Parlors, kitchens, dining rooms and bedrooms are filled with period furniture that brings you back to the 19th century. Each of the village homes is authentically decorated according to the time period selected for interpretation, location and economic status of its occupants.
Click the name of the building to for additional details.
Click the numbers in parentheses to view the building's location on our interactive map.
George Eastman's Boyhood Home
Col. Nathaniel Rochester House
built c. 1809, Caledonia, NY
log house - built c. 1809, interpreted 1820, Scottsville, NY
early framed barn - built c. 1820, Ontario County
log smokehouse - built c. 1810, Monroe County
On the lea of Flint Hill, just below the village, are seven structures serving the needs of the pioneer farm family. The squared oak timbers of the one-room log house were laid in about 1809 by Nicholas Hetchler, who first settled in the Genesee Country in 1787. Dovetail joints where the timbers overlap at the corners are typical of log house construction in Hetchler's native southern Pennsylvania. A portion of one wall of solid stone masonry that provides a fireproof back for the hearth is characteristic of other early log homes in the Genesee Country, as is the clay-lined wooden chimney.
Carving a farm from a wilderness, the settler used his ax to clear the native forest. Logs not needed to build his cabin could be burned to give him his first cash crop — wood ashes from which he could prepare potash. Grain could be sown between the stumps. With a snug cabin, enough plain food for his family, some winter feed for his livestock and a little cash to buy the essentials he could not produce himself, the pioneer farmer in the Genesee Country had made a modest beginning.
The log house was presented to the museum by Arthur Burns, whose family had occupied it for nearly a century in its original location just outside the village of Scottsville, N.Y. The excellent condition of the logs results from their long confinement within either frame additions to the house or clapboards applied to the exposed exterior walls.
Contemporary accounts and inventories of similar log homes document the simple furnishings with which the house has been provided. Open-hearth cooking and other activities are demonstrated daily at the pioneer farmstead during the museum season. Visitors will also find typical farm animals — chickens, pigs, and cows — running freely or secured in pens that were part of the farmstead.
Log Cabin or Log House? audio tour
Who Built with Logs & When? audio tour
The Wheat in Wheatland audio tour
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built c. 1814, Rush, NY
Like Nicholas Hetchler, whose one-story log house anchors the Pioneer Farmstead, Martin Kieffer moved from a settled area of southern Pennsylvania to carve a farm out of the Genesee Country wilderness. And like Hetchler, he built his dwelling of logs, using the same dovetail-like joints favored by the Pennsylvania Germans. Kieffer's Place is a full, two story home. Kieffer's house contains eight rooms, its regularly spaced window and door openings form a symmetrical facade, and an enclosed stairway opposite the front entrance leads to the second floor.
At an early date, lath and plaster were applied to the exposed beams of the ceilings, the interior of the log walls and the first floor beaded partitions. At about the same time, the exterior of the log walls was covered with clapboards, accounting for the present excellent condition of the squared timbers. Since they disguised the early condition and character of the building, all these improvements were removed during the restoration process.
Kieffer's two-story log house was located near Honeoye Creek in the Town of Rush in Monroe County and lay in the path of the Genesee Expressway (now Interstate 390) during its construction. The New York State Department of Transportation, recognizing the structure's rarity, made it available to the museum in 1974.
The Germans of the Genesee audio tour
Log Cabin or Log House? audio tour
built c. 1820 - 1835, interpreted 1850, Orleans, NY
corncrib - built c. 1830, Livingston County
Pioneer Ezra Jones arrived in the Genesee Country from Connecticut in 1805 and was able to purchase 120 acres of excellent land for wheat in what is now Ontario County. There, in the midst of a settled area, he enjoyed the improved roads that placed him effectively nearer to markets in Canandaigua and Geneva. The first dwelling of this ex-Continental Army soldier was of logs. It may be reasonably assumed that his next major project was a frame barn, although no trace of such a structure survives.
In the 1820s, Jones erected this unpretentious story-and-a-half frame house. A summer kitchen wing was added in the 1830s. However, even this simple, serviceable dwelling was in time demoted to the role of tenant house when a large two-story Victorian country house was erected in the 1860s. Under such a succession of roofs (and owners), the old Jones farmstead reflected half a century of change in farmhouse architecture, as well as decoration. The Jones farmhouse at Genesee Country Village & Museum is decorated with stenciled walls, probably done by an itinerant 19th-century artist, although some may have been done by the owners themselves.
The Jones Farmhouse comes from Tileyard Road, near Orleans, in Ontario County, and was given to the museum by the Gillam brothers. Its design, derived from Connecticut precedents, is typical of the small early 19th-century Genesee Country timber-framed and clapboard-covered farmhouse.
