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IN THE COMPANY OF LADIES: TRAVELS ON ROUTES 5 & 20 IN NEW YORK STATE




By Marjory Allen Perez

"I am very fond of the company of ladies. I like their beauty, I like their delicacy, I like their vivacity, and I like their silence." Samuel Johnson 1709-1784

We think that you too will find the "company of ladies" on Routes 5 & 20 in New York State to be to your liking, but for very different reasons than Samuel Johnson's sentiments. Routes 5 and 20, which traverse New York State from east to west, and its ladies, who have lived or live along its corridor, are part of the very fabric of what makes New York State unique.

Making History

It is "a given" that you must start your journey with the ladies in Seneca Falls, New York. On July 13, 1848 Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Coffin Mott, Mary Ann McClintock, , and Martha Coffin Wright sat down for tea at the home of Jane Hunt in Waterloo, New York. No one would have guessed that on a quiet summer afternoon the Women's Rights Movement was about to be born in the United States. On July 19th these ladies hosted the first Women's Rights Convention at the Wesleyan Chapel in Seneca Falls, New York. Elizabeth Cady Stanton drafted the "Declaration of Sentiments" which began with the simple statement "We hold these truths to self-evident that all men and women are created equal…" One of the most contentious issues at the convention was waged over the resolution calling for women's suffrage. Elizabeth Cady Stanton stood her ground and the resolution was passed, but it would be another 72 years before women were guaranteed the right to vote with the passage of the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

In the years that followed the first Women’s Rights Convention other women joined the struggle. In 1850 or 1851 Amelia Bloomer (most famous for advocating a change to women’s dress styles) of Seneca Falls, New York introduced fellow temperance worker Susan B. Anthony to Elizabeth Cady Stanton. The meeting forever changed the struggle of equal rights for women. Cady Stanton and Anthony formed a dynamic partnership which would last for over 50 years. In 1998 a statue entitled "When Anthony Met Stanton" was erected in Seneca Falls, New York to mark the 150th anniversary of the first women’s rights convention.

In the 1980s the federal government, recognizing the impact those ladies had on world history, created the Women’s Rights National Historic Park in Seneca Falls, New York. The Park consists of a Visitor Center and four major historical properties – the home of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the site of the Wesleyan Chapel in Seneca Falls, and the Hunt and McClintock homes in Waterloo, New York. Start your visit at the Visitor Center, located at 136 Fall Street, Seneca Falls. For information call 315-568-2991 or visit www.nps.gov/wori.

In 1969 the women and men of Seneca Falls created the National Women’s Hall of Fame as a means to recognize not only the women of 1848 but others who had made major contributions to American History. In 1973 the Hall of Fame held ceremonies to induct its "first class", which included Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. In the early 1980s the group realized its dream of a permanent home with the purchase of an historic bank building in the heart of the Seneca Falls Historic District. On October 4, 2003 the Hall of Fame will honor 12 more outstanding American women, bringing the total number of inductees to 207. The Hall of Fame is located at 76 Fall Street in Seneca Falls. For more information call 315-568-8060 or visit www.greatwomen.org.

Also, in that first class of inductees to the National Women’s Hall of Fame was one of more famous ladies of Routes 5 and 20, Harriet Tubman of Auburn, New York. This woman of exceptional courage was born a slave on the eastern shore of Maryland about 1820. In the summer of 1849 Harriet Tubman escaped from slavery by traveling north through Maryland and Delaware to Philadelphia, then onto New York City and finally into Canada – along the route of the secret Underground Railroad. It was not enough for this woman that she was free. Over the next 12 years, Tubman made nineteen trips into the South to rescue more that 300 persons from slavery and led them to freedom by the light of the North Star. Harriet Tubman richly deserved the title "Moses of Her People"!

Tubman’s exploits did not end there. During the Civil War, Harriet Tubman served the United States as spy, scout and hospital nurse. She numbered among here friends such abolitionists as John Brown, William Lloyd Garrison, Charles Sumner, Massachusetts Governor Andrew, Frederick Douglas and William H. Seward of Auburn, New York. It was from William H. Seward that she purchased a home for her parents in 1857, moving them from St. Catherines, Ontario, Canada to Auburn, New York. At the time Seward was United States Senator from New York. He would later serve as Secretary of State under Lincoln and is remembered for his purchase of Alaska in 1867, then called "Seward’s Folly". After the war Harriet Tubman settled in Auburn where she continued her life of service to her community until her death in 1913.

