Rochester-area museums tell many stories: the birth of Rochester and neighboring towns, the growth of photography and film, and the intimate life stories of movers and shakers, such as Frederick Douglass and Susan B. Anthony. They focus on trains, toys, art, dinosaurs, historic plants, dolls, Native American culture, sporting art and Jell-O. Don’t miss a visit to one of Rochester’s house museums; they re-create local life in the 19th century and are a direct result of the region’s special focus on historic preservation.
Rochester’s urban outdoor museum and art trail in the Neighborhood of the Arts runs along University Avenue between the Memorial Art Gallery and George Eastman House. It’s art on the street, with mosaic-tiled light poles, artistic bus shelters and benches, and sidewalk imprints. Events, held throughout the year, include ArtWalk Alive, a multi-art celebration in September, and Music on the Block, a music festival.
Big Springs Museum and Historical Society
3095 Main St. Caledonia, NY
On display are items chronicling the history of the Caledonia and Mumford area, including clothing, farm machinery, kitchen utensils, toys and furniture. Personal collections comprise photographs, scrapbooks, newspaper clippings, greeting cards and war memorabilia.
Book of Mormon Historic Publication Site
Grandin Printing Shop, 217 E. Main St. Palmyra, NY
The portion of the building owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been restored to the way it was in the late 1820s, when the Book of Mormon was published here for the first time. Visitors also can walk through the bindery and the store where the Book of Mormon was first sold.
16 East Blvd. Rochester, NY
Frank Lloyd Wright built this house for E.E. Boynton in 1908. You can’t tour this private residence, but you can get a good look from the street. It is a well-preserved example of the architect’s Prairie style.
Campbell-Whittlesey House Museum
123 S. Fitzhugh St. Rochester, NY
One of the finest examples of Greek Revival architecture in America, this house represents the prosperity that the Erie Canal brought to Rochester in the mid-1800s. Located in Corn Hill, Rochester’s first residential neighborhood, the house features double parlors painted 12 tones and furniture decorated with gold stencils. Tours begin next door at the Landmark Society of Western New York headquarters and gift shop, 133 S. Fitzhugh St.
Charlotte-Genesee Lighthouse and Keeper’s Residence Museum
Behind church parking lot at 4492 Lake Ave., 70 Lighthouse St. Rochester, NY
The lighthouse once guarded Rochester’s Lake Ontario shoreline. Visitors can climb the tower for one of the best views of the city. The museum displays memorabilia from Charlotte’s (pronounced shar-LOT) heyday as a tourist attraction, along with local maritime history. Pick up a souvenir in the gift shop and pause for a picnic on the grounds. Free admission; limited hours or by appointment.
Fairport Historical Museum
18 Perrin St. Fairport, NY
A huge mural by WPA artist Carl Peters can be found in the lobby of the museum, built as a library in 1937 as a project of the Works Progress Administration. The museum houses the local history collections for the Perinton Historical Society and features a Victorian parlor and general store exhibit. Early property records, costumes and other materials of interest to genealogists can be found here. Fairport owes its existence to the Erie Canal and the railroad, so much of the collection focuses on their role in the village’s growth. After viewing the collections, stroll through the gift shop and gardens. Free admission; limited hours.
Ganondagan State Historic Site
1488 State Route 444 Victor, NY
Ganondagan, designated a national historic landmark in 1964, marks a major 17th-century Seneca town. Visitors can follow marked trails on Boughton Hill, where the town’s burial grounds were, and on Fort Hill, site of the town’s granary. Exhibits, videos and a reconstructed longhouse tell the centuries-old story of the Seneca Nation, one of six nations in the Iroquois Confederacy.
Genesee Country Village & Museum
1410 Flint Hill Road Mumford, NY
One of the top three living-history museums in the country, Genesee Country Village features nearly 70 restored buildings dating from 1797 to 1870. Costumed interpreters go about the daily tasks of 19th-century life. Special events and classes bring visitors into activities. Four centuries of art are displayed in the John L. Wehle Art Gallery. Five miles of interpreted trails in the Nature Center, open year-round, wind through woodlands and marshes. Two restaurants and four museum shops are on the grounds.
George Eastman House International Museum of Photography & Film
900 East Ave. Rochester, NY
An international leader in film preservation, this national historic landmark collects and interprets images, films and equipment in photography and motion pictures. Tour the 50-room Colonial Revival mansion and formal gardens of Eastman Kodak founder George Eastman. Take in exhibitions in nearly a dozen galleries. View classic and contemporary films in the Dryden Theatre. Create sunprints and more in the Discovery Room. The film archives hold one of the most extensive collections of silent films, as well as the personal film collections of Cecil B. DeMille, Martin Scorsese and Spike Lee.
