The Cayuga Museum: Capturing Auburn’s Legacy

August 4, 2011 at 10:23 am Leave a comment

Finger Lakes Summer

Front of the Greek Revival Style museum

I bet you did not know that 20th Century Fox and IBM had their beginnings in Auburn New York. Neither did I until I took a trip to the Cayuga Museum.

The Cayuga Museum of history and art, is housed in a classic Greek Revival Mansion built in the mid 1800s, by Dr. Sylvester Willard, who made his fortune in corn starch. Willard Case inherited the mansion in 1916. He donated the property so that it could be preserved as a museum in 1930. It appears to have been relatively untouched for the last 85+ years.

Finger Lakes Summer

Finger Lakes Summer

Lion on the front door and on the gates

Outside a beautiful wrought iron gate still remains, and the original massive wood front doors still perform as entrance to the museum.

Finger Lakes Summer

Ouch. I'll take my ergonomic saddle any day.

There is a suggested admission of $3 — perhaps this is their admission that this museum a work in progress, a bit of a hodge-podge, but completely charming. This is not a heavily curated museum, rather it is a genuine piece of local history that has been lovingly and gently preserved.

Finger Lakes Summer

Tiffany window, east entrance

The front entrance way is lavish with marble floors, beautiful wood trim and a curved stairway winds up with a thick bannister and stained glass window at the top of the stairs.

There is also a business entrance on the east side which later had a Tiffany window added.

Finger Lakes Summer

Children's room, sweet and creepy

Upstairs, one room has beautiful “crazy quilts” hanging on the walls, while next to that is the children’s bedroom, with samples of their clothing, a cradle and doll, plus a display of their toys in a glass case,

The adjacent room, in stark contrast, is a collection of items from the original Auburn prison, including artifacts from the electric chair and a carved stick from the executioner with the names of everyone he had executed.

Auburn was the first prison to contain individual cells, the first to institute the widely imitated “Auburn System,” the first to execute a prison by the electric chair. There was also an asylum in Auburn.

Finger Lakes Summer

Close-up of the 3,000+piece clock. Impressive hobbies before the age of TV.

Nearby, in a tiny alcove there is an incredible 3,100-piece thousand-year clock built by Willard LeGrand Bundy, a local jeweler, in his spare time. He and his brother formed a manufacturing company in Binghamton in 1989, inventing the first employee time clock. This firm changed its name to International Business machines in 1924, now known today as IBM.

Wilard and his son Ted Case were the inventors of talking films. Their back yard laboratory still remains, in the same condition as when they with darkroom, and recording studio. This studio is the birthplace of Fox Films (now 20th Century Fox).

Finger Lakes Summer

Restored Carriage House with awesome weathervane

Today the carriage house is being restored to house  a restored lab. The carriage house is beautifully painted and sports a ram weathervane that came from one of the woolen mills originally located along the Owasco Inlet.

Finger Lakes Summer

Be inspired wimpy Ginkgos!

Most impressive in the grounds behind the museum is the largest Ginkgo Tree in New York State. we have a very tall and spindly Ginkgo in our front yard. I wanted to show it a picture of this massive specimen for inspiration.

The Cayuga Museum is located right next door to the Schweinfurth Gallery on Genesee St in Auburn. Hours are Tues-Sun, noon to 5.

Finger Lakes Summer

East entrance used to be used for Doctor Willard to see patients

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Entry filed under: Auburn, Museums, Owasco Lake. Tags: , , , , .

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