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As we close this virtual vacation of Sonnenberg Gardens, today we are visiting the historic mansion! We have pictures of the mansion that is beautiful from all angles! For Mary and Frederick, Sonnenberg Gardens was their summer home. They lived in NYC and as many rich people wanted to escape the hot temperatures of a NYC summer! And what a beautiful place to retreat! Mary is from this area so she had family and friends making this one of their favorite summer homes because they did own other homes. They were very rich but also very generous. Think about how many people they employed to take care of their homes, the dairy farm, and gardens. Plus for Canandaigua they did build roads and funded other types of improvements that benefit everyone. If you love architecture then you will enjoy these pictures of the mansion. I never get tired of visiting the mansion as there is always a new angle to discover. The next few pictures are views of the mansion and a couple are from the mansion looking outside. Also at the end of this posting are additional links for pictures of the mansion I shared last year. No matter how many pictures I share there is so much more that you have to see for yourself. If you are in the area stop by or make it a destination as there is a lot you can do in this area.

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I love this child wagon – there are a lot of hidden treasures throughout this mansion!

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The staircase is just an amazing piece of artwork! I just adore it! The architecture is beautiful and I love the arches throughout – so beautiful!

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As a music lover, book lover, and amateur photographer – this is another area I loved. Frederick was an early day photographer and we are fortunate to have his photos to capture that time period.
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Now to end our virtual tour at my favorite part of the mansion – the main bedroom porch. It overlooks the Italian gardens and has an incredible view. Greg and I sat on the porch for a half hour just enjoying the gardens, talking to other guests, and listening to wonderful stories about Mary and Frederick from one of the volunteers! A great way to end our day at Sonnenberg Gardens!

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I hope you enjoyed today’s pictures and the end of our virtual tour! For more pictures of the historic mansion see my prior postings here and here.

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Today’s posting from our day-trip to Sonnenberg Gardens & Historic Mansion includes historic carriages, aviary, and a rock garden. Mary had a fondness for birds building an aviary that had an outdoor section for them to fly within. I took a few pictures of the photos posted of her birds. There are lot more pictures and information posted at Sonnenberg – you will need to visit to take it all in! She loved peacocks and had more than 200 birds that most were not typical to this area! Mary traveled around the world and liked to bring back the birds, plants, architecture, and other inspiration from her travels.


The historic carriages are fabulous – take a look at the pony carriage. Could you imagine traveling in it? The carriage wheels are thin and would not take any of the shock. When watching Victorian movies you see people getting rattled about during their carriage travels. They must have been use to it – not knowing anything else. I love looking at carriages but living in Upstate NY our winters are harsh – I would not want to travel in one of these! They must have been a lot tougher than we are with our modern conveniences!

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Last are a few pictures of the rock gardens, which are nice to be in on a hot day! One picture shows the garden set up for a wedding. A lot of couples get married and have their reception at Sonnenberg and they have a lot of other programs that you can find more about at their website. I hope you enjoy today’s travel through a few more areas of Sonnenberg Gardens – up next is the historic mansion!!

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Today’s posting from our day-trip to Sonnenberg Gardens & Historic Mansion is pictures of the Sub Rosa Garden, also known as the hidden garden since it surrounded by bushes and when you enter you are surprised by the beauty! Of course during Mary’s time there was more flowers and statues depicting each season. You can imagine relaxing while getting lost in a good book. When you leave Sub Rosa Garden there is more beautiful architecture and gardens to enjoy!! The outdoors is so beautiful but there is more to come with the historic mansion and carriages. It is easy to spend a day here. Also there is a gift shop and wine tasting!

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Today’s posting is about Sonnenberg’s Roman Bath which was beautiful in its time. Right now it is in ruins but you can use your imagination on its former beauty. There were changing rooms for the guests and the architecture is just beautiful. What a spectacular place for a swim or just to sit along the pool side and relax. In 1914 Francis Allen designed the Roman Bath from an article that was published in The American Architect. The VA owned Sonnenberg between 1931 and 1971 – a few pictures depict their ownership. This year those who take care of Sonnenberg added learning boards that are just outside the Roman Bath. I included a few photos since they are such a wonderful way to remind people that we need to take care of our environment.

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At Sonnenberg Gardens one of my favorite places is the Japanese Gardens with a wonderful tea house. Being a tea lover I really appreciate the tea house and the garden in general. Before I move on to the Japanese Gardens I want to provide some information about this beautiful destination.

