Nightly, as the sun is going down... thousands upon thousands of crows stream into the downtown area, most to the Fort Hil Cemetery. Through the winter months (November through April) they roost in the tall trees nightly, making them almost black with the dark foreboding of the loud constant cawing of the dark birds. It's like an odd, National Geographic moment. It's a very old cemetery, so be respectful and appreciative of the wonderful old memorials. But the Stephen King novel experience of walking among and amidst thousands of guardians of the dark is not to be missed. They leave at daybreak for the surrounding farmlands to forage for food, and return for their nightly, foreboding visitation. Embrace the darkness.
A National Historical Landmark since 1964 with two acres of gardens and trees surrounding the house - a mix of Federal and Tuscan design. Four generations of Sewards lived here from 1816 to 1951. Many pieces of fine art are displayed on the walls including pieces by Henry Inman, Thomas Cole, Chester Harding, Emanuel Leutze and Daniel Chester French. The mantelpiece in the parlor was carved by a journeyman painter/carpenter by the name of Brigham Young. The home was built by William Seward’s father-in-law, Judge Elijah Miller, in 1816-17. It was one of the first brick homes to be built in Auburn. Seward got to live here after he married - in 1824 - the Judge’s youngest daughter, Frances. The condition Judge Elijah gave to young William for him to marry his daughter was that Seward and his daughter would live with the judge in his house. Seward then lived here for almost fifty years. In the 1840’s Seward added a first floor dining room - dining had been in the basement before - along with a north tower and a rear wing. In 1866-68, a drawing room, a south tower, and several bedrooms were added along with an enlargement of the dining room. The new rooms hosted a plethora of guests which included Andrew Johnson, General Grant and many others. Seward was Secretary of State between 1861 to 1869 and there is an impressive Diplomatic Gallery located in the hallway of the main stairs on the second floor that serves as a who’s who among world leaders during the middle part of the 19th century. The house serves as a fine monument to one of the more important politicians of the Whig and early Republican Parties, as well as one of the leaders of the anti-slavery movement, though like Lincoln, he was not an abolitionist. Seward should have become the Republican nominee for President in 1860 instead of Lincoln - he was the clear frontrunner - but, careful though he was in speeches, he managed to upset those who thought he was not radical enough on the anti-slavery issue - the so-called Radicals, like Senator Sumner of Massachusetts and Congressman Thaddeus Stevens of Pennsylvania - as well as those who thought him too radical - like Horace Greeley, who thought him unelectable because of his stand against slavery. There is probably no reason to believe in light of the Democratic split that occurred with two 1860 candidates - one for the North, Douglas and one for the South, Breckinridge - that Seward would not have been elected in Lincoln’s stead if he had been the Republican nominee that year. Either way, Lincoln or Seward, the Civil War would have still ensued.
Leon Frank Czolgsz was the 50th man to die in the electric chair in New York State. The electric chair had been developed in 1890 by a Buffalo dentist to offer a more humane execution method than hanging. Czolgsz was the son of an immigrant Polish family from the Michigan and later Ohio area. He became interested in the ideas of anarchists as a way to gain justice for the working man. He then bought a gun and went out and shot President William McKinley on August 31,1901. Auburn Prison was Czolgsz’s home for the rest of his short life as he was found guilty and executed on October 29. His family was not refused his body following the execution and it was said that sulfuric acid was added to the corpse to help disfigure it. The question that still remains a bit of a mystery to many even in Auburn is where were the remains eventually buried. Some said that he was buried under the road at Fort Hill Cemetery, others said that that was just a tale and that the body had been buried in an unmarked grave at Fort Hill, but later moved. People at Fort Hill told me that the last part was true but they were not sure to where he had been moved. They thought the Soule Cemetery in another unmarked grave - Soule is a little town just east of Auburn. Others claimed to have heard from prison authorities that Czolgsz’s remains were in the North Street Cemetery which is Auburn’s original cemetery. Both Soule and North Street Cemeteries are maintained by the City of Auburn. Other assassins of American presidents have marked graves - John Wilkes Booth in Baltimore and Lee Harvey Oswald in Fort Worth, Texas. Charles Guiteau’s - who shot President Garfield - brain, skeleton and spleen are in the closed sections of the National Museum of Health and Medicine at Walter Reed Medical Center - heck, that is most of him! In Czolgsz’s case, authorities were afraid that anarchists would try and make Czolgsz’s grave a monument to their movement. One must say that they were very effective in that regard.
Fort Hill Cemetery is the final home for some of the most illustrative of Auburn’s long past. Dominating the entry as you come into the large burial ground is the 56 ft/17 m high obelisk memorializing Chief Logan on which the end of the Iroquois orator’s Logan’s Lament is carved on the monument, “Who is there to mourn for Logan? Not one.” Logan himself is not buried here, he lived much further to the west in the Ohio regions. William Henry Seward and his clan are probably the most well-know of the many buried here at Fort Hill and they are gathered together in a small hollow below the hill with Logan’s Monument. A short ways behind the Seward clan you can find Allen Macy Dulles, the patriarch of the Dulles family that came to fame especially in the 1950’s when his eldest son Allen Foster Dulles, served as the eminence grice for President Eisenhower as his Secretary of State; his younger son Allen Welsh Dulles served as Director of Central Intelligence; and his daughter Eleanor Lansing Dulles served as head of the German Desk of the State Department. Among the many others buried here there is Theodore W. Case who invented the process in which sound could be added to movie; there is General Emory Upton who was one of the most influential reformers in US Army in its history. He first came to the fore at the Battle of Spotsylvania where he employed shock tactics similar to those used in trench warfare in World War I; there is also Harriet Tubman who, along with William Still of Philadelphia, is one of the best known figures of the Underground Railroad - an informal network which helped to spirit escaped slaves away from the South to Free States and Canada. Tubman, herself an escaped slave, made some 11 to 13 trips to the South before the Civil War to help some 120 people make their way north.
