Lake Ontario Loop

Lake Ontario Loop

Friday, June 5, 2015

Henderson Harbor

We left Clayton looking for a breakfast place but did not find any until we reached Cape Vincent, a small town on the St. Lawrence River about 12 miles away.  While nothing else was open at 7 a.m. we cycled past the town’s waterfront and its historical museum located in an old stone building. 

Much of our day’s journey was out of sight of the water.  When possible we took side routes to the waters or entered the several state parks along the route.  One of our side trips was to the town of Sackets Harbor.  While we had marked this town as a possible place to visit, neither of us could remember why, nor did our notes give any hints.  We were pleasantly surprised by what we found. 

Sackets Harbor was founded in 1801 by Augustus Sacket, a land speculator from New York City. He hoped that this location would foster trade across Lake Ontario with Kingston, Ontario.

As we entered the town we saw lots of old brick buildings, some in bad condition, others restored.  Some of these buildings pre-dated the War of 1812.  At the town’s visitors center we learned that the US Navy had a major shipyard and its headquarters for the Great Lakes. The Army also constructed a fortbarracks and supporting infrastructure to defend the village and navy shipyard. By the fall of 1814, this was the third-largest population center in the entire state. Soon after the war, the Army strengthened its defenses on the northern frontier by constructing Madison Barracks.  We learned that the old buildings we first saw as we entered the town were the Madison Barracks.  The Madison Barracks have been designated as a Historic District and they are slowly being redeveloped as a planned commercial/residential area.

The receptionist at the visitor’s center also told us that Zebulon Pike is buried in Sackets Harbor and President Ulysses S. Grant served two tours of duty at Madison Barracks.  However, there was no mention of George Washington sleeping here.

We were also impressed by the town’s lively commercial district. We saw many small shops and restaurants as we cycled through before stopping at the Sackets Harbor Brewery for lunch and a beer.  Besides brewing their beer, the sandwich rolls and chips were also made on site. It was a wonderful place for lunch.

From Sackets Harbor we only had a short (10 mile) ride to Henderson Harbor for our nights lodging.  Our motel is on the grounds of the Aspinwall Homestead that was built in 1806, and currently serves as the motel’s office.  The Homestead was visited by Stonewall Jackson and artist Frederick Remington, and was used by runaway slaves traveling to Canada via the Underground Railroad system.

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