I always love the beautiful gardens, architecture, the historical mansion, and a heart-warming love story between Frederick Ferris and Mary Clark Thompson. There are a lot of events being held at Sonnenberg Gardens that includes concerts, stained glass classes, and much more. Plus many weddings are held in their beautiful gardens and have become its main revenue stream. As with many of New York State historic sites very little money comes from the state to maintain these beautiful places. Which is sad as we are slowly losing our history. For a small admission fee to the park, you can go on a free-guided tour of the gardens and the mansion or take a phone audio tour. The volunteers are passionate about sharing information and they have a quite a bit of knowledge. I felt like they actually knew Mary as they spoke about her and Frederick. I will do my best to share details I learned from the tours, their website, and from a booklet I purchased: Sonnenberg Gardens and Mansion. The grounds include 9 gardens that Mary carefully planned based upon her trips to Europe and Asia. Many of the original garden photos remain because Frederick was an amateur photographer and developed his own dry plate negatives. After her husband’s death at a young age she re-designed her gardens. They did not have any children and Frederick was Mary’s true love and most likely never got over his death.

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Social entertainment was very different than it is today. As an example, we walked through all 9 gardens during our visit. In Mary’s day her guests may have visited a garden in a given day. The ladies would get up, get dressed, have their breakfast then maybe go outside to read. Then they would change again and perhaps one of the ladies would entertain them by playing the piano. From there it might be time to take a nap and maybe change yet again. Life was much different!

Mary’s father, Myron Holley Clark, was a governor of NYS between 1855 and 1857 and at a party she met Frederick. They were married in 1857 and had many difficult financial years before they made their fortune. They purchased Sonnenberg Gardens in 1863 as their summer home as a retreat from NYC hot summers. They had gardens to grow their food and diary cows for milk. There were many trains leaving the Rochester area and fresh fruit, vegetables, and flowers were sent to Mary and Frederick from their gardens. When Mary died at Sonnenberg Gardens, she left the house to the eldest nephew. He in turned sold it to the U.S. Government and the Canandaigua VA Hospital was established. In 2005, the Thompson estate became the fifth state historic park in New York State.

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During the latter half of the 19th century, the upper class was dedicated patrons of art and cultured. They traveled and brought ideas and artifacts back with them. Remember this was before the income tax was established. Mary was a generous person as she funded a house for widowed women. Widows were often destitute with no one to take care of them. She supported many local charities, paid for construction and maintenance of a children’s playground.

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In 1906, a Japanese landscape artist, K. Wadarmori, and team of workers created this detailed miniature landscape from an orchard in just six months, returning in 1908 to build a teahouse. It is a replica of a tea house that was in Kyoto and has burned since that time. The Japanese garden is to reflect the landscape of Japan with mountains, islands, and structures. The Buddha statue did cause controversy with local Christian pastors preaching against false gods. I believe Mary was so far ahead of her time with her charity work and building a home for widows. Plus she saw the beauty and peace from other cultures that we can appreciate, while being Christians. At that time people could purchase a pew at their church, which would be their place to sit for services. Because they did a lot of entertaining they bought a pew at different churches so their friends would have a place to worship during their visit. I would find it hard to criticize this thoughtful woman for having a Buddha. It is a peaceful garden filled with many wonderful statues, flowers, and lilly pads to enjoy.

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It is wonderful when you can enjoy a day adventure in your own backyard and only travel a reasonable distance to arrive at that destination. This next series of photos is from our day-trip to Sonnenberg Gardens in Canandaigua, New York. (Also in the Finger Lakes region of Upstate New York where there are some wonderful wineries!) Once we arrived we had a wonderful lunch at their High Noon Cafe. They have proper home-brew ice tea, a wonderful gourmet crepe, and a summer cold soup! A great way to start off our afternoon journey. You can take a guided tour of the many beautiful gardens, greenhouses, and historic mansion. Their volunteers love the grounds as if it was their own and many talk about the family who owned the property as if they were related. They are so passionate and dedicated to the mansion and property.

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Last year I did share pictures, but honestly, there is so much to take in that you find yourself seeing new things each time you go there. This is one of my favorite places to visit. Below are a few pictures of the plant life within the greenhouses, flowers in their numerous gardens, and the wonderful food from their cafe. Definitely I will be making the summer cold soup – it was delicious! Expect a new recipe to be coming soon! And from last year,click here for more pictures of their flowers. I hope you enjoy this virtual vacation that we are starting on!

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