Wednesday, June 16, 2010
A Trip to Rochester
The Erie Canal
We're celebrating Aunts and Cousins week here at Bart Boehlert's Beautiful Things. You may remember that the weekend before last, we attended the graduation party of my aunt Ellen, age 73. Last weekend TD and I went up to Rochester, New York, for my aunt Molly Boehlert, born Molly Gilroy from Utica, New York.
Molly married my father's brother Bob who was a widower with one child. Together the couple had four children. My uncle Bob sadly passed away twenty years ago. When we attended a Boehlert family reunion on Oneida Lake two years ago, I wrote about my aunt Molly so I won't repeat it here except to say that when I was growing up, I spent many summer and winter vacations with my cousin Peter, born the same year as I. Molly was always taking us off on some adventure – to a neighbor's swimming pool or to the beach at Lake Ontario or to a picnic in the park. Now Molly is seriously ill. To mark her eightieth birthday an invitation arrived in our mailbox for "a celebration of life." How could we resist?
We had the good fortune to stay with my cousin Peter and his wife Lorie in their great home in the charming village of Pittsford, founded outside of Rochester in 1789. Pittsford is well known for its historic district and beautiful houses.
The town has a lot of nineteenth century brick buildings which I love. This is the Phoenix Hotel, which was built in about 1812 to serve the Erie Canal and carriage trade. It was restored in 1967 and now houses local businesses.
Here is the town hall, built in 1890.
A picturesque brick house is now the Canal Lamp Inn bed and breakfast.
Gardens and flower boxes were in full bloom.
We took a walk along the Erie Canal, which was completed in 1825. This phenomenal feat of engineering and human toil was built to link the great Lake Erie with the Hudson River so that goods could flow from the Atlantic Ocean to the Midwest; it helped make New York City the chief U.S. port. The Erie Canal links the upstate cities of Albany, Utica (my hometown) and Rochester so it was always a presence in my childhood.
Peaceful, tranquil, and flat, the Eric Canal takes us back in time.
I'd like to take a boat ride on the Eric Canal.
This residential dock perched over the canal looked like a relaxing spot.
Lunch along the Erie Canal.
Later in the afternoon, we visited Artisan Works, a non-profit organization housed in a huge warehouse which supports local artists. There was miles of art everywhere, on the walls, on the ceilings, and on the roof.
We stopped at Molly's house which has been the family home for fifty years where I visited as a kid. Then we stopped at cousin Brian's who has just bought a big new house. That night we had a delicious dinner with Peter and Lorie and their adult daughters Maggie and Dottie and her fiance Bryce at Richardson's Canal House, the oldest original inn on the edge of the Eric Canal. The inn was first a farmhouse, built in 1818, and then a tavern which was popular with the rollicking canal builders. The building was restored in 1979 and placed on the National Register of Historic Buildings. We ate outside under a tent and when it started to pour rain we remained dry. An illuminated guide boat sped by on the dark canal.
The next day we went to visit a couple who are friends of Peter and Lorie's and own and live in the historic Strong mansion, which I read on the internet, "was perhaps the most lavish ever built in Monroe County except for the Eastman House," the home of George Eastman, a founder of Eastman Kodak. The beautiful Strong mansion had seven, I think, bedrooms on the second floor which reminded me of Winterthur, the DuPont house museum in Delaware. On the second floor Peter's friend built a two-storey library filled with rare books. On the ground floor was a full-size indoor swimming pool. On the way home we stopped at Wegman's, Rochester's rather stupendous grocery store chain. It really was impressive. If you're in Rochester, don't miss a trip to Wegman's; Cher doesn't.
On Sunday we were off to the main event at a nearby restaurant, Molly's party! It was great to be with her and all of my cousins and their children. One of the joys of these family parties is to see my cousins' children who are growing so fast that they are almost unrecognizable. Molly received a serious diagnosis but she is a very strong person and has rallied incredibly, defying expectations. She was trained as a nurse and I bet she was a resolute nurse, determined to make patients get well just as she was determined to entertain us when we were children.
A very happy birthday to my aunt Molly.