By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant
Rich in history, New York is home to many historic points that offer a glimpse into the past. Plan to broaden your understanding of history by visiting a few this season.
Here are some of them:
- Fort Ontario Historic Site in Oswego displays military and everyday artifacts from early American life at a historic fort overlooking Lake Ontario. The site includes furnished bunkhouses, officer’s quarters, offices, and guardhouses. In addition to its military purposes, Fort Ontario also sheltered mostly Jewish Holocaust refugees during World War II. Check the site’s calendar for special events on the website.
- Fort Stanwix in Rome represents another notable military site. Its strategic location was well recognized long before the arrival of European explorers, as in this area existed a trail connecting the Mohawk River and Wood Creek. This provided a route for travelers between the Atlantic Ocean and Lake Ontario. Because of its importance to the transportation of goods and information, the Fort Stanwix area became a key point of control through numerous conflicts. Currently, Fort Stanwix displays more than 500,000 objects and hosts special events year-round.
More info: www.nps.gov/fost/index.htm
- A visit to the Harriet Tubman National Historic Park in Auburn includes the Harriet Tubman Home and other significant, nearby sites: Thompson AME Zion Church, Tubman Home for the Aged and Fort Hill Cemetery. The Tubman Home site was where “the Moses of her people” lived from 1859 through 1911. After freeing herself from enslavement, she liberated about 70 others through return trips and assisted with the freedom of hundreds more as a nurse and Union spy during the Civil War. When the war ended, she continued to advocate for the wellbeing of her people, especially older adults. Tubman founded the Home for the Aged to care for indigent African Americans. She received care there herself for the last two years of her life. The church was house of worship for Tubman and other notable figures, including Frederick Douglass and Sojourner Truth, the church supported Tubman’s efforts for decades and held her funeral. She was buried at Fort Hill Cemetery. Check the website for hours and to make reservations.
More info: www.harriettubmanhome.com)
- Also in Auburn, Seward House Museum preserves 19th century life through the home of William H. Seward, a New York state senator, governor of New York, US senator, and secretary of state in the Lincoln and Johnson administrations. Seward supported abolition of slavery and he also has ties to Harriet Tubman, as he sold her the property in Auburn where she spent the last portion of her life. While serving in the Johnson administration, Seward negotiated the purchase of Alaska. In addition to personal effects and period décor, the museum includes exhibits pertaining to issues important to the Sewards, including women’s rights and freedom for all.
More info: www.sewardhouse.org
- Sonnenburg Gardens in Canandaigua represents one of the few existing Queen Anne Victorian mansions and formal gardens in the US. The 40-room mansion was built in 1887 by architect Francis Allen to be the private home of Frederick Ferris and Mary Clark Thompson. In addition to walking through the formal gardens on the 50-acre estate, visitors may tour many of the rooms on three floors of the period-furnished mansion to imagine life in the Gilded Age.
More info: www.sonnenberg.org
- While in the area, visit the Granger Homestead and Carriage Museum in Canandaigua. The 1800s federal-style house was the retirement residence of the former US Postmaster General, Gideon Granger. Guests can view period furnishings and artifacts of the Grander family. The 12-acre property includes gardens and several outbuildings to tour.
More info: http://grangerhomestead.org
- Rose Hill Mansion in Geneva is a fine example of a 19-century Greek Revival home. Once a working farm, the house offers guests 20 rooms furnished in the Empire style, popular from the 1820s to 1850s. Rose Hill overlooks Seneca Lake and includes the Carriage House Visitors Center, Tenant Cottage, and Rose Hill Cottage. The Tenant Cottage chronicles the history of Rose Hill’s workers and residents. Rose Hill Cottage is a three-bedroom, one bathroom home available as overnight lodging.
- The Eastman Museum in Rochester, celebrates the life and work of George Eastman, the pioneer of popular photography. The museum also holds one of the largest film archives in the nation and displays a world-class collection of photographic and cinematographic equipment and artifacts. The museum hosts special events, shows seasonal exhibitions and screens new and restored, historic films. The mansion and gardens, also available for touring, displays the life of well-to-do gentleman of the early 1900s, as it is furnished in period style.
More info: www.eastman.org
- Genesee Country Village & Museum in Mumford near Rochester offers “time travel” back to 19th century America through a combination of genuine and replica buildings peopled by costumed historic interpreters: blacksmiths, weavers, shopkeepers, schoolteachers, coopers, potters and more. As guests wind their way among 68 structures on a self-guided tour, the “residents” of Genesee Country Village go about their daily life. Three zones represent three periods of 19th century life: Pioneer Settlement, Center Village, and Gas Light District. Many activities are available for children throughout GCVM. Check the website for special events, reenactments and more.
More info: www.gvc.org