Like stepping back in time: Heritage Village of the Southern Finger Lakes

I’ll admit it: I’m a little different from most travelers, even most travel writers. I always want to know the deep history of the people at the places I visit — not just aimlessly roaming from site to site, with maybe a passing nod to an important event that occurred there. I’m fascinated by the backgrounds of the settlers, what values they brought. I like to learn about their natural resources, giving me an idea of how prosperous and cultured the areas became. That’s why I was happy to be hosted to visit the Heritage Village of the Southern Finger Lakes, right in the heart of Corning, NY.

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On a rainy day, I saw the little village, made up of actual historic buildings from Corning and nearby areas, moved to form the village, along with recreations of historic vegetable gardens, growing heirloom varieties of plants. Did you know that they used to grow tobacco this far north? I didn’t!

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The Finger Lakes area, of which Corning is a part, was made up of land rights obtained from Massachusetts after the Revolutionary War, then by force from the Iroquois after they had sided with the British. It became known as The Pulteney Estate, the last parcel of which was not sold until 1924! Now, that’s some history.

It’s cool to see the old Inn — very spacious for those days! — along with blacksmith shop, old schoolhouse, etc. I learned it was sometimes hard to get teachers in the area, because having rooms for rent in a conservative rural area was not quite respectable. So, while it was on New York State’s law books until 1960 that women teachers couldn’t be married or engaged, the folks in the Finger Lakes often looked the other way. I marveled, thinking of the implications of that for women. I remember that it was in upstate New York that the suffragette movement also got started.

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You should definitely call the museum ahead of time, as it’s sometimes closed for school groups or private parties. They also have cool special events open to the public, like craft beverage expos, live fire cooking demonstrations, plus workshops to learn blacksmithing and hearth cooking. That seems like some skills that would come in handy!

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