Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation

Press Release

July 25, 2022

Dan Keefe (518) 486-1868 | news@parks.ny.gov

New York State Parks Announces New Gateway Entrance at Sonnenberg Gardens and Mansion State Historic Park

Next Phase Includes New Visitor Center Planned for Former Armory

Upgrades Enhance Important Finger Lakes Tourism Destination

 

The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (State Parks) today announced the opening of a new gateway entrance at Sonnenberg Gardens and Mansion State Historic Park in the Finger Lakes. The $1.1 million project is the first phase of a $6.1 million multi-year effort by State Parks and the Friends of Sonnenberg to renovate a former U.S. Army Reserve armory into a new Sonnenberg visitors' center, café, and educational space with improved parking.

The park's new entrance and gateway is marked by stone columns off State Route 21 in Canandaigua and provides more visibility for the site and a direct link to the New York State Thruway. The new entrance boulevard leads to a bus turnaround and diverts traffic from an adjoining residential street, helping improve the neighborhood's quality of life. The project also improved pathways, expanded parking and added a new entrance garden and tree plantings.

Erik Kulleseid, Commissioner of the State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, said, "With its 19th century Victorian mansion, gardens, and greenhouse complex, Sonnenberg is one of only two formal gardens owned by State Parks. With the community support of our partners at Friends of Sonnenberg, the new gateway and planned new visitor center will make a visit to this unique an even better experience."

The project is supported by $1 million from two state Consolidated Funding Application (CFA) grants, as well as more than $330,000 from an ongoing fundraising campaign by the not-for-profit Friends of Sonnenberg group that operates the site.

The new gateway was enabled by an earlier Parks' purchase of 1.6 acres at Charlotte and Gibson streets and donation of the 3.5-acre armory parcel to Parks by the U.S. Army. Designed by Trowbridge Wolf Michaels Landscape Architects, project construction work was being done by City Hill Excavating of Penn Yan.

Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council Co-Chairs Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Bob Duffy and SUNY Geneseo President Denise Battles said, "The welcoming gateway project at Sonnenberg Gardens and Mansion State Historic Park in Canandaigua will certainly enhance the visitor experience at this beautiful public garden. This transformative project will additionally work to strengthen tourism in the region, boosting the local economy."

Friends of Sonnenberg Executive Director David Hutchings said, "The new entrance and the existing buildings have created 70 new paved parking spaces for our visitors, new admissions for our Bus Tours and day use visitors. In the future we will create a Visitor/ Educational center to grow the vitality and the economics not just for Sonnenberg Gardens and Mansion but also the Canandaigua Community and the Finger Lake region. Today we are the number one summer attraction in Ontario County and over the peak of Covid-19 we hosted over 50,000 visitors to provide some outdoor recreation in our community."

Donations made to the Friends of Sonnenberg campaign include Elmira Savings & Loan ($49,000), Canandaigua Rotary Club ($12,000), and Lyons National Bank ($10,000), and two anonymous donors totaling $160,000.

Senator Pam Helming said, "Sonnenberg Gardens and Mansion is a beautiful treasure we are fortunate to have in Canandaigua and I am proud to support this project. Thanks to New York State Parks, Friends of Sonnenberg, and to the many supporters of this important Historic State Park. The new entrance and gateway will not only welcome visitors and divert traffic in a more efficient way, but the improvements made to expand and modernize Sonnenberg Gardens increase its accessibility and attraction for tourists near and far, providing a boost for our local economy."

Assemblyman Jeff Gallahan said, "An entrance is the first thing people see when visiting and a gives a first impression about what their visit will entail.  This new entrance is a perfect fit for the beautiful gardens that await visitors past the gates at Sonnenberg.  This first phase completion marks a new revitalized beginning for Sonnenberg Gardens, and I am excited for everything else that lies ahead.  Thank you to Commissioner Kulleseid and the State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation for your continued investment in the Finger Lakes."

Canandaigua City Mayor Robert Palumbo said, "We welcome Commissioner Kulleseid to Canandaigua and Sonnenberg Gardens and Mansion to celebrate the official opening of the new grand entrance. This is a welcome addition to Canandaigua's largest tourist attraction and we're thankful for the partnership with State Parks, the Sonnenberg Board, and staff."

Robin Dropkin, Executive Director of Parks & Trails New York, said, "Strengthening public/private partnerships is both key to the success and sustainability of our wonderful State Parks system and the goal of Park and Trail Partnership Grants, administered by Parks & Trails New York in partnership with State Parks.  We are delighted to support the Friends of Sonnenberg in enhancing Sonnenberg Gardens and mansion State Historic Site."

Parks & Trails New York provided about $28,500 in grants to support transfer of Sonnenberg property archives into the former armory office and to fund a campaign and marketing plan to assist in public relations and fundraising.

A state historic site since 2006, Sonnenberg Gardens and Mansion State Historic Park is a late-19th century Victorian Estate with a Queen Anne-style mansion, greenhouse complex, and nine historic themed gardens of the world. Located in the heart of New York's Finger Lakes wine region, Sonnenberg (which means "sunny hill" in German) is the former summer home of prominent banker and philanthropist Fredrick Ferris Thompson and his wife, Mary Clark Thompson, a co-founder of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and a benefactor of numerous charities. The couple are interred in Woodlawn Cemetery in Canandaigua.

The announcement at Sonnenberg complements "Finger Lakes Forward," the region's successful Upstate Revitalization Initiative plan, a comprehensive strategy to grow the economy. The state has already invested more than $8.07 billion in the region since 2012 to lay the groundwork for the plan - investing in key industries including photonics, agriculture and food production, and advanced manufacturing.

Now, the region is accelerating Finger Lakes Forward with a $500 million State investment through the Upstate Revitalization Initiative, announced in December 2015. The State's $500 million investment will incentivize private business to invest well over $2.5 billion - and the region's plan, as submitted, projects up to 8,200 new jobs.

New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation oversees more than 250 individual parks, historic sites, recreational trails, and boat launches, which were visited by a record 78.4 million people in 2021. A recent university study found that spending by State Parks and its visitors supports $5 billion in output and sales, 54,000 private-sector jobs and more than $2.8 billion in additional state GDP. For more information on any of these recreation areas, visit www.parks.ny.gov, download the free NY State Parks Explorer.