Rich History and a Haunt in the Finger Lakes -- September 2012

It’s Back to School Season and Visiting the Finger Lakes is a Great Place to Research that Next History Project

The kids are all heading back to school with backpacks filled, zipped and fresh markers, pencils and pens at the ready. On that next holiday weekend, gather up the family and explore the rich history that lies in the heart of New York’s Finger Lakes. Who knows, maybe you’ll find the next great topic for that upcoming social studies project!


One of history’s iconic figures, Harriet Tubman’s home resides in Auburn New York. After her time transporting slaves to the freedom of the North during the Civil War, the woman named the ‘Moses of the People’ relocated her parents from St. Catharines Ontario, Canada to Auburn, NY in 1857. Tubman’s friend William H. Seward presented Tubman with a two story brick home as a gift. The Harriet Tubman home is now open and available for tourists to walk through on a regular basis. Many of the homes, businesses, and locations here in the Finger Lakes played important roles in the Underground Railroad movement.


2012 is an election year and if there are any women reading this newsletter, you’ll be striding up to the polls this year thanks to Susan B Anthony and the women of the Women’s Rights Convention. Take a tour through suffrage history in downtown Seneca Falls where you can walk through the historic town and land among key sites for of the Women’s Rights Movement including the Susan B. Anthony House. You’ll leave the town feeling empowered and awed by the strength of these individuals promoting a change in the voting system. If you’re a movie buff, a fun fact is that Seneca Falls is also believed be to the town that inspired the movie, ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’.


Finger Lakes Wineries Receive Prestigious Recognition

The 2012 New York Wine & Food Classic Competition is a competition recognizing all of New York’s achievements in the wine industry. This year’s Food & Wine Classic recognized Finger Lakes wineries in several prestigious categories. The top prize, the Governor’s Cup trophy, was presented to Dr. Konstantin Frank Vinifera Wine Cellars 2011 Semi Dry Riesling from the Finger Lakes Region and the Winery of the Year award was also held by Dr. Frank. This major accomplishment is to be commended and we offer a big congratulations to everyone at Dr. Frank.


The New York Food & Wine Classic, also known as “The Oscars” of New York wine had other Finger Lakes wineries and distilleries that received top honors in their class. Some of these high ranking award winning producers included Atwater Estate Vineyards, Miles Wine Cellars, Sheldrake Point Winery, Belhurst Winery, and Finger Lakes Distilling.


The competition, now in its 27th year, included over 750 New York wines, 9 hard ciders, and 12 spirits. Awards were based on blind tastings from 23 judges from as far away as California and the U.K and among the winners, 33 double gold medals were awarded and an incredible 95 golds were presented to Finger Lakes producers.


Haunted Places in the Finger Lakes

There are more than a few haunted spots within New York’s Finger Lakes region. Luckily for amateur and serious ghost hunters alike, there is a long list of places where curious visitors can investigate otherworldly tales for themselves.

In 1895 Jeff R. Brown built an impressive brick hotel in Naples New York to the south west of Canandaigua Lake and the location soon became a landmark. The Naples Hotel, throughout the course of history, has had prominent figures step on its grounds. Many of these memorable men, including Robert Kennedy, have delivered speeches from the hotel’s front porch. In the summer of 2012, the cast and crew of the SYFI channel’s Ghost Hunters visited the Naples Hotel and did discover strong indications of paranormal activity among the hotel grounds.


Those wishing to catch a glimpse of the supernatural can start by choosing a haunted place to stay. The Belhurst Castle, built in the 1880s, has a long and dramatic history. One of its many tales is the story of an Italian opera singer who fled Spain with her illicit lover. When her angry husband came to find her, the couple escaped to an underground tunnel. However, their plan backfired when the tunnel collapsed around them and they were killed. Today, guests have reported seeing an apparition of a woman standing in the front lawn and around the grounds who is believed to be the opera singer.


Another mysterious lady in white can be seen at Esperanza Mansion, located right on scenic Keuka Lake. While nobody is quite sure who she is or why she haunts the mansion, Esperanza’s long history is impressive. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and was once a stop on the Underground Railroad.


Since the Finger Lakes is home to over 100 wineries, it is no surprise that there are rumors of winery hauntings, as well. Miles Wine Cellars is located in a Greek revival mansion that overlooks Seneca Lake. The home was originally built in 1802, and there is little doubt that today it is inhabited by more than the Rieslings that the Finger Lakes is known for. Strange happenings such as slamming doors, footsteps, and unexplained sounds have manifested on the property for years. To celebrate these otherworldly residents, Miles Wine Cellar now produces a “Ghost” wine, a Chardonnay and Cayuga blend.

Though most tourists don’t stay as long as these ghostly visitors, the Finger Lakes is a popular place to visit thanks to its rich history, nature, and world-class wineries.

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