Granger Homestead and Carriage Museum
295 N. Main St. Canandaigua, NY
This was the retirement home of Gideon Granger, postmaster general under Presidents Jefferson and Madison. The 1816 Federal-style mansion housed four generations of Grangers, as well as a private girls’ academy and a ministers’ retirement home. Today special events and tours show how the Grangers lived. The Carriage Museum has the largest collection of antique carriages in Western New York. Carriage and sleigh rides are available; reservations are required. Also on the property is Hubbell Law Office, where 1860 presidential nominee Stephen Douglas worked as a law clerk. One of just a handful of two-room law offices that remain in the state, it is open to visitors.
Hervey Ely House
11 Livingston Park Rochester, NY
Built in 1837, this Greek Revival structure features Doric columns, elaborate plaster decorations and marble fireplaces. Hervey Ely was a prominent mill owner during Rochester’s mid-19th-century boom. The house has been owned since the 1920s by the Irondequoit chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution. Free admission; limited hours.
High Falls Museum
60 Browns Race Rochester, NY
The museum is part of the High Falls Historic District along the Genesee River’s west bank, where humming mills gave Rochester its first nickname, the Flour City. With a simulated raceway, thundering falls and other interactive exhibits, the museum shows how geology and technology shaped Rochester’s industrial beginnings. At the nearby Triphammer Forge, view the layers of history at Brown’s Race. The Pont de Rennes pedestrian bridge, particularly the eastern end, offers a spectacular view of the north-flowing river’s High Falls.
Historic LeRoy House
23 E. Main St. LeRoy, NY
Donated to the LeRoy Historical Society in 1942, this was once the home of land agent Jacob LeRoy. Before the Civil War, Rev. Samuel Cox, a noted abolitionist, lived here. He also was chancellor of Ingham University, the first four-year university for women in the United States, located in LeRoy. A collection of local 19th-century redware from the Morganville Pottery is on permanent display in the home.
133 S. Fitzhugh St. Rochester, NY
This building was saved from demolition when the Landmark Society of Western New York chose it as its headquarters. The 1840 Greek Revival mansion also houses the Wenrich Memorial Library, a rich resource for information on local architecture, historic preservation, horticulture and decorative arts. Library research is by appointment.
23 E. Main St. LeRoy, NY
This gallery celebrates Jell-O, invented in 1897 right here in the village of LeRoy. Exhibits trace the history of the popular dessert. The gallery gift shop has dozens of products for collectors, from notecards and clocks to golf towels and Jell-O Barbie dolls.
Joseph Smith Farm
863 Stafford Road Palmyra, NY
Though frequently associated with the Midwest and Salt Lake City, the Mormon Church was born in this area. The restored 1820s home of Joseph Smith, the charismatic religious leader who founded the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is open for tours. Free admission.
Landmark Society of Western New York
133 S. Fitzhugh St. Rochester, NY
In addition to maintaining house museums, the Landmark Society offers tours of historic neighborhoods. Its annual Corn Hill Holiday Tour of Homes occurs on the first Saturday of December. The tour takes visitors into beautifully restored historic homes in Corn Hill, the city’s oldest residential district. The society’s 39th annual House and Garden Tour visits East Avenue on June 6 and 7, 2009. Call the society for tickets and directions. The society also has maps for self-guided tours of historic neighborhoods, from downtown Rochester to outlying towns. You can also pick up a map from Downtown Guides at the Downtown Information Center, corner of Clinton Avenue and Main Street, 232-3420, or online at www.landmarksociety.org/tours/index.html.
Memorial Art Gallery
500 University Ave. Rochester, NY 14607
Founded in 1913 as a centerpiece for Rochester’s growing interest in art, the Memorial Art Gallery draws tens of thousands of visitors a year. Popular exhibitions have featured Georgia O’Keeffe, Edgar Degas and Maxfield Parrish. The museum’s well-balanced permanent collection, dating to antiquity, includes the inner and outer coffins of Pa-debehu-Aset, an Egyptian official of the fourth century B.C., the only full-size Italian Baroque organ in North America and a beautifully detailed Renaissance suit of armor. The annual Clothesline Festival and two exhibitions show off the region’s many talented artists. The Gill Discovery Center offers interactive installations for children and adults. There are school programs and classes for all ages, an art library, lectures and concerts. Visitors also can dine in Cutler’s Restaurant and shop at the Gallery Store
151 Main St. Brockport, NY
Dayton Morgan purchased the home in 1854, and it remained in his family for nearly 100 years. The Western Monroe Historical Society restored the house in 1965 after a damaging fire, which also took the life of the last of the Morgan children, 96-year-old Sara Morgan Manning. Today the home looks much as it did during the 19th century. Free admission; tours by appointment.
