Chautauqua Lake, New York

After we were “wined-out” (see Wine-ing my way through New York), we continued over to Chautauqua Lake.  This was the first thing we saw:

And then this:

We parked in the public lot next to the Depot Museum in Mayville, New York, and took a little walk out onto the dock.

The Depot Museum at Lakeside Park in Mayville highlights the Ice Harvesting Industry of Chautauqua Lake, steam boating & furniture making, and features the first voting machine.  And so much more!  This photo is just a small sampling of the wonders within.

We talked to a nice lady volunteer for some time about the area.   She recommended we go down to the Chautauqua Institute.  Since the season hadn’t started yet we could drive onto the grounds for free.  I had seen photos and read about the Institute and couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see the historic buildings and how “the other half” vacations.

The Institute is a historic Victorian village that features a 9-week summer season of art, education, lectures. top entertainment, religion, and recreation and much more.  In addition to all the historic homes there is an amphitheater, shops and the beautiful Athenaeum Hotel.

How to describe the Institute?  Best to quote from the web site:

The Chautauqua Institution is a not-for-profit, 750-acre educational center beside Chautauqua Lake in southwestern New York State, where approximately 7,500 persons are in residence on any day during a nine-week season, and a total of over 142,000 attend scheduled public events. Over 8,000 students enroll annually in the Chautauqua Summer Schools which offer courses in art, music, dance, theater, writing skills and a wide variety of special interests.

The Institution, originally the Chautauqua Lake Sunday School Assembly, was founded in 1874 as an educational experiment in out-of-school, vacation learning. It was successful and broadened almost immediately beyond courses for Sunday school teachers to include academic subjects, music, art and physical education.

While founders Lewis Miller and John Heyl Vincent were Methodists, other Protestant denominations participated from the first year onward, and today Chautauqua continues to be ecumenical in spirit and practice. Chautauqua’s Department of Religion presents distinguished religious leaders of many faiths from this country and abroad, both as preachers and teachers.

The Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle (CLSC) was started in 1878 to provide those who could not afford the time or money to attend college the opportunity of acquiring the skills and essential knowledge of a College education. The four-year, correspondence course was one of the first attempts at distance learning. Besides broadening access to education, the CLSC program was intended to show people how best to use their leisure time and avoid the growing availability of idle pastimes, such as drinking, gambling, dancing and theater-going, that posed a threat both to good morals and to good health. To share the cost of purchasing the publications and to take encouragement from others in the course, students were encouraged to form local CLSC reading circles. Soon these were established throughout the country and, in time, around the world. Among those who benefited most from the CLSC program were women, teachers, and those living in remote rural areas. At the end of their four years of study, students were invited to come to Chautauqua to receive their certificates in a ceremony, which is still held today during the first week in August.

With the success of the CLSC, many new Chautauquas were created, known as ‘Daughter Chautauquas,’ giving rise to what was called the ‘Chautauqua Movement.’ Some years later, the talent agencies that provided speakers and entertainers for these platforms, put together shows of their own, which traveled to small towns across the United States and Canada. These were known as the ‘circuit chautuaquas’ or ‘tent chautauquas.’

By 1880 the Chautauqua platform had established itself as a national forum for open discussion of public issues, international relations, literature and science. Approximately 100 lecturers appear at Chautauqua during a season.

Music became increasingly important at Chautauqua, especially after the turn of the century. A symphony orchestra season became part of the regular program in 1920. The Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra, founded in 1929, now performs thrice weekly with leading soloists in the 5,000-seat Amphitheater, Chautauqua’s program center. Popular entertainers perform other evenings. The Chautauqua Ballet Company also appears in the Amphitheater, sometimes with guest artists, while the Chautauqua Conservatory Theater presents its season in Bratton Theater. The Chautauqua Opera Company, also founded in 1929, performs in English in Norton Hall.

It appears to be a very different place today, from being a place where all could learn to a place that only the rich can afford.  The volunteer at the museum said the locals don’t go near the place in-season because number one, the traffic is so bad, and number 2, it’s so expensive.  But it was fun to drive around the playground of the rich and famous.  Here are some more photos on the institute grounds.

Time for a mid afternoon snack!  We headed around the lake to Bemus Point, New York.   We had stopped in this little town as we drove through the region on a previous trip and we wanted to revisit it.  We had some libations on the patio of the Surf Club
Such a lovely afternoon in a peaceful place.  Watching the boats go by, people watching.  There is a historic hotel in Bemus Point, the Hotel Lenhart.  They were celebrating their 130th anniversary the day we were there with an ice cream social.  It was very crowded on that end of town.  Click on the link to see photos of the place, it is really nice.  We elected to stay on the patio of the Surf Club and eat cheesecake!  A nice end to our tour of  Chautauqua Lake.
We were in the area for only a weekend – there is so much to do there!  My other stories about this fun weekend can be found at:

About SallyK

A little blog about the ordinary and not so ordinary things our family does, places we travel, things we see. Like travel, cooking, family stories, book reviews, music? You will find it all here - comments welcome!
This entry was posted in History, Nature, People watching, photography, Small towns, Travel and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Chautauqua Lake, New York

  1. I really enjoyed this post. I am originally from the Chautaqua Lake area (a small town south of Jamestown). It is so nice to catch a glimpse of the area again here. I’ll be checking out your other posts from the region.

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