What you’ll learn about here: See architecture and heirloom gardens spanning from 1790 to 1920, Learn about 19th century trades and the way people lived, from the most modest trades to the most affluent residents; Discover favorite 19th Century pastimes.
Anyone who follows my other blog, Finger Lakes Travel Maven, knows how much I love historic sites. My history teachers would be surprised because I was never great at remembering historic facts or engaging with history. I think the problem was that history books and classes always focused on a chain of events, rather than on the people who created them. For me, it’s people who bring history to life. The wonderful thing about living history museums is that they get that. They understand that by interacting with real people, history becomes a story, much more easily remembered than facts and figures.
One of the living history museums that does this very well is Genesee Country Village and Museum. Although this restoration village is the third largest in the country and has close to as many buildings open to the public as Colonial Williamsburg, it’s less we’ll-known because it’s located in a small town called Mumford, located in the heart of the Finger Lakes region of Western New York. One very distinctive feature of Genesee Country Village and Museum is that it is composed of buildings gathered from across New York State that were dismantled, moved to Genesee Country Village and Museum and reassembled there brick-by-brick and plank-by-plank. Great attention has been paid to assuring that no two buildings represent the exact same architectural style. Within the village, there are three periods represented – The Pioneer Settlement, the Antebellum Village and the Turn of the Century Square. Within these sections, the historic buildings and their heirloom gardens span from the 1780s through the 1920s. From rustic cabin to Victorian mansion, almost every type of building is represented, including the childhood home of George Eastman, founder of the Eastman Kodak company and an early home of Nathaniel Rochester, after whom the city of Rochester is named.
I believe a living museum is only as good as its interpreters and those who represent community members within the village are clearly passionate and knowledgeable. Dorothy, who portrays the cook at the Livingston-Backus house will give you detailed explanations of what spices were used, how the oven and the wooden board that covered it were sprinkled with water for baking, and she shares her character’s excitement at the thought of becoming “state-of-the-art” with the addition of an ice box. On the table are all sorts of treats she”ll have baked throughout the day. At the Pioneer Homestead, the Jones Farm and the Hosmer Inn, interpreters also share their skills in the 19th Century culinary arts.
During one of our visits, an interpreter named Jim regaled us with tales about life as a Yankee Peddler and what life was like traveling from town to town selling his wares. At the potters’ studio, you can watch the potter grow a vessel before your eyes in the Flint Hill style that you can later purchase in the gift shop, and the tin smith will show how the Paul Revere lantern he’s crafting can be swung in a circle without the candle going out. If you’d like, you can even try your hand at creating an ornament of tin.
A marvelous new addition to Genesee Country Village and Museum is the Intrepid, a replica Civil War Balloon. During Abraham Lincoln’s Presidency, the original of this balloon formed part of the Civil War Balloon Corps and provided intelligence about enemy lines. On days when the weather cooperates and the wind above the trees is calm, visitors can ride it up for a 360° view of Mumford’s beautiful rural countryside for $15.
Although visiting the museum on any day is a treat, Genesee Country Village and Museum also holds numerous special events throughout the year, such as Maple Sugar Weekends, the July 4 Celebration, Laura Ingalls Wilder Days, the Civil War Re-enactment, the Old-time Fiddlers’ Fest, Yuletide in the Country and more. On these days, you’ll encounter special period activities. For example, our family visited this year for Independence Day and we were heralded by concerts, watched a parade and if our daughters had been up for it, they could have participated in sack races, a pie eating contest and a number of other kid-oriented activities.
As you tour the 700 acre village on foot or via the free “hop on, hop off” tram, you might see village folks and visitors playing croquet, trying out stilts, playing hoops, or petting animals on the pioneer farm. This is truly an interactive experience that everyone can enjoy! Throughout the village, there are a number of locations where you can get a drink or a bite of modern food to eat. In August, the museum will reopen its John L. Wehle Gallery that boasts a remarkable collection of hunting and sporting art.
Genesee Country Village and Museum is open Tuesday through Sunday May 14 through September 3 and Wednesday through Sunday September 5 through October 14, plus September 3 and October 8 for 2012. It is open Tuesday through Friday from 10 AM to 4 PM and Saturday and Sunday from 10 AM to 5 PM. The Museum’s Nature Trails are open weekends only from January through April and from May 14 through October 16 from 10 AM to 5 PM.
Museum fees are indicated below:
|John L. Wehle Gallery (reopening in August)||Nature Trails
|Senior Citizen (ages 62+)||$12.50||$13.50||$5||$5|
|Student (with valid ID)||$12.50||$13.50||$5||$5|
|Youth (ages 4-16)||$9.50||$10.50||$4.50||$4.50|
|Child (3 and younger)||FREE||FREE||FREE||FREE|