You can experience everything, from history to Jell-O
By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant
Step back in time, explore interesting exhibits and artifacts and learn about the region through visiting area museums. While you may be familiar with those in Rochester, there are a few museums a little farther away that can provide an interesting day trip.
The history at Old Fort Niagara. It spans the exploration period of the 1600s through the early 1800s. The displays detail the many uses of Old Fort Niagara from its founding to current times. Explore six buildings and view numerous artifacts of military and civilian life. One of these is a U.S. garrison flag from the War of 1812 that is one of only about 20 pre-1815 US flags in existence.
The Genesee Country Village and Museum in Mumford features a combination of replica and genuine 1800s buildings populated by historic interpreters who sew, weave, bake, forge, farm and otherwise carry out rural life. Wander among the shops and homes, watch a reenactment and talk with the villagers. Check the website to learn about special events at Genesee Country. Some are perfect for children, so invite the grandchildren to come along.
Summertime is the perfect season to visit Sonnenberg Gardens and Historic Mansion. Self-tour the numerous styles of gardens on the 50-acre estate and the mansion’s many rooms appointed with period furnishings. Finger Lakes Wine Center and a tearoom style café are on the grounds. Sonnenberg is one of only two public gardens in the state’s park system.
The Jell-O Gallery in LeRoy preserves the wiggly, jiggly history of an all-American dessert and its journey from health food to savory side dish (olive relish, anyone? How about tomato-flavored?) to the current dessert version everyone loves with whipped topping. The quirky museum includes displays of vintage ads, Jell-O memorabilia, molds (spot your family’s favorites) and more. The building also features in its upstairs a museum of transportation.
Palmyra is home to five museums, Palmyra Historical Museum, Erie Canal Depot, Alling Coverlet Museum, Phelps General Store and The Print Shop Museum. The Palmyra Historical Museum focuses on local history. Learn more about the Erie Canal at the Depot, which still has much of its original architecture present. The Alling Coverlet Museum boasts the nation’s largest collection of coverlets, including rare examples. The Phelps General Store (and the storekeeper’s residence above it) has not been renovated since the mid-1800s, leaving an authentic representation of life 150 years ago. View vintage printing equipment at the Print Shop Museum. Owing to each museum’s size, you can visit them all in a day and have time to explore the charming downtown area. The museums host special promotions, so check the website to see what’s happening.
Smaller and Unique Museums
Five other interesting museums in Wayne County are:
• Hoffman Clock Museum in Newark
• H. G. Hotchkiss Essential Oil Museum (also known as the “Peppermint Museum”) in Lyons
• The Brick Church Museum, Mill Museum and Blockhouse in Clyde
These are small enough to visit all in one day. The Hoffman is inside of the Newark Public Library and is open for self-guided tours whenever the library is open. Unless one knows to look for it, it’s easy to walk right past it and not step inside to see dozens of everyday clocks on most grandparents’ mantels to rare clocks viewed by visitors from around the world. The Hotchkiss showcases Lyons’ historic distinction as the peppermint capital of the world. The minty gift shop is worth a visit. The Brick Church Museum houses artifacts from Clyde’s history of glassmaking as well as the town’s other industries. The Mill Museum is more of a general, daily life museum of life in the 1800s through early 1900s. Though a 1975 replica of the circa 1758 fort, the Blockhouse features authentic artifacts from the original fort’s era.
Keep in mind that these museums may have different hours because of the pandemic. Check their website, and social media page, while planning a visit.