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Clermont gears up for two major celebrations

July 7, 2006

Clermont State Historic Site would be a beneficiary of legislation, recently re-introduced by Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, establishing a Champlain Quadricentennial Commemoration Commission and a Hudson-Fulton 400th Commemoration Commission. The legislation was originally proposed in 2005 by Congressman Maurice Hinchey (D-26th).

"It means a lot to us," said Bruce Naramore, manager of the Clermont State Historic Site. "It means one of the landmark historical events for this property is receiving statewide recognition."
Quadricentennial celebrations are being planned for 2009 to commemorate Henry Hudson's first voyage up the Hudson River and Samuel de Champlain's discovery and exploration of Lake Champlain. Events will include a July 4 sail of replica vessels from Lake Champlain and another from New York harbor, with the two meeting in Albany August 17; parades, concerts, festivals, and exhibits along the entire Hudson River corridor from September 26 until October 4; and an October 4 grand finale with fireworks from Quebec to New York City.
Clermont State Historic Site expects to participate fully in the 2009 celebrations. But it is also preparing for a celebration of its own in 2007, to mark the 200th anniversary of Robert Fulton's and Robert Livingston's invention of the steamboat Clermont and the steamboat's maiden voyage from New York to Albany.
"We'll have a loan exhibition on the invention of the steamboat, with items from our collection and from other institutional and private collectors," said Mr. Naramore. "We're also working with Bard College to produce a scholarly symposium on the steamboat in June; and there will be a reunion of the Livingston family, and hopefully the Fultons, in July of next year."
One hundred years ago, the 1909 Hudson tricentennial was also observed with maritime celebrations and art exhibit. For that occasion the Dutch built a replica of Henry Hudson's ship, the Half Moon; the replica in current use was built in Albany in 1989.
Over the long term, the State Historic Site hopes to fully restore the Clermont's original homeport on the Hudson, part of which still exists, and make it accessible to visitors now blocked by the Amtrak right-of-way. "It's not the restoration of the dock that's the challenge," said Mr. Naramore. "The challenge is in getting people from Clermont to the dock."
He explained that part of the old dock was covered over when the New York Central Railroad acquired its right-of-way in 1851, and that reaching the dock now requires crossing the tracks at grade level. "We're looking at the possibility of bridging the tracks," he said. "There's the challenge of the expense, but it also has to be ADA [Americans with Disability Act] compliant, with ramps or an elevator."
The Friends of Clermont have applied for a grant to cover the cost of a feasibility study. And once a feasibility study has been carried out, he said, "We will be able to go out for grants."
The dock project will certainly not be completed before next year's celebrations, Mr. Naramore said, and the chances for having it ready by 2009 are fairly slim. "We're looking at it as a legacy project," he said, "and the 2007 and 2009 events make it possible."
The Hudson and Champlain explorations led to the establishment of trading posts, military posts, and settlements as far south as Lake George, Senator Clinton said in a June 30 press release announcing her re-introduction of the Commemorative Commission legislation. And from those establishments, she said in the release, "came trade, commerce, cultural, and religious impact deep into the Mohawk Valley and as far west as Lake Erie."
Two hundred years later, Fulton's successful navigation from New York to Albany by steamboat, said Mrs. Clinton, "helped revolutionize waterborne commerce on the great rivers of the United States and fostered international relations through transoceanic travel and trade.
"These voyages are very symbolic of our important place in America's history," Mrs. Clinton said in the release. "It is important that we use this opportunity to celebrate and observe our proud history and commemorate these important journeys that contribute so much to what our nation is today."
The Commemorative Commission would be composed of 23 members appointed by the Secretary of the Interior: 2 members recommended by the governors of New York and Vermont, 8 recommended by members of the House of Representatives from surrounding districts, 4 recommended by senators from New York and Vermont and 2 recommended by the Mayor of the City of New York. The remaining members would be individuals who have an interest in commemoration or who serve on local commemorative commissions, along with 2 employees of the National Park Service.
The Commemorative Commission would support and facilitate marketing efforts for a commemorative coin, commemorative stamp and other related activities. But it would have a more lasting economic impact as well, according to Mrs. Clinton. "With a focus on heritage tourism and appropriate economic development, the Commission will ensure that we provide a first-class visitor experience as well as a lasting legacy and long-term public benefit to the communities involved," said her June 30 press release.

To contact reporter Richard Roth, e-mail rroth@IndeNews.com.

┬ęThe Independent 2006