But in all honesty folks, this ebay auction is definitely one of the more bizarre that I've seen since the Sterling Renaissance Faire was auctioned off a while back. Fort Montgomery, listed in the National Register of Historic Places, is one of a series of fortifications lining Lake Champlain and is in a state of glorious ruin overlooking the Canadian border (early border control I suppose). Currently the bidding stands with 39 bids, the highest being $3,000,100.00; the auction ends on June 5th.
The first question that is raised by a Civil War Fort on Lake Champlain is, why? The northeasternmost corner of New York State in what was a deep wilderness seems a strange spot for a fortification to defend against the Confederacy. At first it seems that Haliburton's great-grandfather company got some serious pork up in the North Country. But in those days, Canada was still a British Colony and Britain leaned towards aiding the Confederacy in the early days of the war; British textile mills relied upon Southern cotton and, as history shows over and over again, mill owners often care more about low costs than the living conditions of the work force. Lake Champlain has long been a corridor of invasion and had seen struggle since the days of conflict between Algonquin and Iroquoian speaking peoples. In fact, the site of the current Fort Montgomery saw a Revolutionary War battle in 1777.
To fast forward back to our modern Ebay auction, the sale of Fort Montgomery is, frankly, a bit troubling. Now, the owner is within the law in the sale, but that doesn't shake the feeling of skeeviness that I get from the auction. To think that a piece of New York's history, a stout old stone fort and (perhaps just as important) a broad section of undeveloped lakefront property right on the border is being sold to an anonymous bidder on the Internet makes me worried. Border concerns aside (maybe the Minutemen should do some good and restore the Fort to protect us from the Canadians... they do speak French after all), this is "one of the largest undivided tracks of lakefront property in the New York / Vermont Lake Champlain Region. A true developers dream !" The ebay sales pitch continues:
"There are no restrictions on the fort, meaning the new owners can develop it as they see fit. One possible use for the land would be the creation of a marina and luxury condominiums with dramatic views of the lake and mountains in Vermont and New York states; there are no height restrictions for such a development. Potential also exists for commercial development, as the area has proven to be attractive to business...The listing of private property on the National Register does not prohibit under Federal law or regulations any actions which may be otherwise undertaken by the property owners with respect to theIn other words, a buyer could tear the Fort down, sell of the stone for a highway project, cut down the old forest and build luxury condos across the entier property. Have the people of Rouses Point been consulted on how they feel about the sale of, and potential changes to, the largest and probably most important historic site and undeveloped parcel in their village? But at the same time, can Fort Montgomery be put to better use for the community than it's current life as a romantic ruin? Difficult questions that I haven't heard raised elsewhere.
-Posted by Jesse