Clifton Springs

In the heart of the Finger Lakes lies Clifton Springs, nestled among rolling hills and gentle streams not far from the cities of Rochester and Syracuse. The village was first settled in 1802, but growth did not occur until 1850 when Dr. Henry Foster, a pioneer in hydrotherapy and homeopathic treatments, opened a “water cure” facility near the village’s natural, curative sulphur springs.

People from all over the eastern United States traveled for treatment at Dr. Foster’s grand sanitarium, thanks to Clifton Springs’ location on the New York Central and Hudson Railroad line. As the sanitarium grew, so did the community. Today’s downtown, with its turn-of-the-century buildings, is charming and vital.

Dr. Foster was an advocate of healing the mind as well as the body. His progressive approach to wellness included a healthy diet and exercise, new ideas at the time in the developing field of medicine. His work inspired the growth of Clifton Springs Hospital & Clinic, a modern 262-bed, not-for-profit facility, and its newest wing, The Springs of Clifton. The Springs offers a wide range of services to maintain a healthy body, mind, and spirit, including acupuncture, massage, chiropractic and mineral springs treatment, as well as holistic spa services. Today, the original sanitarium building opened by Dr. Foster
provides senior citizen housing.

Population: 2,223

Special Events: On December 7, an annual pre-holiday event will be held, where festive lights will flood the business section and all kinds of entertainment and holiday fare will be offered to the visiting public. Each year during the first weekend in June, the community holds the Sulphur Springs Festival. The Victorian-themed fair includes crafts, foods, activities and Victorian dress.

What to see: The Foster Cottage Museum, 9 East Main Street, is open weekly Thursday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Built in 1854, the cottage is the permanent home of the Clifton Springs Historical Society.

After many changes of location, the Clifton Springs Library found a permanent home in 1991 in the passenger station for the New York Central Railroad, 4 Railroad Avenue. It’s open Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday and Thursday from noon to 8 p.m. and on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. During July and August each year, the library is closed on Saturday.

Hidden Treasure: A Tiffany glass mosaic of the last supper was placed in the sanitarium chapel as a memorial to Dr. Foster after his death in 1901. Created by Tiffany Studios designer Frederic Wilson, it’s made of favrile glass developed by Louis Comfort Tiffany.


by Frederick L. Gifford, Historian Emeritus