Visits to Museums

About NSG NSG Index CLR Index Museums Authors Site Map Contact Us


NSG Meeting, June 24, 2006


Where the Past is Very Present


Donovan A. Shilling

June 24th, 2006, was perhaps one of the ten best Saturdays of the entire summer. That's when fourteeen members of the New Society of the Genesee met in Skaneateles to enjoy the flawless weather, visit the historic Creamery Museum at 28 Hannum Street and relax and dine aboard an excursion boat on the lake.

The Skaneateles Historical Society chose a former dairy products processing plant, The Creamery, as a unique building in which to display its many exhibits and artifacts. Opened in 1899, the Skaneateles Creamery Company continued in business until its closing in 1949. Through the efforts of the community and the Historical Society, the building was renovated, reopening in 1992.

Karlene Miller, our knowledgeable guide, proudly pointed to the displays and gave us brief accounts of their history. The exhibits included sailboats and rowboats, particularly the Bowdish and Lightning sailboats made in Skaneateles. Also produced locally were Mr. Sinclair's rocking and straight chairs: The Centennnial, the Saratoga, and the Union. The chairs, with caned seats and backs, sold for $2.50. She showed us sleigh that was made in the village. Karlene explained that each strand of bells on the sleigh had a distinctive ring. Nearby was an exhibit of the Tallcot Milling Company which closed in 1969.

When the lake became a water reservoir for the City of Syracuse in 1892, many of the water-powered industries on the lake shut down.

Another interesting exhibit was about the introduction from England by John Snow of the cultivated teasel plant. These produced teasel heads superior in quality to those of our native teasel and were grown as a cash crop around Skaneateles. The flower head of the teasel has many short briars with hooked tips. When dried and fastened to a drum that is rotated against woolen cloth, the teasel burs will raise a nap, loosen the wool fibers on the surface. The "teaseling" process causes the woolen cloth to fluff up, softening it and creating insulating air pockets making the fabric warmer.

Five presidents have enjoyed the lake-side community's natural beauty: Fillmore, Van Buren, Teddy and Franklin Roosevelt, and most recently, William Clinton. The Roosevelt family had Roosevelt hall built in 1893 at a cost of $18,000 with furnishings valued at $11,000. The Greek Revival mansion was last used by the nephew of Franklin Delano Roosevelt during World War II, while he was the Naval Assistant under his uncle.

Models of three of the five excursion steamboats that once plied the lake were on display. They included the Ossahonta, the Glen Haven and the largest, holding 800 passengers, the City of Syracuse. To promote business and provide easier access to the lake, the steamboat companies built Skaneateles Short Line Railroad. Its five-mile-long route connected the village to Hartlot on the New York Central and Auburn Railroad. There's much more in the Museum than reported here. We'd encourage those interested in learning more about the history of Skaneateles (which means "long water") to visit the Creamery Museum.

Now a few words about a truly spectacular two-hour long, scenic luncheon cruise aboard The Judge Ben Wiles, Mid-Lakes Navigation Company's vessel, which has been operating for 20 years on the lake. The lake water was smooth as satin, the temperature, mild with just a hint of a breeze and the views of impressive mansions, elaborate boat houses, and distant shorelines were picture perfect on this glorious day. The fine meal and great scenery made the day a special one for Society members.

© 2006, Donovan A. Shilling
Area Museum Schedules
CLR Blog | Site Map | Contact CLR