The Hostess’ Sunny Smile, 1939

“The spirit of Colonial days seemed to permeate Skaneateles recently as kerchiefed and full-flounced ladies cordially welcomed a stream of callers during the two days of the historic home and garden tour. Sponsored by the Skaneateles Garden Club for the purpose of raising money for a bird sanctuary, the experiment was more or less in the nature of a trial, watched with interest by garden clubs in other sections of the state…

“One cannot hope to describe individually the stately homes filled with beautiful antiques surrounded by green lawns, majestic trees and terraced gardens.

“A garden to be enjoyed to its fullest capacity must be a place of recreation as well as a place for inspiration and when both are so charmingly combined as at Evergreen House [98 W. Genesee St.], the home of Mrs. Charles Roth, president of the club, the owner is indeed fortunate.

“Shall we take advantage of the hostess’ sunny smile and step inside for just a moment and follow other guests as they stop now and then to examine something of historical interest. I am sure you will pause longest, however, to enjoy the beauty of an arrangement of Egyptian lotus, the centerpiece on the dining room table exquisitely set with French period china and over which hangs a crystal chandelier from the palace of the Tsar.

“Leaving the house we cross a short stretch of lawn and enter the large formal garden at the opposite end of which a stone terrace fronting a lily pool bids attention and over which a white arched trellis gives a note of accent.

“To the left is another less formal garden with beds edged with brick, and paths converging to a sundial in the center. Beyond this, one catches the glint of sunshine sifting through the green leaves, making patterns on the wide stone terrace that has been developed as the recreation area for the family. Here, not only a huge fireplace, but other accessories necessary for a steak supper in the open, shared with congenial companions, are in evidence. Loveliest of all is the ancient elm which stands at one side with a spread of 80 feet or more, and casts long shadows on this garden picture.

“An ancient Sycamore tree with seventeen feet or more in circumference, five feet from the ground, at the home of Mrs. Clarence Wolcott [75 E. Genesee St.] whose Georgian home boasts one of the outstanding doorways in the community, was a fitting example of one woman’s love of trees. Every tree on the place has for years been under the care of tree experts and they have responded loyally by spreading their refreshing shade over lawns and gardens alike.

“Romance and history mingle at the home of Judge Ernest I. Edgecomb [77 E. Genesee St.], for here the garden is still laid out according to the original plans made 100 years ago. In a distance of 500 feet, from the house to the end of the lot, there are several interesting units. Ivy completely covers rocks piled cave fashion on the lawn, with a recessed pool and flanked on either side with a large planting of plumed poppies, and makes an unusual picture that can be seen from the house. Two gingko trees, male and female, are planted either side of the lawn, while dense shrubbery conceals two summer houses. One was built for a former owner by neighboring Indians and the other is of a later era, conforming more to the architectural lines of the house that is built after the style of the old French country houses.

“Still other surprises are in store for the garden visitor, as a long grassed path, with a narrow border of annual and perennial bloom whose foliage blends with the scintillating tints and shades of lilac and forsythia, lures one on to explore the mystery of a vanishing path at the end, only to find that it leads eventually to the carriage house in the rear.

“A basket of dried teasels handed out as souvenirs in the garden of the Robert S. Flannigan home [81 E. Genesee St.], reminded one of the fact that Skaneateles was once famous for the teasels raised and sold to the textile industry. Fuller’s Teasel (Dipsicus fullonum) is still used to raise the nap on woolen cloth, no machinery ever having been invented to take its place.

“The sloping tree-covered lawns with a vista of the lake in the distance seen at the home of Judge [Edmund H.] Lewis [116 E. Genesee St.]; tall Ionic columns lending dignity to Roosevelt Hall, home of Mrs. H.L. Roosevelt, where shining nectarines (that peach with a smooth skin) were seen hanging in the greenhouse; the broad sunken garden of The Beaches [Beeches], home of E.N. Trump and family, leading to the lake shore; the terraced gardens at Mingo Lodge, home of Mr. & Mrs. Harold Beatty, with the tiny figures in the rose garden representing spring, summer, autumn and winter, and where water gushed from a retaining wall into a pool beneath; and, last, the home of Mrs. John Wilkinson [2985 East Lake Rd.] across the lake.

“Here is a fine example of the restoration of an old colonial farmhouse, a spacious living room in the center, from which one steps into a room filled with an unusual collection of old glass. One part of the collection contains dainty paperweights whose bright flower colors vie with those in the lovely terraced gardens outside.

“Six levels, each with grassed paths, some bordered with annuals and perennials, others with roses, stretch across the sloping land on the shores of the lake and, separated by boxed privet hedges, lies like a Persian scarf from the house to the boundary line of shrubbery at least 200 feet beyond.

“How true the lines in the old sampler on the walls of the living room which read, ‘The glory of the garden abideth not in words,’ but rather, we add, in the hearts of those who labor in it and who pause to drink in its beauty.”

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— “Members of Local Garden Clubs Tour Down State Beauty Spots with Skaneateles Group” by Jane W. Chamberlain, Buffalo Courier-Express, September 10, 1939

Note: “The glory of the garden abideth not in words” is from “The Glory of the Garden” by Rudyard Kipling, a poem first published in A History of England (1911) by C.R.L. Fletcher and Rudyard Kipling; the actual quote is “The glory of the garden it abideth not in words.”


On Exhibition, 1906


“On Saturday afternoon last, Rev. C.B. Thorne brought to the Free Press office a mammoth pie plant leaf, grown in his garden on State st., which measured three feet across and a like distance in length, being one of the largest leaves we have ever seen. The stalk was thirty-one inches in length and 1 ½ inches in diameter. The leaf was perfect in every way and the stalk was a superb specimen of pie plant. The stalk and leaf was placed on exhibition at the store of the Bench Hardware Company.”

— “A Mammoth Leaf,” Skaneateles Free Press, June 26, 1906

CB Thorne

Note: “Pie plant” is a nickname for rhubarb, given because rhubarb was often an ingredient in pies. The Rev. Chauncey Bell Thorne (1833-1909), who cultivated the giant leaf, was a minister in the Society of Friends but had spent much of his childhood and adult life farming, and brought a wealth of experience to his village garden.