This house features one of the four working kitchens in the historic village. Here visitors will see daily demonstrations by the farmer's wife as she prepares the noon meal, just as she might have in the mid 1800s. Every Wednesday and Saturday during the season the woman of the house produces cheese in addition to the meal.
built c.1840, interpreted 1854-1860, Waterville, NY
George Eastman (1854-1932), founder of Eastman Kodak Company, spent his early youth in and around this one-and-a-half story Greek Revival dwelling in Waterville, N.Y.
Eastman's father, who had been a nurseryman in Waterville, moved the family to Rochester, where he founded a business school. At the elder Eastman's death, young George and his mother lived for a time on Livingston Park (near the residence of Dr. Frederick Backus, which now faces the Genesee Country Village square), where the widow Eastman took in boarders.
The main block of George Eastman's Boyhood Home is a clear and compact translation of the Greek temple idiom into the American vernacular. The essential elements of temple architecture — the post, the lintel and the pediment — are here scaled down and rendered in wood. The broad porch is the podium of the temple; four fluted Doric columns carry the wide entablature (horizontal bands above the columns), which is capped with a fully developed pediment.
None of the home's current furnishings belonged to the Eastmans, but have been selected to demonstrate the comfortable circumstances the family enjoyed while living in Waterville.
A quilter now works daily in this house throughout the season.
Greek Revival Architecture audio tour
1797, Dansville, NY
In 1810, Col. Nathaniel Rochester left his comfortable circumstances in Hagerstown, Md., to move north to the 155 acres in Dansville, N.Y., which he had bought on his first trip to the Genesee Country in September 1800. The perilous 275-mile journey north through almost impassable mountains took three weeks. On horseback the Colonel led a procession of carriages bearing the women of the household and the younger children, three great Conestoga wagons with household goods and his 10 slaves, and some of his neighbors who came along to help. The Colonel moved north, he said, "to escape the influence of slavery, to set his slaves free, and to rear his family in a free state."
In Dansville, Col. Rochester purchased from David Scholl a plank house, believed to have been built around 1795. Now at Genesee Country Village, evidence revealed during its 1989 restoration suggests it may have had a dependent structure — in which case, the Colonel's large family and the contents of the Conestoga wagons would have been less crowded.
Once settled in Dansville, where he had purchased most of the water rights on Canaseraga Creek, Col. Rochester erected a large paper mill and a gristmill. In the meantime, he began to survey the 100-acre tract at the falls of the Genesee River that he and his colleagues had purchased in 1803, and which contained the ruins of Ebenezer Allan's primitive mills.
After five years in Dansville, Col. Rochester moved to a large farm in East Bloomfield, N.Y., and continued his work laying out what would become the Village of Rochester. In 1818, he and his family of 12 children finally moved near the falls into a house with a large garden and grounds sloping down to the river. In 1824, he erected a brick house on higher ground where he resided for the rest of his life.
built 1797, Lima, NY
Amherst Humphrey's 1797 house, though of a type common for well over a century in his native Massachusetts, was ahead of its time in the Genesee Country. His ten-roomed "framed" house would remain conspicuous among the log houses of other pioneers then settling the area.
Houses such as Humphrey's, organized around a central chimney system, were basic and logical. There were no hallways — the rooms all interconnected. A large fireplace was a necessity for cooking and an oven was needed alongside it for baking. An iron crane swung from one side of the fire chamber, supporting the kettle; on the wide hearth was room for food that needed heat for preparation or serving.
Two other fireplaces heated the two front rooms. These were smaller, nestled back into the mass of masonry needed to contain the kitchen fireplace and oven, and they used the same central flue. The central chimney accommodated a fireplace on the second floor as well, furnishing welcome heat to the largest of Humphrey's five second-floor chambers.
The great pile of masonry in the central chimney type house served as a solid anchor for the structure's heavy timber frame, portions of which might rest against the chimney. While Humphrey's fireplace, oven, and chimney are of brick, the base beneath the full cellar is of stone, and contains its own fireplace opening — probably used for the messier business of lye-making and lard-rendering. The basement floor is of cobblestone. There is a cistern beneath the summer kitchen (added in the 1830s) and an inside privy at the far end of the attached woodshed.
The Amherst Humphrey House, like thousands of story-and-a-half New England precedents from which it derives, is almost totally lacking in exterior ornamentation. However the interior features include not only paneled and molded doors, door and window surrounds, and chair rails, but also mantelpieces and cupboards carried out in moldings hand-planed by a craftsman with a light touch and an eye for proportion. Remarkably, the work of the unknown craftsman survived a century and three-quarters of continuous occupation as a working farmhouse in Lima, N.Y.
