Imagine it’s the year 1850. You’re visiting the home of friends whose mansion rests on a bluff overlooking Keuka Lake. While sipping a glass of wine, you aimlessly watch the steam boats cruise past, carrying ice and produce up and down the Y-shaped lake. These boats have names like Lulu and Mary Bell and are crucial to moving agricultural product to market. This was before motor cars and trains replaced them. Before laptops and cellphones encroached on our privacy and downtime. It was a different time for Keuka Lake.
Or maybe not so different.
Today, you can once again view a vintage boat as it meanders past an elegant mansion. The boat may not be carrying seeds or bolts of cloth, and the mansion may not be a private vineyard and home, but both are indicative of the ongoing growth and renewal around Kueka Lake.
The mansion is called Esperanza Mansion, a beautifully restored home that now graciously hosts overnight and dining guests. Its companion is the Esperanza Rose, a two-story, vintage-style cruise boat that ferries up and down Keuka Lake. Both the property and the boat have been given new lives by its owners, David and Lisa Wegman. And both provide a glimpse of a slower, more relaxing way of life that once dominated the Finger Lakes.
The Esperanza Mansion is located on Route 54A in Bluff Point, just outside of Penn Yan. It was built in 1838 by John Nicholas Rose, a farmer from Virginia who became one of the area’s wealthiest citizens. He and his family lived on the estate until 1870. After short-lived stints as an art gallery, winery, and bed and breakfast, the mansion – listed as a National Landmark – deteriorated to the point where David and Lisa had to initiate a complete renovation when they purchased it in 2002.
Esperanza Mansion is an example of Greek Revival residential architecture, a style popular in the United States from 1820 to 1850. However, when the Wegmans first obtained the property, it suffered from severe neglect. The house’s rectangular form and balanced proportions remained, but its classical details were all but lost.
After major rehabilitation work, and the building of a banquet facility and a 22-room inn, Esperanza Mansion opened in June 2003. It offers guests the choice of one of nine suites in the original Mansion as well as the 22 rooms in the new inn.
The Mansion’s downstairs public rooms are used mainly as dining areas, but they still have the look of 19th-century parlors, with portraits, ornate fireplaces, and lush hangings.
Ideally situated, Esperanza Mansion calls 11 Keuka Lake wineries its neighbors, including such mainstays as Dr. Konstantin Frank Vinifera Wine Cellars and Hunt Country Vineyards. The Seneca Lake wine trail is a 20-minute drive away.
For the Generations
Just as the original Esperanza Mansion owners did, David and Lisa Wegman continue to expand and improve the property. Plans are in the works for a spa, gardens and walking trails, more vintage boats and possibly a swimming pool and additional inn rooms. They do this with an eye to the future – and not just their future. If you look closely at the mural in the banquet room, you’ll find woven into the scene the names of their grandchildren.
“We hope Esperanza Mansion will always be part of our family,” says David Wegman. “It’s a place for us to gather, to work, to celebrate, to share. We love it and want it to be enjoyed for many many years.”
Keuka Lake Region
Located in the heart of central New York wine country, Keuka Lake lies 17 miles southwest of the City of Geneva. Shaped like a Y, Keuka ranks third in size among the Finger Lakes. The hamlet of Branchport is located at the tip of the lake’s northwest arm and the Village of Penn Yan tips the northeast arm. At the lake’s south end is the Village of Hammondsport.
The Wegmans are an example of how the Kueka Lake region is expanding its repertoire of offerings to tempt and delight visitors from near and far. Yates County residents, business and civic leaders have quietly paved the way for the travel, tourism and hospitality industry to bloom on Keuka Lake.
During the last decade of the 20th century, Yates County experienced strong population growth, as evidenced by the 2000 census. Yates had the largest increase (7.9 percent) of any county west of the Syracuse-Binghamton corridor. While many neighboring counties, large and small cities (Rochester, Buffalo, Elmira, Corning and Syracuse) had significant population losses, Yates County, especially the towns bordering Keuka Lake, attracted new residents.
Source: Yates County Chamber of Commerce
The Esperanza Rose
Early settlers of Yates county brought with them tenacity, vision and hope. These same attributes are found today by current “settlers.” They were attributes put to the test when David and Lisa Wegman decided to bring the Esperanza Rose, a vintage-style wooden cruise vessel, to Kueka Lake.
The 85-ton, 65-foot vintage wooden cruise boat was transported overland from Seneca Lake to Keuka Lake on May 4, 2005. Previously harbored in Chesapeake Bay, the Esperanza Rose traveled over 800 miles to Upstate New York. In May 2004 it left the Chesapeake Bay to reach the Atlantic Ocean. It then traveled into New York City Harbor, up the Hudson River to the Erie Canal.
The Esperanza Rose passed through 22 locks to get to Oneida Lake, where the boat was left at a marina for repairs and refurbishing. It traveled to Seneca Lake through more locks in both the Erie and Cayuga/Seneca Canal. It wintered in Seneca Lake until it was possible to bring it over land to Keuka Lake.
The Esperanza Rose offers elegant luncheon, dinner and afternoon cruises. Guests get a glimpse of what it might have been like to travel Kueka Lake in grand style.
For more information on the Rose and Esperanza Mansion, go to: www.esperanzamansion.com
by Erin DiVincenzo
Erin DiVincenzo is public relations specialist from Clark CSM, a full-service marketing communications firm located in Honeoye Falls.