The Rest is History

by Mark Stash

History has always been an important part of Life in the Finger Lakes magazine, and this issue certainly delves into many aspects of the past in the region. Through the study of history, we learn about ourselves and how past events have created and shaped what we know today, and therefore influences what happens tomorrow.

“There are many ways to discuss the real functions of the subject – as there are many different historical talents and many different paths to historical meaning. All definitions of history’s utility, however, rely on two fundamental facts,” according to

“History helps us understand people and societies. It offers the only extensive evidential base for the contemplation and analysis of how societies function, and people need to have some sense of how societies function simply to run their own lives.

“History helps us understand change and how the society we live in came to be. Only through history can we begin to comprehend the factors that cause change; and only through history can we understand what elements of an institution or a society persist despite change.”

Ray Levato writes about the creation of Watkins Glen (page 46) as an attraction for locals and tourists alike. The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), which consisted of young men between the ages of 18-25, was created during the 1930s Great Depression years to stimulate the economy by creating jobs. You can still see the results of their labor in many state and national parks around the country, consisting of incredible masonry and stonework that went into bridges, walkways, retaining walls, park buildings and other construction projects. The elegance of these structures still look great today (with some renovation involved), and I have memories of parks from my childhood that revolves heavily around the beauty of the stonework.

Kirk House brings to light many of the projects in which Glenn Curtiss  was involved (page 28). His inventions still have an effect on our present-day technology. From planes that can take off and land on water, to camping trailers and motorcycles, we still see the results of his incredible engineering mind. Take a trip to the Glenn H. Curtiss Museum in Hammondsport and I promise that the visit will be eye-opening.

People who know the hamlet of Mendon know about the Cottage Hotel. These days it’s used as a restaurant and bar, along with a venue for live music. Once upon a time it was a stop for the stagecoaches going through town. Author Karen Mireau has written about the old hotel, along with other tales of the Mendon area, in a recently published book. Check out an excerpt on page 49.

I find history fascinating. It’s good to know about our roots. The Finger Lakes in particular has a rich tapestry of history, involving so many different subjects. Let’s do a little dive into the past, to learn more about our present and help shape the future.


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