Teasels, Bankers and Pancakes - A Little Skaneateles History

One of my favorite activities during our 2018 Focus on the Finger Lakes campaign has taken place when I return home from one of our lake adventures. Don't get me wrong, there is nothing like experiencing all the beauty of our eleven Finger Lakes in person but for me the adventure continues as I go back through my pictures and take time to learn a little about the history of the images in them.

The Teasel Capital of the World!

In the 1840's a gentleman by the name of John Snook brought cultivated teasel seed to Skaneateles from England. Teasel had been used there for centuries to comb the nap of woolen goods. The locally grown teasels quickly gained a reputation as superior to imported teasel and became a major cash crop for local farmers. Cultivated teasel is not the same as the wild teasel we encounter today. It is believed to be extinct here in the Finger Lakes now, having been displaced by two wild strains.

Thayer House and Thayer Park Main Street Skaneateles

Joel Thayer settled in Skaneateles in 1835 and went to work as a clerk for John Legg in his carriage works. Within months of his arrival he married his employer's daughter, Juliette. Thayer later became founder and President of the Bank of Skaneateles, and founder and President of the Skaneateles Railroad Company. The Thayers purchased the house in 1862, built Legg Hall across the street to honor his father-in-law in

1866-68, and then turned their attention to the Skaneateles Lake shoreline next to it. There they built a break wall and opened a public park. Joel and Juliette's granddaughters, May and Eva Webb, formally deeded Thayer Park to the Village of Skaneateles in 1922. Thayer house has since been converted into condos.

The same year Thayer Park was deeded to the Village, Frederick Carleton Austin, a native of Skaneateles and a graduate of the Skaneateles Academy returned home for a visit. Seeing the unattended land between the St. James' church and Thayer Park Austin made a promise to buy the land if it came up for sale. After purchasing it he offered a $25,000 endowment to maintain it if the Village built a seawall to link to the existing St. James' and Thayer Park walls.

Thanks to these very generous donations Skaneateles residents and visitors can sit and enjoy the beautiful lakefront within a short stroll of the village.

New Hope Mills Rte 41A Hamlet of New Hope

New Hope Mills started in 1823 as an actual grain mill. The Weed family (the current owners) took over in 1947. You can find their business name, New Hope Mills, on pancake and waffle mixes, scones and more at a store near you. While the business was moved to nearby Auburn, the mill was operational until 1996. Back in the 1850's there were 15 water powered industries along the banks of Bear Swamp Creek. Now, only the grain mill and saw mill (pictured below) remain as a tribute to New Hope Mills’ past. The Weed family still preserves the original mill complex with plans to convert it into an operating museum. I, for one, am thankful they plan to preserve this piece of Skaneateles' history.

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A Cultural and Natural History Museum