“Where we love is home – home that our feet may leave, but not our hearts.”
~ Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.
One of the things I enjoy most as I meander my way around the Finger Lakes is the incredible array and variety of houses I pass. So much history lies within the wooden columns, the whitewashed brick, painted clapboard and multi-colored cobblestone walls; so many generations passing through the doors that it almost seems I can still smell the peach and apple pies as they cool or the warm bread baking; or hear the family laughter coming from the dining room, as Dad wins a game of checkers. Or imagine the pacing footfalls of a worried woman in a “widow’s watch,” three stories up.
I recently spent two years rambling around thirty-five states, and I chose to return to this area for a myriad of reasons. One, indeed, was because every house I pass as I drive these country roads is different than the next. If I need to find an address, one of my questions always is “What does your house look like?” And they inevitably answer with a colorful and apt description – unlike those who answer the question in many of our more recently settled regions of the country. New York, and the Finger Lakes, was blessed with a profusion of settlers from different countries and at different times in our history – each era and each wave of immigration influenced the architecture beginning with the Dutch who arrived in the mid 1600’s. On my travels I found few places in the US that held as many “ruins” – and restored – homes, mills and stores dating back 150 years or more.
During a long Sunday wander recently, I came across one of these magnificent remnants and window-to-the-past. A beautiful Greek Revival, built in the mid-1800’s with hand-hewn lumber, columns carefully and beautifully notched; though broken, she still stood stately … watching lovingly over fields and farms and Seneca Lake from the gently rolling western hills. Half of it is gone, crumbled to the earth and removed for safety sake, and though it wouldn’t be inhabitable without major renovations costing thousands of dollars, the owner still maintains the grounds, hoping perhaps one of his children will continue the tradition in the years to come.
Heading home after a long chat, I stopped a few more times to admire a once-bustling store made of multi-colored stone and a magnificent old mill sleeping creek-side. Soon, I turned into my driveway, unloaded the camera and notebooks, and smiled as I unlocked the door to my humble abode: Built in 1890, the floors slant, the windows stick, the furnace rumbles behind wrought-iron grills, and the ceilings are cavernous. And I wouldn’t trade it for the world. All within a matter of a few miles – a few minutes – I’d taken a ride though more than one hundred years, glimpsed down the corridors of time, and reminded myself once again of why I love the Finger Lakes so much.