It’s always a treat when I walk into a historic home to find a room full of old books. Of course, I’m always fascinated by the history behind the home itself and enamored by the antiques within it, but the books always take me to that magical place where the greatest stories ever written are front and center at my fingertips.
I found a room like this in the Seward House Museum of Auburn, NY during my visit to the Finger Lakes Region of New York State last month. And yes, I was in bliss. This article was made possible by Finger Lakes Wine Country, special thanks for hosting me.
About the Seward House Museum
The Seward House Museum is the footprint of William Henry Seward and William Henry Seward II. Built with ten rooms in 1816 on the edge of Auburn, NY for Judge Elijah Miller and his two daughters, mother and sister, it was a marvel of a home. In 1824 Seward moved into the home after his marriage to Judge Miller’s daughter, Frances Miller.
Following the death of Judge Miller, William Henry Seward became the executor of the home. Following the death of William Henry Seward Sr. in 1872, the home was inherited by his son, William Henry Seward II. It was again inherited in 1920 by William Henry Seward III until finally it was bequeathed in 1951 to the Fred L. Emerson Foundation to keep the memory of the Seward family alive.
Designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1964 it displays one of the most original collections of any historic home in America. In 2008 the museum established itself as its own independent 501-C3, not-for-profit museum.
Who Was William Henry Seward?
William Henry Seward was a politician of the 19th-century. He served as the New York State Senator, Governor, United States Senator, and Secretary of State for the Lincoln and Johnson presidential administrations. And if that’s not enough of a legacy to leave behind, he also led the purchase of the Alaskan territory from Russian in 1867.
He’s also responsible for the Insanity Defense which came from his work as a high-profile attorney. He believed in equality, technology, pragmatism, and idealism. And, during the Civil War, he was tasked with maintaining the neutrality of foreign countries before international law and modern diplomacy was even a thing.
Suffice it to say, Mr. Seward was a pioneer of the America we love today. And his life in photos, collections, and books can be appreciated by all today at the Seward House Museum.
Touring the Seward House Mansion
Exploring the Seward House Mansion was one of the highlights of my tour of the Finger Lakes Wine Region. With its well-preserved original furnishings, personal belongings, and artwork, all owned by the Seward Family, it’s a place that commands attention.
And the grounds are beautiful to enjoy on a nice day. I recommend you take a lot of photos and give yourself plenty of time to take it all in. The museum offers guided tours which, in my opinion, allows a good opportunity to ask questions about the Seward Family and the collections within the home.
Around Town Tips
While planning your trip to the Seward House Museum be sure to stop at New Hope Mills Cafe for the biggest pancake you’ll ever eat. They also have a lovely General Store where you can purchase local foods to bring home.
For dinner check out Springside Inn for a fabulous culinary experience. If you’re looking for even more history, the Harriet Tubman Home National Historic Park preserves a slice of our road to equality.
The Finger Lakes region is a great place to explore if you’re looking to go beyond New York City. And if you’re planning to be in Auburn, then you must plan a stop at the Seward House Museum. Even if you’re not, it’s worth the drive.
Special thanks to Finger Lakes Wine Country for touring me around their amazing region. To plan your trip to Finger Lakes Wine Country and explore the Seward House Museum go to http://www.fingerlakestravelny.com/.