Apr 8, 2020

Small museums in Upstate New York

When the coronavirus no travel situation is over the large museums will recover and survive but some of the smaller museums will need more support.  Many are run by volunteers but need donations to keep the facility up and running. I love one topic museums.  The owners and staff are always very dedicated. Start a list of places you want to visit when the “shelter-in-place” is over. 

One of my favorite small museums is the Jell-O Gallery Museum in LeRoy, where Jell-O was invented.   Jell-O is dubbed “America’s Most Famous Dessert.” The museum is a fun place for all ages with interactive displays. Learn the history of the jiggly dessert. Don’t miss the Jell-O Brain. It seems that a neurologist made a EEG brain wave analysis of a blob of Jell-O and claimed the results could be considered as evidence of life. 


While walking along the shore of Lake Ontario you will find scads
of small smooth rocks.  During the mid-1800s settlers used them to build their houses. The Cobblestone Museum in Albion has several cobblestone houses and a museum that tells how the houses were constructed.  Unlike the other buildings, the schoolhouse has only a fa├žade of cobblestone. It is told that when the students when on a picnic to the lake they would gather the stones in their empty baskets, return to school, and the stones were then used to create what appears to be an authentic cobblestone building.  Don’t miss the nearby display of fancy outhouses.

Hopefully, everything will be back to normal by Memorial Day. On May 26, 1966, President Lyndon Johnson decreed that Waterloo, New York, was the official birthplace of Memorial Day.  The Museum tells the story of the early Memorial Day celebrations that began on May 5, 1866,with a ceremony to honor local veterans who had fought in the Civil War.  It was a community wide event; businesses closed and residents flew the American flag. By the end of the 19th century Memorial Day ceremonies were held nationwide on May 30 and after WW I the day was expanded to include all those who died in American wars. In 1971 it was declared a national holiday by an act of Congress.

Another one of my favorite small museum, and to my way of
thinking under recognized nationally, is the Safe Haven Museum in Oswego. It is the only place in the United States that accepted Jewish refugees during WW II. The Museum tells the story of how President Franklin Roosevelt was convinced to allow 982 refugees into the United States as his “guests.”  Most stay on after the war but first they were driven by bus to Canada so they could officially enter the United States.  They no longer had a home to which they could return. They became productive and proud citizens. 

I have not been to the Mike Weaver Drain Tail Museum in Geneva.  It is located down the road from the Rose Hill Mansion which is open to the public and was home to John Johnston who made and used the clay drains to irrigate his orchards.  Cornell University once called his farm "the most important spot in American agriculture.” 

There is a museum for just about everything.  In Cattaraugus there is a Museum of American Cutlery, a Kazoo Museum & Factory in Eden, and a National Bottle Museum in Ballston Spa. I always thought Mexico, NY, home of Grandma Brown’s Baked Beans, should have a Bean Museum.