Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation

Press Release

September 16, 2013

Randy Simons
Dan Keefe

State Parks, Friends of Ganondagan Break Ground on Major New Destination for Seneca Art and Culture

Project realizes 30-year vision to build Seneca Art & Culture Center at site of historic Seneca town

New York State officials and the Friends of Ganondagan today broke ground on a Seneca Art & Culture Center at Ganondagan State Historic Site, fulfilling a 30-year vision to build a permanent destination dedicated to Seneca and Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) contributions to art, culture and society at the site of the 17th Century Seneca town in Ontario County. The project was made possible by $3.9 million from Governor Cuomo's economic development initiatives and contributions from the Seneca Nation, and corporate, foundation, and private funds raised by the Friends of Ganondagan.

"The Seneca Art & Culture Center will honor the proud heritage of the Seneca and Haudenosaunee people and provide the historic site with a much-needed new year-round educational, cultural, and tourism destination for visitors from around the world," said Rose Harvey, Commissioner of the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. "I applaud Governor Cuomo for recognizing how New York State's unique cultural and historic sites contribute to an improving economy and I thank the Friends of Ganondagan for their persistence that will add much to the region's culture and way of life."

Daniel Rundberg (Cayuga), president of the Board of Trustees for the non-profit Friends of Ganondagan, said, "We are extremely grateful for the hard work our building and capital campaign committees have put into making the Center a reality. The partnership between the Friends and the Ganondagan State Historic site is supported by hundreds of volunteers, members, and foundations. We thank them and look forward to their continued support of our plans for a robust year-round programming schedule once the center opens."

"I'm elated that, at long last, we are breaking ground for the new center," said Ganondagan Site Manager G. Peter Jemison. "Early measures of support came from both the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation and the Seneca Nation, and for that I am truly grateful."

Designed to complement the natural landscape, the 17,300 square-foot Center will feature gallery space, a theater, auditorium, catering kitchen, gift shop and offices. The gallery space will present the story of Ganondagan with changing exhibits about the Seneca and Haudenosaunee people through five centuries of artistic, cultural, and historical artifacts. Roll-out theater seating in the auditorium will provide flexibility for events, performances, and exhibits, including availability for community use. The center will replace the inadequate existing interpretative facility in a small building that formally was a maintenance facility.

The $11 million project includes a two-year campaign to raise $2 million in endowment to support ongoing facility operations and programming, $1.5 million of which is already contributed by some of Friends of Ganondagan's principal funders. Other major project funders include the Seneca Nation, the Rock Foundation, and the Thaw Charitable Trust. New York State has committed $3.9 million, comprised of $3 million from the Governor Cuomo's NY Works initiative and two grants totaling $900,000 awarded through the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council, established by the Governor to transformative approach to State investment and economic development by putting in place a community-based, bottom up approach and establishing a competitive process for state resources.

Seneca Nation President Barry E. Snyder, Sr. said, "The Seneca Nation of Indians has a rich history. As Keepers of the Western Door, our ancestors proudly served alongside our brothers and sisters of the Iroquois Confederacy protecting the traditions and culture of our people. The Seneca Art & Culture Center symbolizes the respect we have for those who came before us and will become a place of pride for future generations. It is a very proud day for me and the people of the Seneca Nation to know our history will soon come to life for all people to experience."

Senator Ted O'Brien of Irondequoit said, "I am proud of the state's support for this fitting tribute to the long history and rich culture of the Seneca people and the other nations of the Iroquois Confederacy. As our region's tourism economy grows, it is extremely important that we properly showcase its Native American history and ongoing traditions. The center will enrich residents of Rochester and the Finger Lakes region culturally and educationally. It also maintains our reputation as a place that is appreciative of its history, and respectful towards all people who created it."

State Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb of Canandaigua said, "The much-anticipated groundbreaking for the Seneca Art & Culture Center is a result of collaborative efforts and an unwavering commitment to preserving and promoting the rich history of our region. This new and welcome addition to the Ganondagan State Historic Site will provide visitors with more information, a unique educational experience and strengthen the community's tie to a proud legacy. I congratulate the individuals and organizations who have worked so diligently to make this vision a reality."

"The Seneca Art and Cultural Center at Ganondagan builds on the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council's strategy of tourism and arts while enhancing our region's quality of life," said University at Rochester President Joel Seligman and Wegmans Food Markets CEO Danny Wegman, Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council Co Chairs. "This region is host to many powerful assets, such as the Ganondagan State Historic Site, that help attract new business through offering a compelling quality of life, as well as draw visitors with its scenic beauty and cultural attractions. With the start of construction announced and funding in place from Governor Cuomo's regional council initiative, the Seneca Arts and Cultural Center will soon build off these assets to increase visitation and optimize tourism in the Finger Lakes."

The Center is scheduled for a tentative 2015 opening. The center's design architect is Francois deMenil Architects of New York City and the architect of record is DeWolff Partnership Architects (Rochester, NY and Cleveland, OH). The Seneca Art & Culture Center will be built by the Rochester-based Pike Company in collaboration with the Seneca Construction Management Corporation (Irving, NY).

The center continues Governor Cuomo's commitment to strengthen tourism in Upstate New York. Governor Cuomo announced the launch of New York's largest tourism campaign in decades, committing nearly $60 million to grow the industry, create jobs and attract even more visitors to the Empire State. As the fifth largest employment sector in New York, tourism supported 714,000 jobs and generated more than $29 billion in wages in 2012. One out of every 12 jobs in New York is tourism-related. The more than 202 million international and domestic visitors that visited the Empire State last year resulted in $57 billion in direct tourism spending, and generated $7 billion in state and local taxes.

Ganondagan State Historic Site is the location of a major 17th-century Seneca town and palisaded granary. Three hundred years ago, near Ganondagan, the French led an army from Canada against the Seneca to annihilate them and eliminate them as competitors in the international fur trade. The Seneca refer to Ganondagan as the Town of Peace and revere and protect the burial site of the Mother of Nations here. It is one of 179 parks and 35 historic sites overseen by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. For more information about state parks and historic sites in New York, please visit