Sonnenberg Gardens & Mansion State Historic Park

Perched atop a Canandaigua sun-bathed hill on the estate known as “Sonnenberg” (German for “sunny hill”) is a 40-room Queen Anne-style mansion. New York City bank financier Frederick Ferris Thompson and his wife, Mary Clark Thompson, the daughter of New York State Governor Myron Holley Clark, purchased the property in 1863. It featured just a brick farmhouse on 14 acres. As business prospered, the couple purchased additional acreage and replaced the farmhouse with the mansion, which was built between 1886 and 1887.

After Mrs. Thompson’s death in 1923, the estate was left to her nephew, Emory Clark. He maintained the estate until 1931 when he sold it to the United States Government. The Veteran’s Administration Hospital was constructed on the adjoining farmlands and the mansion was converted into a nurses’ residence. In 1973, the federal government signed over Sonnenberg to become a 50-acre not-for-profit organization. Sonnenberg was entered into the National Register of Historic Places on September 28, 1973. In the spring of 2006, the State of New York officially purchased Sonnenberg for $3.2 million. Today, Sonnenberg Gardens & Mansion State Historic Park is one of only five historic parks in New York State.
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Tulip beds make for a colorful display in front of the Sonnenberg Wine Center and Gift Shop during opening weekend The beds, known as cold frames, used to have large glass-top covers that were hinged on one side. Propagation of many plants would begin in these beds. Today, the glass no longer exists but the remains of the original hinges can still be seen.

Lord & Burnham of Irvington, New York, built the Conservatory Complex between 1903 and 1915. It is considered one of the most important and impressive residential conservatory complexes of this period in America.
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The Blue & White Garden is also referred to as the Intimate Garden. Constructed in 1912, the uniqueness of this garden results from the restrained use of color. Marble walks, graceful statuary and flower beds, all in blue and white, make this garden a real beauty.
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The Italian Garden was created in 1905. Its design has evolved over the centuries. During the Victorian Era the formal design of the garden returned with the reappearance of monumental architecture and ornaments like you see today. Although it is considered an Italianate garden, the design is based on a form adapted to France’s terrain and climate.
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The Japanese Garden Tea House is a replica of a tea house in Kyoto, Japan, which has since burned down. Created in 1906, it was built around the idea of nature, its tranquility and peace. There are no flowers, but natural stonescapes including bridges, waterfalls and pathways encompass the garden.
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The Rose Tower or lookout tower, was said to have been used by Mrs. Thompson to oversee what was being done on her farmlands and in her gardens. In the foreground is the Rose Garden, a fragrant collection of hundreds of roses in all colors.
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Crafted in 1905, the Old Fashioned Garden is surrounded by neatly trimmed boxwood hedges. This garden blooms spring, summer and fall. To the left grows a row of Osage orange trees, native to the south-central United States. They were used by the Osage Indians to make bows.