Fireside Reading

It’s not surprising that writers and researchers are attracted to the rich history and scenic beauty of the Finger Lakes region. Whether the topic is wintertime recreation, local wineries, small town and urban views, a young girl’s coming of age, or the tragedies of wartime, there are numerous titles which have roots in this area. As the holidays approach, the following books, with subject matter linked to the Finger Lakes, are available at local booksellers. They are sure to offer hours of enjoyment to the readers on your gift list.

Wineries of the Finger Lakes Region: The Heart of New York State
by Emerson Klees, 2000, paperback, 159 pages, $14.95
Publisher: Friends of the Finger Lakes Publishing

Highlighting 60 wineries of the   14-county Finger Lakes region, Wineries of the Finger Lakes Region author Klees rightly points out that wineries have become a major tourist destination in one of America’s oldest grape regions. The growth of the wine-making industry in the Finger Lakes is impressive. Twenty-five years ago there were a dozen wineries; today, there are nearly three times that number.

Klees organizes the wineries under broad geographical groupings: those west and north of the Finger Lakes and those at Canandaigua, Keuka, Seneca and Cayuga Lakes. Information on individual wineries includes their locations, buildings, owners’ names, wine specialties, size, available tours, history, and length of years in operation. Maps locate all the wineries, and many of the descriptions are accompanied by photographs. There are references to three wine trails: Keuka, Seneca, and Cayuga, the earliest of which was formed in the 1980s. Since the book’s publication in 2000, the four-member Canandaigua Wine Trail has formed; these wineries are covered individually.

Klees also provides a brief history of winemaking in the region and a description of wine varieties. A glossary of grape and wine terms and biographical sketches of some of the region’s winemaking pioneers are included.

This is an excellent resource for tourists visiting Finger Lakes wineries and for those involved in the region’s restaurant and hospitality businesses. It will be of interest to grape growers here and in other wine-making regions. As the Finger Lakes wine industry expands, this title will no doubt see later editions.

Emerson Klees, an amateur winemaker for nearly 20 years, has written numerous books about the Finger Lakes region. His most recent title, The Crucible of Ferment: New York’s “Psychic Highway” highlights the religious fervor and social activism along a narrow band of New York from Buffalo to Albany.

Snow Trails - Cross-country Ski and Snowshoe in Central and Western New York
by Rich & Sue Freeman, 2001, paperback, 232 pages, $16.95,
Publisher: Footprint Press

When the snow flies in western and central New York, a vast number of outdoor recreational trails are available to experienced and novice cross-country skiers and snowshoers alike. The Freemans’ thorough survey is bound to transform winter for those seeking a guide to enjoying the out-of-doors during the coldest months. Snow Trails includes 80 mapped locations organized conveniently by counties, from the Peak ’n Peak in western Chattauqua County, east to Green Lakes State Park near Syracuse and south to Otsiningo Park near Binghamton in Broome County.

Each trail location pairs a full-page map with a page of information. At a glance, readers can find directions from a major town or road, the number of miles of trails and unplowed roads available for winter use, their difficulty, (i.e., novice, intermediate and advanced), terrain or indication of the aerobic workout to expect, markings used to designate trails, the winter activities allowed on each trail, the available amenities such as groomed trails, shelters, warming huts, restrooms, or outhouses, ski or snowshoe rental, and snack bars. They cover admission fees, if any, hours, and contact information for snow conditions.

A helpful index organizes locations from “novice” to “spend all day” (over 20 miles of trails). The authors also provide details on “Winter Trail Etiquette,” “Preparations and Safety,” “Nordic Ski Clubs,” and whether or not to take the family dog along for a “winter adventure.”

The Freemans have written 10 books on outdoor recreational activities from hiking and biking to birding in the Finger Lakes and central/western New York. Their newest book, 200 Waterfalls in Central & Western New York A Finders’ Guide, was published in 2002.

Around Lima
by Michael Leavy, 2002, paperback, 128 pages, $19.99
Publisher: Arcadia Publishing.

Around Lima is one of the “Images of America” series produced by Arcadia Publishing, a company that specializes in photographic histories of towns or cities. Images that would otherwise be seen only in private collections or the archives at the local historical society are organized with identifying captions. Michael Leavy, the President of the Lima Historical Society, assembled 250 photographs for Around Lima, although, as the title implies, images from the nearby communities of West Bloomfield, East Bloomfield, Avon, and Honeoye Falls are also included.

