Founded 1762
FHS Newsletter - January 2023
Fort Cassin House
In 1812, Vergennes was a busy ship building location, with woodlands providing trees for masts and planking, and iron coming from the hills.  Forges, furnaces, and sawmills were in place, driven by Otter Creek's falls.  This was where the United States Navy had ordered that work be done on the construction of a 140-foot ship of war, which would be christened the Saratoga.
Basin below Vergennes falls, Horse Nail Factory in the background.
Center for Digital Initiatives, University of Vermont Libraries 
Then, on May 14, 1814, a flotilla of British war ships sailed south with the intention of entering Otter Creek to destroy the American fleet being constructed in Vergennes...or to block the river and pen up the ships at least.  However, the United States Navy, under the local command of Thomas McDonough, had hastily constructed a fortification, called Fort Cassin, with cannon behind earthworks, and riflemen at the post.  

When the British opened fire, the Americans were ready.  The Battle of Fort Cassin lasted two hours.  One British sailor was killed, one American was wounded, and the British fleet promptly disengaged and retreated north...a victory for the Americans. 
After many years of being neglected and having "fallen into disuse",  Fort Cassin was purchased by Messers. H.A. Scott of Vergennes and Lucius A. Morse of Rutland, with the intention of restoring it so that "summer-going people of all conditions in life will soon learn to regard it as the favorite spot to spend a few weeks during the summer salstice." (Rutland Independent, Sat. Sept. 21, 1867).  Fort Cassin House was directly accessible from the Rutland and Burlington Railroad via Vergennes, and Otter Creek via the steamer, Water Lily.  Steamers also arrived daily from Westport and Port Henry, N.Y.,  as well as from Burlington in the north and Whitehall in the south. 

Board was $5.00 per week, $1.25 per day, 50 cents per meal.  It offered "good accommodation for horses in the barn or pasture." The House also offered croquet and baseball grounds, drives, walks, swings, a dance hall, as well as stoves, tables, benches for camping.  Boats and fishing tackle were free to boarders.

It was touted as "the most sightly and pleasant spot on the entire Lake, in full view of the celebrated Adirondack Mountains." 
In 1951, the Addison Independent ran an article called Lake Champlain Tales, written by Franklin N. Strickland.   He shared his memories of visiting the Fort Cassin House as a 7-year old in 1876.  He recalled that the House served as a "kind of hotel where people lodged over night to wait for an early steamboat to take passage up or down the lake."  In addition, he recalled that fisherman came to Fort Cassin for "along our Vermont shores and bays were to be found the best fishing!"

He shares, "How glorious the westward scene!  The morning sun lighted up the Adirondacks so intensely that Split Rock Mountain seemed to have moved at least a mile nearer to our lovely Vermont shores." (Addison Independent, June 8, 1951). 
Diamond Island with the steamer "Vermont" and Split Rock Mountain, New York, in the background. 1893. 
Center for Digital Initiatives, University of Vermont Libraries 
Then, on May 31, 1892, the steamer, Nellie, passed Fort Cassin at about 10 a.m. and reported that "quite a volume of smoke was seen issuing from the chimney and that the house was on fire."  It was reported that three men were seen leaving the premises in a row boat, and it was "presumed that the fire was incendiary." (Enterprise and Vermonter, June 3, 1892).  Fort Cassin House was insured by J.S. Hickok & Son in the Liverpool, London & Globe for $500. 
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