In 1759 Whitehall was settled in a valley at the southern end of Lake Champlain. This colonial town was founded by British Army Captain Philip Skene, and was originally known as Skenesboro. Skenesboro became the first settlement on Lake Champlain and was a center of maritime trade. Captain Skene built saw mills, grist mills and an iron foundry, where trade can be documented from that time.
The Revolutionary War caused the capture of Skene’s trading schooner and the building of a fleet by Benedict Arnold at this place. Because of the Revolutionary War actions, the New York State Legislature, in 1960, declared the legacy that names Whitehall as the Birthplace of the United States Navy. The Whitehall harbor also produced ships used for service by the U.S. Navy during the War of 1812.
Whitehall’s themes of defense and transportation stress this communities’ part in history including the building of the first fleet for battle in 1776 and, since early historic times, the north-south transportation route from Canada to New York City.
The canal has been in use since 1819 and it brought prosperity to shippers of produce, iron re and special products like ice and ells. Steel-powered packet boats carried passengers from Lake Champlain to Troy, New York in 24 hours by fast relays.
In 1848 the railroad came to Whitehall bringing with it the largest local industry for decades. AMTRAK passenger trains offer local service regularly and is the second stop in Washington on the Adirondack Line running from NYC to Montreal.
History can be seen at many attractions in Whitehall. The SKENESBOROUGH MUSEUM is situated in a 1917 canal terminal building. The museum includes artifacts, photographs and a diorama depicting the shipyard where the first US Naval Fleet was built in 1776. It also encourages the public to investigate through walking tours the ambiance of 19th century buildings along a canal in use since the early 1800’s. The SKENE MANOR, a stone castle, located at Potter Terrace, is open for lunches and tours. Within the stone castle you will find just part of the town’s colorful past. The castle was built by Judge Joseph H. Potter in the late nineteenth century. Skene Manor is situated on Skene Mountain, from which the mansion of gray sandstone was quarried. Judge Potter called his new home Mountain Terrace. The mansion was later purchased and renamed Skene Manor in 1946. The owners opened a restaurant there and as legend has it the body of Mrs. Skene was buried in the bar of the Manor. Although entirely untrue, the legend remains a part of Skene Manor History.
Whitehall is bursting with history and you owe it to yourself to STOP, SHOP AND VISIT one of the most historical communities along the Lake Champlain Canal.