3 Historic Sites in New York That Only Locals Know About
I wanted to title this "Most Interesting Historic Sites in New York," but that would be a tall order! I have seen what I am sure is only a small fraction of the history here, but I wanted to compile a list anyway since these are sites I did not know about until I lived here.
1. The Home of Franklin D. Roosevelt
Whether you are an FDR fan or you know little about him, you are in for a treat if you visit here.
The Roosevelt home is located in Hyde Park, along the Hudson River. During FDR's second term, he realized how many records had been lost by previous administrations and sought a better alternative. From what the docent told me, Franklin's mother was aghast when he expressed he wanted to someday open their home to the public.
Those who did not like FDR believed he simply wanted to construct a monument to himself. Actually, he felt that the American people deserved more transparency with their government at the executive level, and he enjoyed history and collecting things as well, especially stamps.
If you aren't able to visit in person, there is an online archive called FRANKLIN that contains correspondence from various people in the administration, including his wife Eleanor and his private secretaries, Grace Tully and Missy LeHand, among others. It has a good collection of documents concerning other topics relevant during FDR's presidency, of which there were many since he served nearly four terms and led the US through the Great Depression.
The actual home he lived in has been turned into a museum. The furniture and other possessions are laid out as they were when he lived there, though not everything is original. In addition, there is another building that serves as part of the museum and it houses the car FDR drove, a 1936 Ford Phaeton with custom hand controls that gave him the ability to drive despite polio.
If you live in the Buffalo area, it's about a 5.5-hour drive. Hyde Park is a charming area with several hotels and restaurants, should you wish to stay there. My friend and I stayed at a hotel more within Poughkeepsie about 15 minutes away. (If you get hungry while you're at the library, I recommend Mizu Sushi!)
2. The Home of Susan B. Anthony
I would be remiss if I failed to mention the home of Susan B. Anthony, located in Rochester. Anthony's work helped pave the way to the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution, which gave women the right to vote. This house is where she lived for 40 years and is also the site of her arrest in 1872, after she voted in the presidential election illegally. Women's rights were just one cause that Anthony fought for; she also participated in the abolitionist and temperance movements.
The docents here are very knowledgeable and passionate about Anthony and her work. (I volunteered in the gift shop for a short time during a slow summer for me and experienced this firsthand.) They share interesting and sometimes humorous stories about Anthony and how she handled certain events in her life while you go through each of the rooms. There is a gift shop in the house next door, which was also where we purchased our admission tickets when we went. The surrounding area is charming as well, with a memorial park to Anthony and Frederick Douglass just down the street.
Should you wish to visit Anthony's grave, it is located in Mount Hope Cemetery, also within the city of Rochester. Frederick Douglass is also buried there.
3. Forest Lawn Cemetery
Forest Lawn is located in Buffalo and is perhaps most well known for being home to Rick James's gravesite. But what most intrigued me was the glass memorial located near the main entrance to the cemetery. This is called the Blocher Mausoleum and has an interesting story behind it.
My fiancé and I did some research but were unable to find many facts surrounding the death of the central figure in the mausoleum, the likeness of Nelson Blocher. He is laid out for viewing and clutching a Bible, his parents standing on either side of him. There is an angel above, said to resemble a maid that Nelson had fallen in love with. The relationship had been discouraged due to Nelson's status. He was the only son of John and Elizabeth Blocher. Most sources claim he "died of a broken heart," which to me indicates either self-neglect and/or death by suicide. Evidently, the girl he loved not returning his feelings took a large emotional toll on him.
As is already apparent by the monument itself, the family was quite wealthy, especially due to some investments and a footwear business that John Blocher ran after he served for a year in the army. He became one of Buffalo's wealthiest citizens. Some sources believe it was his wife that encouraged him to construct the mausoleum as a loving tribute to their son. Today, it would cost a few million dollars to make something like this. The family lived in an elegant residence on Delaware Avenue, the same street as the main entrance to the cemetery.
Some links to the Blocher story are listed below. Feel free to do your own research, and let me know if you find anything good!
Others who are buried here include Red Jacket, a Seneca orator who signed the Treaty of Canandaigua, and Millard Fillmore, the 13th President of the US. While the Blocher Mausoleum has an interesting story behind it, the largest and most expensive mausoleum in the cemetery is the Letchworth-Skinner Mausoleum.
Sources for Further Exploration
© 2020 Holley Hyler