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The Finger Lakes Region is all breathtaking beauty. Give yourself at least a long weekend to savor all its old-fashioned splendors.
You'll need about a half day to tour the mansion and stroll the lovely grounds. Tom and I packed a lunch for a picnic but there are plenty of restaurants nearby.
While there are trams to shuttle you about the 50-acre estate, we chose to make our FitBits happy by walking instead. Glad we did!
Had we taken the tram, we wouldn't have been able to stroll up to the house via the lawn. Besides, we were impatient and didn't want to wait for a slow tram. Although I love trees, it would be nice if the one blocking the house got the chop.
Sonnenberg (German for Sunny Hill) was the summer home of Frederick Ferris and Mary Clark Thompson. The happy couple met in Albany, NY while Mary's father, Myron Holley Clark was serving as governor of New York Sate between 1855-1857.
Married in 1857, the Thompson's lived in New York City, where Frederick was a founder and lifelong director of the First National Bank of the City of New York. The bank he helped set up in now Citibank. Cha-ching.
The Thompson's purchased Sonnenberg in 1863 and it included a brick farmhouse and twenty acres. That farmhouse soon met with a bulldozer and was replaced with a forty room, Queen-Anne style mansion as shown above. Additional acreage was also purchased.
See what Citibank can buy?
This is the view from the foyer into the large veranda. I just managed to cut the hideous garbage cans out of the picture. And I'm sure the furniture is all authentic to the time period and not from Lowe's.
Frederick and Mary Thompson had no children. When Mary passed away in 1923, she left the estate to her nephew, Emory Clark. In 1931, Emory sold Sonnenberg to the U.S. government and the new Canandaigua VA Hospital was established.
The hospital was built on the adjacent farmland. The mansion was converted into housing for all the nurses and doctors. In 1973, the nonprofit organization "Sonnenberg Gardens" acquired the title to the 52 acres and open Sonnenberg to the public.
This cottage....(Is that even the right word?) is the Gardener's Cottage. I think I could get used to this lifestyle. Not a bad place to take shelter after a day's work. Right?
This is a closer up shot of the Gardener's Cottage. Envision yourself sipping tea on this front porch.
Before I even saw the sign for the Gardenia House, I could smell the flowers literally 30 feet away wafting in my direction. Absolutely amazing. Too bad this blog doesn't have scent.
No idea why the peach house only had Boston ferns and azaleas. Peaches should be in season soon here, doesn't make sense to me! Maybe you'll ask if you go.
The zinnea's, dying coneflowers and snapdragons were still lovely in these old-fashioned stone raised beds. What a wonderful flower picking garden.
There were only a few orchids in bloom since it's not really orchid season here, but if you use your imagination, this greenhouse lit up with orchids in full-bloom must be astounding.
The view from the balcony of the Italian Gardens is quite lovely. Notice the white chairs below, there was a wedding just the previous night.
Both the above and below pictures feature the Italian Gardens. Lovely. But obviously too much to manage! Built in 1903, these were the first of the existing gardens to be built. Brownstone matching the mansion was used for the garden walls and balustrades.
The four sunken beds are in the shape of modified fleur-de-lis. Their patterns were created with dense ribbons of colorful annual foliage plants ~ an elaborate example of the carpet bedding that was popular during the Victoria era.
Now if someone had the time to weed them. Anyone? Anyone?
Mary Thompson canceled her passage on the Titanic to attend a flower show!
In 1906, Mary Thompson built the first privately owned Japanese Garden in North America.
This is the rose garden where masses of pink, red, and white blooms have been restored to match the historic design and color scheme. Records indicate that there were over 5,000 rose plants in this garden at one time!
While the pergolas are lovely, they are in dire need of a paint job.
Aren't these purple coneflowers lovely?
The gates that lead to the Blue & White Garden.
Designed in 1911, the Blue & White Garden is considered the daintiest of all the gardens in Sonnenberg.
The white blossoms in the Blue & White Garden included sweet alyssum, campanula, phlox, hyacinth, agapanthus, and two types of lilies.
The Blue & White Garden thrives under a sheltering wing of the house. The hydragea's were stunning. Historic records indicated that at one time salvia, lobelia, larkspur, and delphiniums grew here.
In the Blue & White Garden flowers were combined with ferns and palms from the greenhouses.
Although the inside of the house was stunning, I don't think most of the antiques actually belonged to the Thompson's. However, it's still a beautiful self-guided tour.
There are also volunteers standing about who have a plethora of knowledge about the place. Go ahead, fire away your questions. They will likely have the answers.
Tom asked the volunteers about where the money for the place came from. It seemed weird to us that the whole focus is Mary, Mary, Mary and you rarely hear about poor Frederick at all!
Tom learned from a friendly volunteer that Frederick died youngish. He dabbled too much in the chemicals used at that time for his photography hobby.
Still, as a banker he was bringing in the bacon big-time and left Mary a boatload of money for the 25 or so years she outlived him.
Crazy bird lady might be a fair term for Mary Thompson.
Original invoices indicate that she spent over $20,000 for birds. That just doesn't make sense!
Although the Peacock House is super nice on the outside, the inside has been renovated in a super modern and super cheap style. Think cheap tile flooring and laminate counter tops with crappy cabinets. Why or why was this done?
What I appreciated most about the house tour was this:
1.) It's a self-guided tour so you wander as you please and can take your time and
2.) Most sections are not roped off. So you can see stuff up close.
3.) The volunteers are incredibly knowledgeable, so if you have questions, they will be able to answer them.
The bathrooms are slightly dilapidated and could use some revamping. And not by Kohler either if possible.
I was pleasantly surprised there was a bathroom open to the public in the downstairs of the house for public (I think?) use.
There are also restrooms (a much better word don't you agree?) in the Carriage House that are nice.
The restroom when you enter the place are for use of both genders. Ewww. Sorry, I like my separate bathrooms. I would install that policy at home, too, if I could. I mean, honestly, Tom is like a splashing elephant in the bathroom. What a mess the man makes!
Wouldn't we all have an elevator in our homes if that were possible? Imagine not having to carry up laundry baskets up and down the stairs every day. The glee.
All in all, Tom and I really enjoyed our day trip and would recommend going.
However, Sonnenberg has some bits both inside and out that are suffering from a bit of dilapidation. So they need you to go and donate! And yes, I'm sure they are doing their best and the volunteers are awesome, but paint is paint and rot is rot.
Have you been to either Sonnenberg or the Finger Lakes Region?