The Harriet Tubman Home, located at 180 South Street in Auburn, New York, preserves the legacy of "The Moses of Her People". The site is owned and operated by the AME Zion Church. Each year on Memorial Day Weekend, the Tubman Home holds special events to commemorate the life of Harriet Tubman. For more information visit www.harriettubmanhome.org or call 315-252-2081.

Making Music and Growing Gardens

Once you have sampled a bit of women’s history on Routes 5 & 20 it’s time to join our ladies for a pleasant evening listening to world-class chamber music by the lake or a stroll through some world famous gardens. For five weeks every summer, the charming lakeside village of Skaneateles, New York is host to the Skaneateles Festival, a premier music event, featuring chamber music, chamber orchestra and children’s concerts. Diane Walsh, a noted pianist, has served as the festival’s artistic director since 2000 and under her leadership the programming has been taken to new heights of excellence. Ms. Walsh comes to the Skaneateles Festival with a wide range of honors, having won the top prize in both the Munich International Piano Competition and the Salzburg Mozart Competition. She was also a finalist in the Van Cliburn Competition and won that competition’s chamber music prize. As a member of the Mannes Trio, she won the Walter M. Naumburg International Award for Chamber Music. She is equally at home in the solo and chamber music literature, which makes her a perfect fit for the Skaneateles Festival.

The 2003 Festival season will run from Thursday, August 7 through Saturday, August 30. Weeknight chamber music concerts are held at the First Presbyterian Church in the center of the village across from the lake. Enjoy a walk in the lakefront park during intermission and if your see Ms. Walsh be sure to say hello! On Saturday evenings the audience brings picnic dinners and spreads blankets on the lawn at Brook Farm, a private estate, to enjoy orchestra under the stars. In addition there are open rehearsals, master classes in piano, vocal, strings and winds, and programs for children. It is a true music fest! For information visit www.skanfest.org or call 315-685-7418.

Following the theme of "ladies" will be easy while you are in Skaneateles. Spend the night at the Lady of the Lake B&B, located at 2 West Lake Street or at Aunt Louise’s Lake House B&B at 2498 East Lake Road. Enjoy a wonderful dinner at Rosalie’s Cucina on West Genesee Street.

Many women of the past and present have made contributions to their communities - none more so than Mary Clark Thompson of Canandaigua, New York. Born in 1835 to Zilpha Watkins and Myron Holley Clark, young Mary spent her childhood in this little village, situated on the northern shore of Canandaigua Lake. When Mary was a girl what is today called Routes 5 and 20 was the dusty Genesee Turnpike. Mary Clark met Frederick Ferris Thompson, a New York City banker, in Albany, New York when her father was Governor of New York State and they married in 1857. Although the Thompsons made their primary home on Madison Avenue in New York City they always spent their summers in Mary’s home town of Canandaigua.

In 1885 the Thompsons undertook the construction of an elegant summer home and gardens, which they called Sonnenberg – German for "sunny hill". Designed in the Queen Anne style, this 40-room mansion is a delight of balconies, arches, landings, niches, bays, leaded glass, beamed ceilings, and verandahs. Mrs. Thompson died in 1923 and the Sonnenberg estate was sold to the U.S. Government, which converted the mansion into a nurses’ residence for the Veteran’s Administration Hospital that was constructed on adjacent farmland.

In the early 1970s the mansion and about 50 acres of land became the home to Sonnenberg Gardens, a not-for-profit organization formed to preserve the mansion and honor the memory of Mary Clark Thompson. During her lifetime Mrs. Thompson took great pride in the grounds surrounding her home, developing a series of exquisite gardens, which have been lovingly recreated by a dedicated group of volunteers and staff. Sonnenberg Gardens is a pre-eminent example of Victorian garden design. The landscape includes nine formal gardens and tree-filled lawns. Mrs. Thompson would indeed to proud of what her home town has done with her "little summer home". For more information about Sonnenberg Gardens and Mary Clark Thompson visit www.sonnenberg.org or call 585-394-4922.

While you are in Canandaigua, you might want to visit another "lady" – the Canandaigua Lady to be exact. She is docked at Kershaw Park within sight of Steamboat Landing Restaurant. Plying the waters of Canandaigua Lake from late Spring through early Fall, this authentic replica of a 19th century paddlewheel boat offers the visitor a very special view of the Finger Lakes Region of New York State.


