking in years, not just media moments. The storyline about White Oak trees will weave through our stream of blogs in the coming years. “Anyone who has ever floated on a boat, or used liquids aged in barrels, or reclined on a fine piece of oak furniture ought to be interested,” George Pauk wrote recently. “These trees are beautiful, magnificent and meaningful. We are growing in our knowledge, if not much in our acts of preservation and restoration, of natural balance. Perhaps the beginning of wider knowledge and restoration of white oak and white pine to forest strength will be a part of a larger movement toward better water and life for mother earth.”

Camp Marbury on Lake Champlain

by Eileen Leary on April 15, 2016

photograph album coverWe’re very proud of our Lake Adventure Camps for kids here at the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum, but did you know that we aren’t the first summer camp to operate near Basin Harbor? Almost a century ago, the Sleeper family opened Camp Marbury, a summer camp for girls. Named for Anne Marbury Hutchinson, the camp’s beautiful and expansive lakeside grounds offered young women the opportunity for both physical activity and creative expression.

The Roost at Camp Marbury, Image Courtesy of Vermont Historical Society
1927 photo 23
Swimming in Lake Champlain, Image Courtesy of Vermont Historical Society

After many years as counselors at Aloha Camps in Fairlee, VT, Mary Peet and Henry Sleeper set out to open their own camp on Lake Champlain. Assisted by Professor Hugh Worthington and his wife, both of Sweet Briar College, the Sleepers opened Camp Marbury near the Basin Harbor Club in 1921. Although it isn’t clear what facilities existed at the camp at that time, we do know that by 1942, Camp Marbury boasted six permanent buildings, a tennis court, a riding ring, and a dock on the lake.

In any given summer, the fifty girls at Camp Marbury might enjoy swimming, canoeing, tennis, archery, baseball, handicrafts, and horse-riding, in addition to their musical and artistic pursuits. Their lengthy days (starting at 7:10 AM and stretching until 9 PM for older girls) did contain opportunities for rest and relaxation, but the vast majority of their time would be spent on and in the water where they might learn to swim and row, in the craft house where they could weave and make jewelry, or learning to play on one of the four pianos owned by the camp. Singing and acting were popular pursuits as well, as were more strenuous physical activities – several photographs from the camp show girls hiking in the mountains around Lake Champlain.

1922 photo 11
Image Courtesy of Vermont Historical Society

Sadly, rationing reduced the Sleepers’ ability to obtain supplies for the camp, and Camp Marbury ceased its operations as a girl’s camp in 1942. One of its buildings, affectionately named the Roost, is still standing today and has been incorporated into the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum campus. We here at LCMM remember it fondly as part of a tradition of exciting Lake Adventure Camps that we have continued today!

To find out more about Camp Marbury, explore the resources at the Vermont Historical Society, or pay us a visit!

Lake Champlain Maritime Museum Receives CVNHP Grant for Nautical Archaeology Archive

A 2016 Conservation and Community Grant from the Champlain Valley National Heritage Partnership heralds an important new initiative for Lake Champlain Maritime Museum, a project titled Collections & Recollections: Preserving Peter Barranco’s Legacy. Grant funds are helping LCMM initiate long-term preservation and research access to a nationally significant collection recently donated to LCMM. “The Maritime Museum is deeply grateful to Peter Barranco for his gift, and to the Champlain Valley National Heritage Partnership for helping LCMM initiate the long-term preservation and access of this important collection,” said Executive Director Mike Smiles.

Peter Barranco assisting Lorenzo F. Hagglund during salvage operations on the wreck of steamboat Vermont in September 1953. The first Lake Champlain steamboat, Vermont was built in Burlington 1808-09, and sank in the Richelieu River in October 1815.   Credit: Lake Champlain Maritime Museum, Barranco Collection
Peter Barranco assisting Lorenzo F. Hagglund during salvage operations on the wreck of steamboat Vermont in September 1953. The first Lake Champlain steamboat, Vermont was built in Burlington 1808-09, and sank in the Richelieu River in October 1815.
Credit: Lake Champlain Maritime Museum, Barranco Collection

In 2014, A. Peter Barranco, nautical archaeologist and historian, transferred his research collection to LCMM. “This is an amazing resource,” commented Eloise Beil, LCMM’s Director of Collections and Exhibits, who is managing the project. “Mr. Barranco’s life work has been to assemble comprehensive information related to Lake Champlain vessels. His collection fills an entire office with materials documenting Lake Champlain’s sailing vessels, naval vessels, steamboats, ferries, and canal boats, and the people who built, owned, and operated them.”

Early in his career, Mr. Barranco worked for Lorenzo F. Hagglund (ca. 1894-1961), who conducted search and salvage operations on many important Lake Champlain shipwrecks including the 1776 Philadelphia (now in the Smithsonian), and Royal Savage (returned to the U. S. Navy in July, 2015), and the lake’s first steamboat, Vermont, which began service in 1809. Many of Hagglund’s records, given to Barranco for his research, were included in the gift to LCMM. Peter Barranco has also been a research affiliate of LCMM since the museum’s founding in 1986, and served as navigation control specialist and historian during LCMM’s Sonar Survey of Lake Champlain Shipwrecks from 1996–2002. For more than half a century, until failing eyesight forced his retirement, Peter Barranco provided research support on underwater archaeological projects conducted in Lake Champlain and responded to queries from the general public.

“We will share highlights of Peter Barranco’s collection and some of his recollections with the public this summer in our Nautical Archaeology Center through exhibition and an oral history video,” explains Eloise Beil, LCMM’s Director of Collections and Exhibits. “This project will also inform the public about the preservation of important documents. Archival management of the Barranco Collection will ensure that the records he gathered will continue to be available to guide long term stewardship and preservation of Lake Champlain’s historic shipwrecks.” Conservation and Community Grant funding will provide archival quality storage for this massive and highly significant collection. The work will take place in LCMM’s Conservation Lab with ongoing public interpretation of the process. The museum is currently seeking a summer intern with an interest in archaeology, archives, or museum studies to help with this work. The accompanying video will also share the importance and methods of caring for collections of historic documents. “It is an honor to carry forward the work of previous generations of Lake Champlain’s nautical archaeologists,” Beil concluded.

In addition to rehousing the Barranco Collection in archival storage materials, a collection scope and content note and inventory will be created to facilitate research access. LCMM staff will work with Vermont State Archaeologist Jess Robinson to develop research access protocols and plan for future digitization for preservation and access to the collection. Andy Kolovos, Archivist and Co-Director of the Vermont Folklife Center, will provide guidelines for the oral history interviews of Peter Barranco, which will be on deposit at LCMM and at the VT Folklife Center archives. The 8-10 minute video created for LCMM’s mini-exhibit on the project will be distributed through RETN and YouTube.

Lake Champlain Maritime Museum’s 4-acre lakeside campus is open daily from May 21 through October 9. Founded in 1986 to preserve and share the maritime heritage of the Champlain Valley, Lake Champlain Maritime Museum shares underwater discoveries and lake history with the public through engaging exhibits, dynamic hands-on learning opportunities, full-scale working replica vessels, and innovative on-water experiences.  As a year-round educational service provider, Lake Champlain Maritime Museum connects with more than 2,500 Elementary and Middle School Students through valuable place-based learning, ecology and nautical archaeology experiences and other programming with museum educators. Find more information at www.lcmm.org , Facebook, or call 802 475-2022.