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 its 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.
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