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January 2, 2013

Battle of Plattsburgh relic still stored in Whitehall shed

ALBANY — The upstate New York village that bills itself as the birthplace of the U.S. Navy hasn’t done much to preserve one of the service’s oldest warship relics: the hull of a schooner that was the first in a long line of American vessels to carry the name Ticonderoga.

The wooden remains of the War of 1812 ship are displayed in a long, open-sided shed on the grounds of the Skenesborough Museum in Whitehall. They’ve been stored there since being raised from the southern end of Lake Champlain by a local historical group more than 50 years ago. Now, with the approach of 200th anniversary of the battle at which the first Ticonderoga gained its fame, a maritime historian is hoping something can be done to stem the deterioration of a rare naval artifact.

“It was recovered for all the right reasons but before we knew all the implications of a shipwreck and bringing it up into an air environment,” said Arthur Cohn, senior adviser and special projects developer at the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum in Vergennes, Vt.

Cohn has suggested to museum officials that the hull needs be stored in an enclosed, climate-controlled building with interpretive displays telling the vessel’s story. But the museum’s director said such a project would be cost-prohibitive for her organization and for Whitehall.

“That would take more money than anyone in the Village of Whitehall could put together,” Carol Greenough said.

In 1776, during the American Revolution, Benedict Arnold oversaw the building of a small fleet of vessels in what is now Whitehall. That October, he led this ragtag flotilla north to Valcour Island off Plattsburgh, where the outgunned Americans were defeated but forced the British to put off their invasion of New York until the following year. Roadside signs in Whitehall tout the village’s claim as the birthplace of the U.S. Navy, a distinction that’s been claimed by several New England communities.

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