Skaneateles, circa 1865

“At a palatial residence we were met by the warbling of a thousand birds of varied plumage, while the stately pavilions, the cool summer houses, the hanging flower-baskets, the tropical luxuriance of the aloe and the cactus, the pattering of cool fountains, and the immense pleasure-grounds reminded us of Kablai Khan and the groves of Damascus.

“At various places the Star-Spangled Banner was flung to the breeze. Crowds of the beauty and the fashion thronged the sidewalks, and at the Lake House we were saluted by the band playing the air, ‘See! The conquering hero comes!’ ”

— From “A Tourist’s Observations” quoted without date or attribution in E.N. Leslie’s History of Skaneateles (1902). We know that the Lake House hotel went by that name from 1840 until it burnt to the ground in 1870, and that the song cited (with its tune by Handel) was a popular martial air during the U.S. Civil War, 1861-1865, hence I estimate this glowing report to date from 1865 or so.


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