If you drive into Auburn from the south on NY 34, you are coming into town on South Street and it is hard not to be impressed with the collection of magnificent old homes you pass coming in. The same local group that gathered together to save the Willard Memorial Chapel from potential demolition has also put together a small booklet that describes a walking tour along South Street describing the various homes and with brief notes on the homes and some of the people associated with them. You find Seward’s home on South Street and Harriet Tubman’s, which is a couple miles out of town, but still on South. The largest home belonged to Theodore Case who invented the process for adding sound to movie films - the home is today a local mental health facility. Another of the homes is now home to the Auburn Prison Warden, but previously it was home to Allen Macy Dulles, a Presbyterian minister of liberal bent who was both a professor and the leader of the Auburn Theological Seminary. He opposed literal Biblical interpretations, married divorced people, and questioned whether one had to believe in the Virgin Birth to be a Christian. Being thought of as ’liberal’ on religious beliefs, he was somewhat less so when it came to the religious education of his children whom he required to attend church 3-4 times a week and to memorize long Biblical passages. And it is his place as patriarch of the Dulles family that makes this home so interesting. Dulles had five children of whom included Allen Foster Dulles who served as Secretary of State for President Eisenhower - his grandfather and an uncle on his mother’s side had also been Secretary’s of State and his son, Avery, is a Cardinal in the Roman Catholic Church; John W. Foster with President Benjamin Harrison and Robert Lansing with Woodrow Wilson; Allen Welsh Dulles, the long serving and first civilian Director of the Central Intelligence Agency; Eleanor Lansing Dulles, who had a long governmental career first in the new Social Security Administration of Franklin Roosevelt and later as an advisor to American international finance positions, German reconstruction and development in underdeveloped countries. An impressive grouping to come out of one house.
The Willard Memorial Chapel is thought to be the only surviving chapel boasting of a complete Tiffany interior. Louis Tiffany did produce other chapels during his years but those have been destroyed over time. The Chapel was completed in 1894 with the Tiffany Glass and Decorating Company being responsible for the interior work. Given by two local daughters in the memory of their parents, the Chapel is the only surviving building from the Auburn Theological Seminary. The Seminary had a long past in town - established in 1818 - but relocated to New York City in 1939 where it still actively serves the role it has had in the past. The Community Preservation Committee was able to save the Chapel from possible dismantling in 1990 and work to keep the past alive continues. Inside you find marvelous stained glass windows, opalescent nave windows, leaded glass chandeliers, mosaic floors, gold stenciled furniture, ceiling and pulpit. The cost is $3 and hours are from10am to 4 pm Tuesday through Friday.
Located a few miles south of the main part of Auburn is this home that served as Harriet Tubman’s last home. She was one of the best known figures of the Underground Railroad - an informal network which helped to spirit escaped slaves away from the South to Free States and Canada. Tubman, herself an escaped slave, made some 11 to 13 trips to the South before the Civil War to help some 120 people make their way north. During the Civil War, she served both as a nurse and led a raid on Confederate outposts. Before the
War, she returned to Auburn where William Seward had sold her a plot of land where she built a home and it was here to where she returned following the War’s end. Odd jobs and the sale of her stories for publications kept her and her family alive. She became involved with the woman’s suffrage movement later in the 19th century as well as her local African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church. She deeded a property to the Church in 1903 for the development of a home for ‘aged and indigent colored people’ which was opened in 1908. This is the home that you visit and it was indeed the home for Tubman the last two years of her life as she became grew very frail entering into her 90’s. The home was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1974 though virtually nothing of the original interior remains today. The brick house to the south was Harriet Tubman’s actual home - and her second husband, Nelson Davis. It is today the home of the resident manager of the Harriet Tubman house - the actual Home for the Aged. In which some 11 to 14 people lived with Tubman during her remaining life. The Home was restored in 1953 and is open from 11 am until 4 pm Tuesday through Friday with tours given by local AME Zion guides.
VISIT THE CAYUGA WINETRAIL
There are many,many nice wineries all around the lakes. Rent a limo and tour them. Or have a designated driver. The setting is very picturesque with the the countryside,farms and vineyards on the lakes. Most of the wineries have fine restaurants too.
The Fingerlakes Region of New York is the second largest producer of wine in the United States after California's Napa Valley. For more information go to www.cayugawine.com
THE GREAT RACE ( also known as 'Captain Myles Keogh Paddle,Wheel and Run ) will be in its 25th year this year. It is a huge race in which a team of four participates(One runner,one cyclist,and two canoeist) There are 2 different races. The traditional course has a 10K run,17K cycling course and 4 miles of canoeing. The short course has a 5K run,a 10Kcycling course and 2 miles of canoeing. This event draws athletes from all over the country and sometimes even international ones. There are also refreshments and live entertainment. It is a HUGE event in Auburn.
The MERRY-GO-ROUND PLAYHOUSE Located at Emerson Park .High quality shows are performed here each summer. Some of the shows that have played here are 'West Side Story' and 'Fiddler on the Roof'
FORT HILL CEMETERY This site was used for burial mounds by Native Americans as early as 1100 AD. People are still buried here today. Famous people buried here are William Seward, Harriet Tubman,Cheif Logan and Miles Kehoe.
Every year in the fall, You can take a really cool nighttime tour of the cemetery. People are dressed as and act as the famous people buried here. It is a fun ,unique,educational and interesting tour.