Daily throughout the season, visitors can chat with a spinner and weaver in the Amherst Humphrey House. On selected weekends during the season, the talented craftspeople also present fiber dyeing demonstrations behind the house.
New England Architecture Comes to New York audio tour
New Englanders in Western New York audio tour
built 1814, interpreted 1840, Caledonia, NY
Unlike his fellow Scots who had settled in the "Big Springs" area (at the site of present-day Caledonia N.Y.), John MacKay, a Scot from Shamokin, P.A., arrived at the Big Springs as an entrepreneur. By 1814, MacKay had prospered sufficiently to build the two-story brick-lined house that now looks out across the Genesee Country Village square.
The design of MacKay's new house was as up-to-date as his ledger books. The American version of the modified Georgian style popular in the period is termed "Federal" or "Post-Colonial." Its lightened and attenuated forms are seen in the architectural detailing of the MacKay house with its gable end turned toward the road. The elegant three-bay facade is articulated by four pilasters, linked by blind elliptical arches, and crowned by a full pediment. Positioning the short side of a house to serve as its front had an important effect upon its interior plan: the narrow end allowed for only a single room across the front, with the entrance moving to one side.
MacKay's fine house was to have had a full-height portico across the front, but when the four columns ordered for the job could not be shipped from Kingston, Ontario, during the War of 1812, MacKay finished off his house without the projected frontispiece.
Some of the rear sections of this ample house were torn away in the early 20th century. An archeological program conducted in cooperation with the Rochester Museum & Science Center uncovered remains of the foundations of the missing portions, including footings for the kitchen hearth, fireplace and oven.
MacKay's house and several pieces of his furniture were given to the museum by his descendants: Mrs. Marianna Wilkins, Mrs. Mary Enderton, and John Newton MacKay.
The Scotsmen of Caledonia audio tour
built 1836, Pavilion, NY
In 1826, Charles Foster brought his wife, four sons and four daughters to the Genesee Country in a horse-drawn vehicle. According to family tradition, two of the children rode in the potash kettle. The kettle would indicate that Foster expected to be clearing land. That the 58 acres he eventually purchased were on a hill would suggest that a better site was unavailable or beyond his means.
Foster's first house in Genesee County was of logs. When in 1836 he was able to put up a frame house, the result was surprisingly sophisticated, without any known local precedent. His one-and-a-half story house carries post-Colonial (Federal) detailing on the exterior, while the widely overhanging roof and the interior trim point to the newer Greek Revival style. Such a combination of modes is often the result of an owner's reluctance to cast off all familiar forms and his tentative acceptance of the new.
The house's entrance is of special interest. Fluted pilasters extend to the frieze, framing not only the front doorway but the window above. These two elements are separated by a projecting shelf with egg-and-dart molding. Inside, a bridge-like landing above the entrance hall and behind the window receives the delicately detailed stairway and provides access to the upper bedrooms on both sides of the house. This landing, floating free from the front wall, permits light from the window above the front door to reach the entrance hall below.
One of the Foster daughters married Ely Tufts; ultimately, three generations of Tufts occupied the house before it was turned over to secondary usages. The house was in precarious shape when the museum acquired it. It had served as a chicken house for some time, and had lost its kitchen and woodshed wing to the elements. In its restored state, the house appears very much as it did when new in 1836.
Village Colors audio tour
Choosing the Village Colors audio tour
White Houses, Green Shutters audio tour
built c. 1835, Stone Church, N.Y.
The Ward-Hovey House (c. 1835) comes from Stone Church, N.Y. Unlike many of the other houses in the village, it has served as a dwelling since its construction. Originally a simple single-room rural cottage, it was expanded with three separate additions. Its restoration retains the Greek Revival detailing and a Victorian porch. Today Ward-Hovey contains some museum offices and serves as the village's first aid center.
built 1827-1838, interpreted 1850s, Rochester, N.Y.
One of the entrepreneurs who fashioned a fortune from milling, banking and speculative ventures in Rochester was James Livingston, a descendant of an old Hudson River family. In 1827, Livingston built one of the first grand mansions in Rochester's Third Ward, soon to be full of other columned monuments to their newly wealthy owners.
In 1835, the house was sold to businessman Joseph Strong, who, three years later, sold it for $10,000 to Dr. Frederick Backus, a prominent figure in civic and cultural affairs and an elected official when the City of Rochester was formed in 1834.
Backus made substantial structural alterations to the house, employing Greek Revival elements and detailing. A one-story ell attached to the main block permitted the doubling of the parlor, while the entrance hall and stairway were shifted from the front to the side. Stylish decorative alterations were made on the interior. These changes, some very subtle, record an important phase in the history of the structure and were retained in its restoration.
