A bad week and thoughts of a trip to another of America's Favorite State Parks..Watkins Glen...
They say history is a unique seductress and I know her call and often wander off to it. We have had so much talk about Letchworth State Park that I thought I would put up a piece on America's other favorited state park Watkins Glen.
Watkins Glen has been one of my favorite destinations for years and with all of the troubles I have faced this week I would gladly visit there and walk the hills and gorge to forget. Its history will take you back in time to a past when it was a major destination of the wealthy!
Today it is now noted more for its racetrack and concert venues than for its wonder that people travel miles to see by coach or train.. Today it is a New York State Park and its many former owners have faded into history.
The natural gorge was situated on a parcel of land purchased by John Watkins an English man who left the property to his younger brother, Dr. Samuel Watkins. Samuel Watkins spent much money to develop the property and was responsible for improvements that included roads, homes, stores and a hotel.
His wife Cynthia remarried after his death and her new husband George Freer inherited the property at her death. The property was often referred to as the “Big Gully”. It is Samuel Watkins that Watkins Glen, originally called Jefferson was eventually named for at the insistence of Freer.
Morvalden Ells a newspaperman from Ithaca and Freer became business partners. Ells love for the glen and his ability to market the Glen to visitors with its scenic charm, is what eventually opened the Glen to tourism on the Fourth of July, in 1863. At that juncture in time it was called “Freer’s Glen: Mysterious Book of Nature”, and the rest is history!
Through Morvalden’s writings about the Glen it attracted and sold over 10,000 entrance tickets in its first year, and there after was improved yearly with additions that included resort accommodations.
A wealthy businessman, E B Parsons for $25,000, then purchased the property. Parsons continued its development until he sold it to John Lytle for a hefty $100,000. Under Lytle’s ownership the Grand Mountain House opened, a facility that could house more than 300 people.
Eventually the State of New York purchased the property from the estate of Andrew H. Green for $46,000 plus, and made it into today’s Watkins Glen State Park.
The Glen has survived thousands of years of water wear and natural disasters such as a horrific flood in 1933 after which the CCC did much repair work. Because of the flood the Army Corp of Engineers were engaged to build two dams on Glen Creek to help control the water.
It is through the loving care of all of the Glen’s owners and contributors that Watkins Glen has remained a natural historic treasure of New York State and tourist attraction for visitors from around the world.