The History of Skaneateles Lake

If Skaneateles Lake could talk, it would have a lot to say about the things it has seen during the past two hundred years. At 16 miles it sure is pretty long. In fact, Native Americans called the lake Skaneateles or long lake. In more recent times the lake was given the nickname “The Roof Garden of Lakes” due to itsskaneateles vacation rentals altitude being higher than any of the other Finger Lakes. Three counties enjoy the pristine beauty of this lake: Cayuga, Cortland and Onondaga. The lake’s namesake village, Skaneateles, is located on the northern portion. This is where most people come to enjoy boating, swimming and walking along its shores. Fingerlakes Luxury Rentals has several Skaneateles luxury vacation rentals that will allow you to take advantage of everything the lake has to offer.

The Iroquois tribes were the first to inhabit the area. To them Skaneateles Lake was a source of food, transportation and recreation. When settlers began populating the surrounding area and building towns, they adapted the Indian name and quickly found ways to incorporate the lake into their everyday lives. The town and village of Skaneateles were officially created in 1830.

As more people settled into the area, there was increased activity on the lake with canoes and boats carrying people and supplies across the waters. Having a lake next to a town was great for attracting business and people looking for an attractive place to live. The Hamilton and Seneca turnpikes made the town more accessible. A stagecoach line opened to ferry people back and forth by land.

Wealthier residents built exquisite homes on the lakefront. Roosevelt Hall is a magnificent Greek inspired mansion. Built in 1839, the home’s white pillars continue gleaming in the sunlight today. The Reuel E. Smith House, built in 1852, is another fine example of period architecture.

While the stagecoach handled land travel, a steamboat called the Independent ferried passengers up and down the long lake. Also during this era, tourists began coming to enjoy relaxation and recreational activities in and around the lake. The Indian Queen hotel sprang up to accommodate visitors. Later visitors stayed at the Lake House, which for a time was a happening spot before it burned down.

Several factories and mills have existed in the vicinity of the lake. There were paper mills, factories that processed wool, breweries and distilleries, foundries and machine shops. Milling in Skaneateles pretty much ended after one too many destructive fires. Apparently, waterpower was good for running mills, but there wasn’t any way to douse flames during emergencies.

During the era of slavery, several local residents opened their hearts and homes to escaped slaves traveling on the Underground Railroad.

Faster, smaller boats for getting around the lake replaced large steamboats. Boats delivered early mail in the town because many roads were not passable. Tourists can still witness this old-fashioned mail delivery by hopping a U.S. Mail boat Cruise. During the 3-hour journey the boat travels the entire length of Skaneateles Lake. Mail is delivered during many stops.

These days the lake is mainly used for recreation. Boating and fishing are popular outdoor activities you’ll see people enjoying. Many fish such as bass and trout swim in these waters. Skaneateles Lake also provides drinking water to thousands of people living in Syracuse. It has the proud distinction of being one of six sources of drinkable unfiltered water in the whole country.

So for your next vacation or just a quick weekend away, consider a trip to Skaneateles lake and a luxury stay at one of our Skaneateles luxury rentals.

Spend the Weekend Visiting the John D Barrow Art Gallery

Visitors to picturesque Skaneateles, New York often find time to stroll through town and take in the local cultural offerings. The town is small, but does have its share of cultural icons. One such icon is The John D. Barrow Art Gallery on East Genesee Street. The Gallery is maintained by the Skaneateles Library Association and is adjacent to the Library building. Our Skaneateles luxury rentals are located within easy distance of this unique art gallery which should be included on your “to do” list on your next visit to the Finger Lakes.

Who is John D. Barrow?

John D. Barrow was a portrait and landscape artist. Born in New York City, he moved to Skaneateles with his family in 1839. As a young man he was sent to study in England for a short period. This is where he gained his lifelong passion for painting. Skaneateles would be a source of deep inspiration in his work over the course of his lifetime.

Upon his return to America Barrow took up residence in New York City. He opened an art studio next to another influential artist from Skaneateles, Charles Loring Elliott. During his early days in New York he was fortunate to be there to sketch Abraham Lincoln as he spoke at Cooper Union in 1860. This portrait now hangs in the Chicago Historical Society.

Barrow became interested in landscape painting after being influenced by another artist, George Inness. Barrow’s landscapes are considered to be “second generation” Hudson River School. During the 1880s, Barrow returned to Skaneateles for good. He taught fine art at Syracuse University. He also wrote poetry and became an art critic.

Barrow designed the statuesque Soldiers and Sailors Monument at the Skaneateles Lake View Cemetery. It still stands there today in all its dignified glory. In 1900 he designed the addition to the local library using his own money to have it built. He wanted it to be a place to display his artwork.

Most of his work is displayed in the Gallery. Other works are in private collections.

What Will You See at the Gallery?

The John D Barrow Art Gallery displays over 200 portraits and landscape paintings depicting local people and scenery from the Skaneateles community. The artwork reflects life as it was in the 1800s when Barrow was inspired by what he saw and felt.

Walking into the Gallery is like stepping back through time into a simpler world of grace and natural beauty. Gazing at the paintings puts you in the mood of thoughtful reflection. The paintings are in four categories: Forest, Meadow, Lake and Portrait.

While the portraits are interesting, Barrow really shines in his landscape depictions. There are splendid scenes of Lake Skaneateles with calm and rougher waters. You can see that even back then, people were out boating on the lake. The forest paintings make you feel as if you are walking along and simply stopped to admire its quiet beauty. Meadow scenes show people, cows and rural living as it was during Barrow’s era.

Visiting the John D. Barrow Gallery is a nice escape into another time and place. Contact the Fingerlakes Luxury Rentals staff to reserve your stay and see all that Skaneateles has to offer.


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