Following the Civil War, the house again underwent change. The kitchen wing was replaced by a large brick addition as the building was converted into a fashionable girls' school. For three-quarters of a century, Livingston Park Seminary attracted genteel young ladies from the eastern United States.
When this important structure was threatened with destruction in the 1950s, a prominent Rochester benefactor acquired it and had it carefully dismantled and stored until an appropriate location and use could be found. In 1970, the benefactor found a location that satisfied his requirements. He presented the house to the museum and shared in its reconstruction cost.
Abolitionists audio tour
built c. 1831, York, N.Y.
This house is temporarily closed for renovations.
Practical considerations guided Scotsman Duncan J. MacArthur, who, in 1833, brought his bootmaking trade, his wife and a one-year-old son to the Genesee Country. His house was small and in a form that looked back to one of the earliest houses of New England — the "salt-box."
The first houses in the English colonies were one-story single-room affairs with a chimney at one end. Then came the two-room versions with the chimney in the middle. Space could be added to either of the simple, gable-roofed boxes by adding a shed, or lean-to, at the rear. The shed roof of the addition might carry out the same pitch as the main roof or it might be flatter.
Whichever the case, the result was a long roof at the back and a short one in front, forming the "salt-box" shape. Early salt-boxes grew from necessity, but their practical shape for cold climates — with the longer roof slope to the north — has proven pleasing enough for the style to endure.
MacArthur's salt-box, built at a country crossroads west of York Center, N.Y., evolved from a story-and-a-half house to which at some unknown time a lean-to was attached. The lean-to, which contains the kitchen, a bed chamber and the pantry, is connected to the older portion of the house through the stair hall leading to the front entrance and through a door into the parlor. Two bed chambers are located on the second floor.
Colloquially, MacArthur's salt-box was called a "half-house," a term that suggests that a "whole" house could be built by adding a structure with two windows on the other side of the front door. In York Center there are examples of "whole" houses of the same vintage and with the same tall proportions of doorway and windows as MacArthur's, lending plausibility to the notion that the shoemaker's house was only a fraction of what it could be.
built c. 1870, Friendship, N.Y.
In 1848, Orson Squire Fowler, a native of the Genesee Country village of Cohocton, published A Home for All, or a New, Cheap, Convenient, and Superior Mode of Building in which he announced that the octagon house, with its eight sides, enclosed more space than a square one with equal wall space.
The octagonal form had been used in public buildings in the past, but now as a concept for domestic architecture, it had a dedicated and convincing champion. Fowler's books, stressing the functional and stylistic advantages of the octagon house, found many readers and several hundred followers who sprinkled the landscape from New England to Wisconsin with eight-sided houses, barns, churches, schoolhouses, carriage houses, garden houses, smokehouses and privies.
When Hyde returned to Friendship, N.Y., from the Civil War, he briefly resumed farming and acquired an interest in a shingle mill. Along with his wife Julia, he moved into the new octagonal house. He and his wife shortly joined a spiritualist group.
Hyde later became a homeopathic physician. Julia Hyde was an accomplished musician and reportedly an ordained Methodist minister. When Julia died within two days of her husband, the belief arose that their departed spirits frequented the old, oddly-shaped house.
In 1978, the museum acquired the vacant and long-neglected Hyde House from Friendship, Allegany County, N.Y.
Octagon Houses audio tour
built 1870, Campbell, N.Y.
John Hamilton arrived in the Southern Tier town of Campbell, N.Y., in 1843 as a shoemaker. But by 1870, Hamilton was the owner of tanneries, a leading figure in his community and proud possessor of a grand new house.
Hamilton's towering mansion displays the full flowering of the Victorian Italianate style. The L-shaped structure, its flat, pitched roof and eaves projecting outward on console-like brackets, its tall chimneys with corbelled brick moldings, the verandas and the bay windows all fit the Italianate formula and the all-important tower, its base embracing the paired entrance doors and its middle stories containing stairway access to the upper level, is appropriately crowned with a mansard roof.
From its dressed-stone foundation walls to the iron cresting upon the tower, Hamilton's house is every inch a fulfillment of the dictum of the influential Victorian architect, Samuel Sloan — that a man's dwelling was not only an index of his wealth, but also of his character.
An early photograph of the Hamilton House made it possible to reproduce the landscape in the front of the residence, with minor adjustments for the difference in setback from the road. The iron fence came with the house, having been dismantled some years ago and stored in the basement.
From Picturesque to Haunted: The Hamilton House audio tour
The Civil War is Good for Business audio tour
The Nature Center Trails are open weekends January & February. The Historic Village is closed for the season and will reopen May 10.