Recently, I decided to drive out east again and wound up around Lake Chautauqua in the Western most corner of the Empire State. I went there a few years back in the fall, and even wrote a piece on it, but I never been there in the spring. Along with the Lake Erie Islands, this lake and, more importantly, the Chautauqua Institution on the Western shore, draws a lot of people from the Cleveland area (mainly East Siders). In Canadian terms, this is apparently as close to our version of cottage country as it is going to get.
I first decided to drive past the exit on I-86 for the Institution and drive over the bridge crossing the lake on it’s way to Albany and stopped at a place called Bemus Point. Located on the Eastern side of the Lake, I went there one time before by pure accident and thought it was just another small, run, down, village that has seen better days. I remember the view though and thought that they really should put some money into it. When I drove through there this time, my initial reaction was the same, nothing looked much different. However, at this traffic light at the end of the main drag I saw on the left some new buildings that I never saw before. They could have been there last time and I didn’t notice then but still they were something I didn’t see before. Also, the town put in some new metal benches and a brick sidewalk along the shore leading to a small Casino and dock which probably were there for years. When I got home I surfed the web and discovered, to my surprise, that Bemus Point has a few restaurants that one should definitely look into such as Ye Hare ‘n Hounds Inn. The view of the water is quite picturesque and perhaps more investors will take notice of the town in the future.
As for the Chautauqua Institution, while very interesting, it is a rather odd place. It’s not just that there’s a fence around the property and one has to pay to get in there during their season. It’s not a also because these ‘cottages’ which can sometimes go for big bucks, look like houses in such Cleveland neighborhoods as Slavic Village or Fairfax that most people wouldn’t think twice in buying. It’s probably because it has its origins as a Protestant (mainly Methodist) Sunday School assembly in 1874 which the Institute’s website states “as an educational experiment in out-of-school, vacation leaning”. To this day, the season, which lasts from June 27th to August 30th, is packed with various activities, and not just of a Faith-based bent. Chautauqua even has its own symphony orchestra.
Only a few people were in the place as I walked around which I hear can be quite packed in the summer. The Athenaeum Hotel was closed to the public but I did manage to walk through the lobby of the historic building. There was plenty of work going on fixing roads and getting things ready for the season.
It’s about roughly two and a half hours away by car from the Cleveland/Euclid border and if there are not too many construction barrels on I-90 it can be a very nice ride on a sunny day.
Photographs taken by the author.