The Lake Champlain Maritime Museum in Vergennes, Vermont, is donating its replica 1862-class sailing canal schooner Lois McClure to the Canal Society of New York, a non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation and interpretation of the state’s historic canals.
The replica schooner Lois McClure has been a staple of the museum’s educational and outreach programs for many years. Initiated in 2001, the canal schooner replica project’s goal was to understand the sailing canal schooner unique to Lake Champlain, how it was built and operated, and the impact the canals had on the region.
Designed based on archaeological analysis from two shipwrecks in Lake Champlain, the boat was built by four shipwrights and over 200 volunteers, historians, and archaeologists.
Launched in 2004, the boat was named in honor of philanthropist Lois McClure who, along with her late husband J. Warren McClure, has funded many of the museum’s projects including the construction of the replica boat.
The Lois McClure served as floating educational space for the museum, engaging the public in the history of Lake Champlain and the canals through immersive experiences and educational activities. The replica schooner went on 14 tours, traversing 15 waterways and over 9,200 miles, visiting 315 ports in Vermont, New York, New Jersey, Quebec, and Ontario, and welcomed over 312,000 visitors on board.
In 2022, the museum announced that the Lois McClure would retire after 20 years on water, concluding the replica project with two more seasons for the boat to be open at the museum. Additionally, this time provided an opportunity for archival and archaeological research, and to invite suggestions and options to retire the replica vessel.
The replica schooner Lois McClure is open for the public to visit for free at Lake Champlain Maritime Museum until September 30, at which point the boat will close to the public to begin preparations for its transfer to the Canal Society. Future plans for the Lois McClure will be shared by the Canal Society at a later date.
Founded in 1985, Lake Champlain Maritime Museum connects all people to Lake Champlain, inspiring them to learn from the past, build together in the present, and create a sustainable future. Committed to free access to the lake and its history, archaeology, and ecology, the museum is open to all from late May to mid-October with free admission. Year-round education programs serve more than 2,500 K-12 students, as well as hundreds of educators locally and nationally. For more information about the museum, visit www.lcmm.org.
For over 60 years, members of the Canal Society of New York have been collecting and archiving materials and artifacts that help to tell the story of the canals of New York and other states, and even other countries. In addition to these materials, members have documented every canal and canal site they found with photographs, in order to see how these sites have aged, changed, or disappeared over the years. These collections are available to researchers who wish to find original source materials. For more information about the society, visit www.newyorkcanals.org.
Photos of the Lois McClure underway and under construction in ca. 2003 courtesy Lake Champlain Maritime Museum.