After a visit to the gardens of Mary Clark Thompson in Canandaigua, you might feel inspired to try your hand at creating a special place on your "grounds". Deb Slusser of Top of the World Gardens, at 7284 Cobb Road, located about 1 _ miles south of Route 20 in Pavilion, New York, is just the lady to go see. Top of the World Gardens is a high quality nursery with the gardens to prove it. Ms. Slusser has created a magical place of flower, vegetable and shrub gardens – heaven for all aspiring gardeners. Of course you don’t need to be a gardener to enjoy a visit to Top of the World Gardens. Find a seat on a bench and take in all the colors and scents.

Visit Top of the World Gardens on a weekend and you will most likely be treated to seeing wedding parties posing for those oh-so-special pictures using the gardens as a backdrop. Deb Slusser and her family also open the gardens to weddings, tours and private gatherings. In fact if you would like to host a tea for ten or more of your lady friends, Top of the World Gardens would be an ideal setting. Top of the World Gardens is open from Mother’s Day through September. For more information call 585-584-3794 or visit www.geocities.com/gardensdeb.

Ladies Recreating History

In keeping with the themes of ladies, history and gardens of Routes 5 and 20, visitors will find the Genesee Country Village and Museum in Mumford, New York a "must stop" on their journey. Located about 1 mile north of Caledonia on Route 5, this living history museum is the largest in New York State and one of the largest in the nation. Each of the fifty-eight 19th century buildings has been moved to the site, restored to original condition and furnished with period antiques. But it’s not just the buildings and antiques that make this place so special. It’s the people that tell the story of life in western New York in the mid-19th century. The "lady of the house" is at home in the log cabin, the pioneer farmstead, the fanciful octagonal Hyde house, the grand Livingston-Backus mansion or the simple salt-box of Duncan MacArthur. In addition to getting to spend time with these ladies, visitors have a chance to follow the evolution of gardening over a 100 year span of history - from the late 1700s to the late 1800s.

There are a dozen gardens, large and small, on the grounds of the Genesee Country Village and Museum. Each of the gardens is designed as part of the historical environment of a particular restored building. For example, the Heirloom Garden at the Jones Farm contains only those hardy crops commonly grown in the 19th century kitchen garden. At another site, herb gardens furnish dyes for home-woven textiles and medicines for home remedies. At the Livingston-Backus mansion site, the garden is laid out in the classical style compatible with its 1826 Federal style garden house. The orchard surrounding the Rochester House consists of early varieties of apples no longer grown commercially. Scattered throughout the village are kitchen gardens with varieties of vegetables and fruits grown for household consumption. The role of women in planning these gardens, as well as how they prepared and preserved the bounty of the harvest is part of the story told at the museum by the "ladies of the house". For more information about the Genesee Country Village and Museum call 585-538-6822 or visit www.gcv.org.

The Routes 5 and 20 corridor traverses New York State from east to west, taking the visitor through the very heart of the state. Routes 5 and 20 has something for everyone – wine tasting, antique shops, historic sites, theme parks, four-season outdoor recreation, scenic rural landscapes and quaint villages. And best of all, the visitor gets off the expressway to drive along an authentic American road. To plan your visit on Routes 5 and 20 visit www.routes5and20.com.



RESOURCES:
-------------------------

GENERAL:

Routes 5 and 20 Group :::: www.routes5and20.com

Skaneateles Chamber of Commerce :::: 1-315-685-0552 :::: www.skaneateles.com

Cayuga County Tourism :::: 1-800-499-9615 :::: www.TourCayuga.com

Seneca County Tourism :::: 1-800-732-1848 :::: www.visitsenecayn.net

A Finger Lakes Visitors Connection :::: 1-877-FUN-IN-NY :::: www.VisitFingerLakes.com

Livingston County Chamber of Commerce :::: 1-800-538-7365 :::: www.FingerLakesWest.com

Genesee County Chamber of Commerce :::: 1-800-622-2686 :::: www.geneseeny.com


ATTRACTION CONTACTS:

Women's Rights National Historic Park :::: 315-568-2991 :::: www.nps.gov/wori

Harriet Tubman Home :::: 315-252-2081 :::: www.harriettubmanhome.org

Skaneateles Festival :::: 315-685-7418 :::: www.skanfest.org

Sonnenberg Gardens :::: 585-394-4922 :::: www.sonnenberg.org

Top of the World Gardens :::: 585-584-3794 :::: www.geocities.com/gardensdeb

Genesee Country Village and Museum :::: 585-538-6822 :::: www.gcv.org