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Posts Tagged ‘Cobblestone’

It’s easy to develop some fun outdoor adventures that involve history across New York State.  John Warren runs the New York History blog at  http://www.newyorkhistoryblog.com that’s a great source of ideas.  For instance, his most recent post just happens to cover my Cobblestone Quest book. (Thanks John!) Hop on your bike & take a cobblestone history tour.

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(excerpt of article byTerricha Bradley • Democrat & Chronicle  link to original article)
“David Haines of Ogden lives south of Ridge Road and drives past a small cobblestone house built more than 100 years ago at least three times a week. Standing on three acres of a proposed 60-acre development among newly-demolished homes, the historical building caught his eye.

Haines, a native of Philadelphia, and his wife, Pat, own a historical bed and breakfast in Ogden called the Adams Basin Inn. It was built in 1815 and got an addition in 1850 — and once served as a stopping point for canal workers and travelers. The Haineses are history buffs who own a historical place of rest, but Haines wants to keep another piece of western New York history intact:

He wants to move the cobblestone house on West Ridge Road in Greece to his land and turn it into an Erie Canal artifacts museum.”  click here to read entire article

What a spectacular idea! If you haven’t stayed at the Adams Basin Inn, put it on your ‘Must Do” list. Using “Take Your Bike – Family Rides in the Rochester Area” as a guide, you can plan a two day bike trip on the Erie Canalway Trail either from the east or the west and stay overnight at the Adams Basin Inn. The photo at the top of this blog was taken in front of the Adams Basin Inn – it sits on the edge of the Erie Canal.

For the Haines’ to save a cobblestone building and make it into a canal history museum would be even more precious. This area is loaded with unique cobblestone buildings that date from before the Civil War. Some are maintained as historic gems but others, like this one in Greece shown above, are being left to crumble – loosing the history they embody. To read all about these cobblestone buildings, get a copy of “Cobblestone Quest – Road Tours of New York’s Historic Buildings.”

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As summer wanes and fall colors begin to appear, road bikers should be in prime biking condition. You’ve probably biked manFishers Cobblestone Pumphousey of the same familiar routes this year. Maybe you need a new goal – a new reason to head out for a spin. I recommend going on a cobblestone quest.

In your travels you’ve probably passed cobblestone houses, but not given them much thought. Most peopel don’t realize that they’re unique to Central and Western New York State. In fact, over 90% of the cobblestone buildings ever built in the world are within a 65-mile radius of Rochester, NY. The 700+ buildings were constructed between 1825 and 1860, before the Civil War. Each is a creative work of folk art.

Imagine moving slowly by wagon, over roads that were mere ruts of mud, to build a log cabin in a remote wilderness. This is precisely how the early pioneers to upstate New York arrived. They purchased plots of land from the Phelps & Gorham Land Tract or Holland Land Company and had to clear the trees from the dense forest to create fields for farming.

In the process, they discovered the fields were full of fist-sized stones (or cobblestones), evidence that glaciers scoured this land before the forests grew. Those pesky stones had to be moved out of the way, and as they plowed, the cobblestones seemed to multiply. It was hard work, but the land was productive and the pioneers were able to grow enough produce to feed their large families.

When the Erie Canal opened in 1825, it created a way to get their produce to larger markets. The farming business flourished, enough so that the farmers began to think about building better homes for their hardworking wives and 10+ children. Why not put those pesky cobblestones to use and build a dandy home – they were, by golly, lying about free in the fields, just waiting to be gathered. And, the pioneers were not strangers to hard labor.

The original cobblestone homes were simple farmhouses. Over the 35-year span during which all the cobblestone buildings were built, they became progressively more elaborate and refined. Construction methods evolved and masons began to select stones, sorting them by size and color. They build homes with stripes, herringbone patterns and artistic patterns created with the cobblestones.

Today, many of the cobblestone buildings are still standing and in use, a testament to fine craftsmanship. A few of the masons who built houses in upstate New York migrated farther west and built a spattering of cobblestone buildings in the mid-west. But, by far, the bulk that were ever built, are in upstate New York, south of Lake Ontario.Cobblestone Quest

The cobblestone buildings clustered in this region make great biking tours. 17 different tours are detailed in the guidebook Cobblestone Quest – Road Tours of New York’s Historic Buildings. The shortest tour is 22 miles, the longest 83 miles, with most in the 45 to 55-mile range. They wind through backcountry roads, passing cobblestone houses, barns, smokehouses, stores, factories, and even cemetery markers. The guidebook describes the technique of cobblestone building and the history of the buildings, so you will understand what you’re passing. As you ride along, marvel at the skill of the masons and admire the dedication of the homeowners who have lovingly maintained these buildings over the centuries. Hop on your bike and take a fall tour through the unique history of our region.

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Cobblestone QuestWe so often ignore the wonders in our own neighborhoods. Lynn B. of Penfield certainly did. Here’s the review of “Cobblestone Quest” she posted on Amazon.com:

“Fabulous resource. I live in the Rochester area but it took visiting friends, who brought this book with them, to discover the area’s treasures. We spent a wonderful day following one of the trips – the directions were superb, the explanations about each structure were well done – in short – I bought the book, read it, found some more hidden delights! This book is worth every penny!”

Thanks Lynn. We agree whole-heartedly! The routes make great biking tours also.

To view what this book has to offer, click here.

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