Lima was once called the “Crossroads of Western New York.” Perhaps as testimony to its location, today Lima has 50 structures listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Buildings, bridges, modes of transportation, and unadorned portraits of local residents from the mid-1880s to more recent times are featured. Disparate groups such as the Genesee Wesleyan Seminary’s football team of 1904, Harry Sanger in front of his store in the 1890s, and the Lima Fire Department in the 1920s, are gathered together in one volume.

Interior views offer new insight into a store’s inventory, a lawyer’s office, a kitchen, or the local post office. Photos include local “heroes” of years past like Ken O’Dea who played for the Chicago Cubs in the 1938 World Series and U.S. Senator Kenneth Keating running for re-election in his hometown of Lima.

As a microcosm of small town America in the last century, Around Lima fills the bill. The most mundane of activities - people on front porches, in the workplace, crossing a street, driving a wagon, or just standing on the lawn - can rivet the reader’s attention. For readers with an interest in Lima and vicinity, it may increase interest in genealogy and historical research.

Ithaca Then & Now
by Merrill Hesch and Richard Pieper, revised and updated by Harry Littell, 2002, paperback, 128 pages, $24.95,
Publisher: McBooks Press, Inc.

First published in 1983 and now revised in a 21st century update, Ithaca Then & Now is a collection of historical views of Ithaca from the DeWitt Historical Society of Tompkins County which have been re-photographed today. The task fell to Harry Littell, a photographer and artist who has lived in Ithaca for 10 years. In 2000, Littell observed that many of the locations in the 1983 edition appear the same, while others show more subtle changes, and still others disappeared entirely.

Most of the original photographs date from the beginning of the 1900s. Pairing them on facing pages with the new photographs offers the opportunity to contrast the appearance of an intersection, local landmarks, and views of the city over the last century. More than 100 images are each accompanied by detailed and informative text. A map at the front of the book is keyed to pages to show the locations. An index is an invaluable resource to locate names of individuals, as well as businesses, churches, and other structures.

The new edition also offers an Epilogue or “Spaces in Transition,” a few images from the late 1990s presented “with an eye towards future editions.” They show buildings undergoing rapid change, like the Woolworth store boarded up and closed like so many others across the country, before its transformation into a vibrant public library, and the Collegetown Motor Lodge demolished in the 1990s, its location ready to be filled with new apartment housing.

Ithaca Then & Now is a major contribution to the ongoing understanding of a city and its changing landscape over time.

Mrs. McGillacuddy’s Garden Party
by Larry Dickens, 2002, paperback, 113 pages, $9.50,
Publisher: 1st Books Library.

Mrs. McGillacuddy’s Garden Party is a slight departure from the other books selected for this feature, both because it is a work of fiction, and because it is aimed primarily at young adults. Author Larry Dickens has chosen the Finger Lakes region as the backdrop for a story of an 11-year-old girl who is diagnosed with leukemia. Erika Riesling lives in Canandaigua next to the very wealthy Mrs. McGillacuddy, a neighborhood curmudgeon with an acute hatred of children and dogs. The McGillacuddys reside in a palatial  home which just happens to resemble Canandaigua’s Victorian garden estate, Sonnenberg Gardens.

But the villain, as it were, in this story is more than one mean-spirited neighbor; it is the disease which has stricken Erika. The story deals with the discomforts Erika experiences from her difficult cancer treatment. Dickens doesn’t shy away from the issue of death, but rather sends a hopeful message to which both children and adults can relate. The climax occurs at a garden party thrown by Mrs. McGillacuddy which is hilariously sabotaged by Erika and her friends because the nasty neighbor has had Erika’s loveable sheepdog dragged off to the pound.

One of the more poignant parts of the story is when Erika befriends Luc, a French boy who has a terminal brain tumor. The two meet at Camp Good Days and Special Times in Branchport on Keuka Lake. Dickens says reading the story of Camp Good Days’ founder Gary Mervis in For the Love of Teddi, by Lou Buttino, fueled his interest in the subject. Mervis’ daughter died of brain cancer in 1982 and he founded the camp in her honor. Mrs. McGillacuddy’s Garden Party doesn’t treat cancer in a morbid manner and could be used for discussions, especially among teens or perhaps in families waging a battle against childhood cancer.

Larry Dickens is a freelance writer who resides in South Bristol. His nonfiction work has appeared in several maritime publications.

Chainbreaker’s War: A Seneca Chief Remembers the American Revolution
edited by Jeanne Winston Adler, 2002, paperback, 224 pages, $16.95,
Publisher: Black Dome Press Corp.

Chainbreaker’s War is a remarkable first-person account by a Seneca Indian Chief of the events that changed the world 200 years ago during the Revolutionary War. Chainbreaker, or Tan Wr Nyrs in his native tongue, was interviewed toward the end of his life in 1845 by a fellow Seneca who wrote down his words in English.

