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December 19, 2012

Lighthouse expert donates books to museum

PLATTSBURGH — North Country resident George Clifford has maintained a strong interest in the lighthouses of Lake Champlain over the years.

His attraction to these historic structure resulted in a book he penned several years ago that outlined the role each one has played in the history of local maritime travel.

NEW EDITION

Clifford, who lived most of the past four decades on Cumberland Head and was instrumental in organizing the Cumberland Head Tomorrow citizen watchdog group, recently published a third edition to the volume and has donated the rights to his work to the Clinton County Historical Society.

“I’m 80, so I talked to the Historical Society about (donating) the book. I knew there was a strong need to preserve the existing lighthouses,” he added, noting specifically his fondness of the lighthouse that sits on the point of Cumberland Head and is now protected by private ownership.

“I worked a lot with the Coast Guard to make sure they would all be protected.”

Melissa Peck, director and curator for the museum, said she was delighted with Clifford’s donation.

“By receiving the rights, CCHA can continue to publish his work, ensuring that the stories surrounding the individual lighthouses on Lake Champlain will continue to be told.”

BRINGING BACK LIGHTS

As lighthouse keepers were replaced by automated lights placed atop metal towers constructed nearby in the early 1900s, the lighthouses themselves became archaic.

But Clifford was one of the primary movers in returning the lights to the lighthouses during the more recent past, as the Coast Guard turned to solar-powered lights in the buildings and abandoned the metal towers.

Clifford was also influenced to write his history by a poster sketched by Sid Couchey in the 1990s that depicted the varied lighthouses on the lake.

“He was a wonderful guy,” Clifford said of the popular North Country artist, who died earlier this year. “I enjoyed meeting Sid.”

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