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July 13, 2016 / Jim Fenton

Great Lakes Day 4: Fenton History

June 22, 2016

Fenton Mansion, Jamestown, NY

Fenton Mansion, Jamestown, NY

We didn’t sleep well last night. Between the noise from the revelers arriving for the big Cleveland Cavaliers celebration today, and our own concern about being able to leave in the morning, we were awake a lot. We arose a little earlier than usual, showered, finished packing, and checked out of the hotel, skipping the free breakfast buffet (which was probably overcrowded anyway). We gave our ticket to the valet parking attendant and waited as we watched Cavaliers fans stream past the hotel.

A few minutes later, the car did arrive and the attendant suggested we go east on Superior Street to get out of town. We tried that, and rapidly came up against a wall of fans waiting for the parade. We turned around, navigated west a bit, and found an on-ramp for the Cleveland Shoreway that was unexpectedly clear. We were free. We drove out into suburbia, and found a Panera Bread where we ate our breakfast.

Our first destination of the day was Jamestown, New York, home of the Fenton History Center museum and research center. The facilities are named for Reuben Eaton Fenton, former Governor of New York and U.S. Senator, in whose mansion the History Center is located. Reuben Eaton Fenton is a grandson of my great-great-great-great grandfather Roswell Fenton, and a nephew of my great-great-great grandfather Stephen Fenton.

I introduced myself and was greeted by a couple of staff, none of whom were relatives. The Fenton Mansion in which the museum was located was well preserved and had a number of exhibits, not just about Reuben Fenton and family, but about Jamestown, the Civil War, and some early 20th century history. While not a large and widely visited museum, it was a good use of our time to visit.

We also stopped by the research center for the Fenton History Center, which has a small archive. We spoke at some length with the Collections Manager, Norman Carlson. He was interested in some of the genealogical information I have collected, and I will send that after the trip.

Just before and during our visit, we learned of other notable things in Jamestown. It was the birthplace of Lucille Ball, and the headquarters for Desilu Studios, which she and husband Desi Arnaz operated. It was also the home of Crescent Tool Company, makers of the famous Crescent adjustable wrenches. Ornithologist Roger Tory Peterson also hailed from Jamestown.

We stopped for a delicious lunch at the Havana Café, a local Cuban restaurant (no doubt inspired by Desi Arnaz’s local connection), where Celeste enjoyed her first Cuban sandwich. We then continued on to Buffalo.

In Buffalo, we made a short detour to the Darwin Martin House, designed and built by Frank Lloyd Wright. Although we were too late to take a tour, the exterior was so far ahead of its time, it’s hard to believe it was designed and built before 1910.

NiagaraHorseshoe

Horseshoe (Canadian) Falls

We then crossed the Canadian border to Niagara Falls, Ontario, our base for the next two nights. We took a walk down to look at the falls, which had of course not changed, but it was a first visit for Celeste. What had changed was that while it had always been touristy, it seems much more so today, perhaps because of the presence of a very large and prominent casino. We had dinner overlooking the Falls, making our plan for tomorrow, before retiring to our room and being treated to a fine fireworks show.

This article is part of a series about our recent vacation in the Great Lakes area. To see the introductory article in the series, click here.

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