The editor skillfully presents Chainbreaker’s original narrative, occasionally replacing some archaic words with modern ones. Chainbreaker was an eyewitness to when American delegations tried to convince the Six Nations of the Iroquois to remain neutral during the war between Britain and the colonists, and when the Iroquois formed an alliance with Britain. The Seneca war chief and sachem speaks of some of the fiercest battles of the conflict and raids from the Mohawk Valley south to Pennsylvania’s Susquehanna Valley. At the close of the war, Chainbreaker was part of an Iroquois delegation that met George Washington for treaty negotiations.

The book provides readers with valuable primary source material relating to the Revolutionary War period from a Native American perspective. Summaries of historical events introduce each chapter and quotes from early scholars, archaeologists, and some of Chainbreaker’s contemporaries are interspersed with the main text. These include Mary Jemison, a captive and later adopted member of the Seneca Nation. Along with engravings of Native American artifacts, maps and photographs, the writings offer further insight into Native American customs and historic events.

Jeanne Winston Adler is the author of Early Days in the Adirondacks: The Photographs of Seneca Ray Stoddard (Abrams, 1997), and the editor of In the Path of War: Children of the American Revolution Tell Their Stories (Cobblestone Publishing, 1998).

Where Duty Called Them: The Story of the Samuel Babcock Family of Homer, New York in the Civil War
by Edmund Raus, 2002, paperback, 48 pages, $7.95,
Publisher, Shroeder Publications.

The Civil War holds our interest today, 140 years after the battles have ended. Where Duty Called Them is a brief but compelling account of three brothers from Homer, NY, south of Cortland, who fought and died on the side of the Union. Using the letters and other written accounts of the Babcock brothers, Willoughby, Willis and Lucius, Raus reveals the harsh realities of one of our nation’s most devastating wars. The letters also testify to a time when language was so important.

Willis (b. 1844), whose life was lost while leading his company at Gettysburg in July of 1863, was the youngest brother. His story relates how his widowed father journeyed south to Pennsylvania to locate his dead son’s body.

The second account is of Lucius (b. 1838) who enlisted in the Minnesota infantry where he was living with his mother’s family. His capture following the Battle of Brice’s Cross Roads in Mississippi lead to his death in 1864 at the infamous Andersonville Prison in South Carolina.

The final story is of Willoughby (b. 1832), the oldest of the three brothers, who served with the 3rd and 75th New York Infantry. Rising to the rank of lieutenant colonel, Will was mortally wounded at the Third Battle of Winchester, Virginia, in September 1864. The book includes a final moving letter written by Willoughby to his pregnant wife.

Photos of the men along with their battle and burial locations are included. The title will appeal to those interested in Civil War history and families with ancestors who served in the war. Teaching history with first hand accounts such as these would provide ample classroom discussion for students.

Edmund Raus is a native of Cortland, New York, and works for the National Park Service as the Chief of Interpretation, Manassas National Battlefield Park.

Syracuse and Its Surroundings A Victorian Photo Tour of New York’s Salt City
by H.P. Smith, edited by Robert Joki, 2002, paperback, 184 pages, $21.95,
Publisher: Black Dome Press Corp.

Originally published in a very limited edition in 1878 with real photographic stereo-cards views of the “Salt City,” this reprint reproduces the original 103 photographs documenting Syracuse at the height of the Victorian era. Editor Robert Joki has included a photograph of the original edition, held together by two clasps, similar to a Victorian photo album. The 19th century volume also came with its own viewing device hinged to the front cover. It was composed of two small eyepiece lenses that allowed the reader to see the book’s double images in 3D. The new edition opted to reproduce enlarged single images, with arched top borders reminiscent of the original stereo-card format.

Familiar landmarks are pictured, like the Syracuse Savings Bank on North Salina and James Street. A number of views in the book were taken from the tower of this building. “On a warm Summer day, we know of no spot where an hour can be passed more pleasantly than in the tower,” reads the caption from the 1878 edition. The photographs are accompanied by the original informative text written by a fictional narrator who guides two friends around the Salt City, providing entertaining anecdotes and historical background.

For newcomers to Syracuse and central New York, or long-time residents, this handsome book documents a prosperous era in the city’s history. Those interested in Syracuse’s Victorian past will enjoy looking at the many high quality views of its municipal structures, cemeteries, residences, churches, the University, the salt works, and other businesses.

Robert Joki is a collector of 19th century photography and the author of Saratoga Lost: Images of Victorian America.

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