Ontario County Historical Society Museum
To learn more about the history of Canandaigua, step into the Ontario County Historical Society Museum (55 N. Main St., 585/394-4975, 10 a.m.–4 p.m. Mon.–Sat., admission $2), situated in a handsome brick building. On display is the original Six Nations’ copy of the Pickering Treaty with the signatures of the Iroquois leaders Red Jacket, Cornplanter, Handsome Lake, Farmer’s Brother, Little Beard, and Fish Carrier. Each signed with an X.
The museum also features “life masks” of Abraham Lincoln (plaster-of-Paris masks taken from a mold of his face), a small children’s discovery area, and temporary exhibits.
Sonnenberg Gardens and Mansion
In the heart of the bustling downtown sits a serene 50-acre garden estate (151 Charlotte St., 585/394-4922, www.sonnenberg.org, 9:30 a.m.–5:30 p.m. daily June-0ct., adults $10, seniors $9, students $5, children under 12 free), composed of nine formal gardens, an arboretum, a long turn-of-the-20th-century greenhouse, and a massive 1887 stone mansion. The Smithsonian Institution credited the place “one of the most magnificent late-Victorian gardens ever created in America.”
Sonnenberg (German for “Sunny Hill”) was once the summer home of Mary Clark and Frederick Ferris Thompson. Mr. Thompson, whose father helped to establish the Chase Bank, was co-founder of the First National City Bank of New York City.
The estate’s nine gardens were created by Mrs. Thompson as a memorial after her husband’s death in 1899. A classic Rose Garden features over 4,000 rose bushes, and the Japanese Garden took seven workers six months to create. The secluded Sub Rosa Garden contains statues of Zeus, Diana, and Apollo. The Blue & White Garden contains only blue and white flowers.
Visitors to Sonnenberg can wander freely—even the mansion is self-guided-though guided walking tours are also offered June–September. Near the entrance is an inviting café, housed in one of the greenhouses, and the huge, commercial Finger Lakes Wine Center (585/394-9016, 11 a.m.–4 p.m. daily, May–Oct.), selling regional wines.
Granger Homestead and Carriage Museum
This 1816 Federal-style mansion (295 N. Main St., 585/394-1472, www.grangerhomestead.org, 1–5 p.m. Tues.–Sun. May–Oct., adults $5, seniors $4, students $1) once housed Gideon Granger, U.S. postmaster general under Presidents Jefferson and Madison. The home—”unrivalled in all the nation,” Granger once boasted—is especially notable for its elaborate carved moldings and mantelpieces, and for its fine original furnishings.
Dark, towering trees surround the house. Out back is a carriage museum, packed with about 50 spit-and-polish coaches, sporting carriages, sleighs, commercial wagons, and an undertaker’s hearse.
Ontario County Courthouse
Dominating downtown Canandaigua, and indeed much of the surrounding countryside, is the bulbous dome of the Ontario County Courthouse (27 N. Main St., at Gorham, 585/396-4200, 8:30 a.m.–5 p.m. Mon.–Fri.). Hung in the two courtrooms of this 1858 Greek Revival structure is a marvelous collection of portraits. Among them are likenesses of Red Jacket and Susan B. Anthony, who was tried here in 1873 for voting in the national election in Rochester. She was found guilty and fined $100. A boulder on the courthouse grounds commemorates the Pickering Treaty, signed here in 1794.
© Avalon Travel and Sascha Zuger from Moon New York State, 5th Edition