New York Museum of Transportation
6393 East River Road Rush, NY
Mid-May through October, the adjacent New York Museum of Transportation and Rochester & Genesee Valley Railroad Museum provide a seamless visitor experience, including a two-mile track car ride between them, for one admission price. The only operating trolley museum in New York, NYMT offers unlimited trolley rides in the summer, free with admission. Visitors can climb aboard and take photos of freight and passenger cars, locomotives, cabooses, trolleys, highway and horse-drawn vehicles and more. Special events feature diesel locomotive and caboose rides. The museums also feature a restored 1909 Erie Railroad depot, a huge model railroad, photo displays of Genesee Valley transportation history and a gift shop
Rochester Museum and Science Center
657 East Ave. Rochester, NY
Established in 1912 as Rochester’s Municipal Museum, RMSC offers interactive exhibits on the region’s rich heritage of innovation in science, technology, natural science and cultural diversity. From a Genesee Gorge climbing wall to a mastodon dig site to abolitionist Frederick Douglass’ re-created print shop or the inner workings of a Xerox copier, RMSC offers visitors a hands-on sense of what Rochester is all about. Strasenburgh Planetarium presents giant-screen films, astronomy shows and music laser light shows. The associated Cumming Nature Center near Naples has a visitor center, six miles of hiking trails and seasonal activities to celebrate the natural environment.
Sonnenberg Gardens and Mansion State Historic Park
151 Charlotte St. Canandaigua, NY
The summer home of Canandaigua benefactors Frederick Ferris Thompson and Mary Clark Thompson, Sonnenberg is a Victorian mansion and gardens. Frederick Thompson was a founder of the forerunner of Citibank. The 1885 Queen Anne-style mansion has 40 rooms. The gardens were designed and built in the early decades of the 20th century. You will find nine themed gardens and a reflecting pond, along with a conservatory complex that is considered one of the most significant residential greenhouse complexes in the country. The 2009 garden season is from May to October. The Finger Lakes Wine Center is on the grounds and accessible free of charge.
Stone-Tolan House Museum
2370 East Ave. Brighton, NY
442-4606; 546-7029, ext. 14, for group tours; http://www.landmarksociety.org
Orringh Stone and his family managed their farm and rural tavern here from 1790 to 1820. One of Rochester’s oldest houses, Stone-Tolan features furnishings, utensils and clothing of the period. Visitors will find an authentic representation of the early 19th-century landscape in the apple orchard, herb garden, privy, smokehouse and 200 varieties of plants.
Strong National Museum of Play
One Manhattan Square Rochester, NY
Strong is one of the largest children’s museums in the country. Its interactive exhibits include five magical literary worlds in Reading Adventureland, Sesame Street, a kid-sized supermarket and a giant kaleidoscope. Butterflies flutter free in the Dancing Wings Butterfly Garden. Visit the National Toy Hall of Fame and a treasure trove of play-related objects, including the world’s largest collection of dolls and toys.
Susan B. Anthony House
17 Madison St. Rochester, NY
The pioneer leader of the women’s rights movement lived here with her sister Mary, writing and organizing, during the years she campaigned for women’s suffrage. Anthony was arrested in this house for voting in 1872. She met with Elizabeth Cady Stanton and other reformers in the parlor. The house, a national historic landmark, is largely restored and is filled with photos, memorabilia and much original furniture. The visitor center next door at 19 Madison St., once the home of sister Hannah, contains exhibits and a gift shop.
The Hill Cumorah Visitors Center
603 State Route 21 Palmyra, NY
Built at the foot of the Hill Cumorah, the center is a great starting point for visitors looking for information on local sites central to the history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Interactive displays and feature-length films tell of the historic events that took place at these sites.
The Rochester & Genesee Valley Railroad Museum
6394 East River Road Rush, NY
Adjacent to the New York Museum of Transportation.
Tinker Homestead and Farm Museum
1585 Calkins Road Henrietta, NY
Cobblestone buildings are rare, and Rochester is at the center of the largest concentration of this type of architecture. Tinker Homestead is a fine example of a home built in the style. The 1830s structure features handmade quilts, a beehive oven and furnishings of the period. Walking trails wind through a nature park on the grounds. Free admission.
Route 96, across from Eastview Mall
Built in 1879 as the first structure in a town that never materialized, Valentown houses a re-created cobbler’s shop, music school, country store and harness maker’s shop. Important regional historical papers and artifacts are on display. In 1940, the late historian Sheldon Fisher bought the abandoned building and turned it into a museum. The town of Victor has grown explosively around it. The museum stands as a reminder of the past in an area of busy commercial development.
Victorian Doll Museum and Chili Doll Hospital
4333 Buffalo Road North Chili, NY
View thousands of collector dolls in floor-to-ceiling glass cases. You’ll find dolls of all kinds: bisque, china, wood, wax, metal, felt, ivory, papier mache, celluloid and paper. The museum also shows dolls representing famous personalities of comics, literature, movies, advertising, fashion and more. Audio tours are available. Reservations are required for groups. The doll hospital is more than 40 years old. It’s not open for tours, but parts used for doll repairs are on view. The gift shop sells brand-name and collector dolls.