Western New York contains more than two dozen National Historic Landmarks -- places where significant historical events occurred, or where prominent Americans lived or worked. Or, they represent important ideals from the past, or feature outstanding architectural design.
The National Parks Service oversees the National Historic Landmark Program. The landmarks -- numbering slightly under 2,500 -- are designated by the secretary of the interior. (By comparison, there are about 85,000 buildings on the National Register of Historic Places, chosen as cultural resources worth preserving.)
A tour of our local landmarks takes us to buildings, towns and streets, and could be the basis of more than one weekend's outing.
> Niagara County
Old Fort Niagara near Youngstown is a place to step back in time and see what life was like for soldiers in the 1700s. The fort's French Castle is the oldest structure in the Great Lakes region.
Niagara Falls State Park, the oldest state park in the nation, was established in 1885 and designed by noted landscape architect, Frederick Law Olmsted. The park, which includes Goat Island and several other small islands, is located next to Niagara Falls.
Lewiston Portage Landing Site, located in Artpark in Lewiston, marks the spot where Native Americans and fur traders would land their vessels so they could portage them around the falls. An ancient Native American burial mound is located here.
The Adams Power Plant Transformer Station, one of our area's lesser known landmarks, is considered the birthplace of the modern power generating station. It was the largest hydroelectric power plant in the world in 1895.
> Erie County
Two National Historic Landmarks are located in East Aurora, the Millard Fillmore House Museum and the Roycroft Campus.
Millard Fillmore, the 13th president of the United States, began his law career in East Aurora, years before he ran for public office. He built this house for his new bride, Abigail, in 1825. Today, costumed docents from the Aurora Historical Society give tours of the home, which includes furnishings owned by the Fillmore family. The museum is open June to October; www.aurorahistoricalsociety.com
The 14-building Roycroft Campus was an Arts and Crafts Community built by Elbert Hubbard in the early 1900s. The self-contained community housed more than 500 craftsmen, including furniture makers, metalsmiths, leathersmiths and bookbinders. Thousands of people traveled to the campus, many staying at the Roycroft Inn, which still welcomes guests today; www.roycrofters.com.
Buffalo has eight National Historic Landmarks, plus one National Historic Site, within the city limits.
There are only 90 National Historic Sites in the nation. The Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural National Historic Site on Delaware Avenue, also known as the Wilcox Mansion, is one of only six presidential inaugural sites outside of Washington, D.C.
The Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society is one of the country's oldest historical societies and is housed in the only remaining structure from the 1901 Pan-American Exposition.
The Darwin Martin House, on Jewett Parkway, was built by noted architect Frank Lloyd Wright and is considered one of the finest residences in the world.
The H.H. Richardson Complex (Buffalo Psychiatric Center), which features two distinctive 184-foot towers, is considered the greatest work of renowned architect Henry Hudson Richardson.
Kleinhans Music Hall, one of the finest works by architects Ethel and Eero Saarinen and F.J. and W.A. Kidd, is known for its acoustic excellence.
The Prudential Building, also known as the Guaranty Building, designed by Louis Henry Sullivan, was cutting edge when it was built in 1895. The outside of the structure features intricate art nouveau terra cotta decorations.
St. Paul's Episcopal Cathedral, a Gothic Revival-style church built in 1851, is Buffalo's first designated National Historic Landmark and considered the finest church designed by Richard Upjohn.
On the waterfront, the Edward M. Cotter, built in 1900, is the oldest operating fireboat in the United States.
And the destroyer the USS Sullivans, located in the Buffalo Naval Park, was named after five brothers who all were killed while serving during World War II.
> Ontario County
Rose Hill Mansion, built in Geneva in 1839, is considered one of the finest examples of Greek Revival architecture in the United States. The 21-room mansion, which overlooks Seneca Lake in Ontario County, is furnished with antiques and period reproductions. The mansion was built by Gen. William Strong but is named for Robert Rose, one of the original owners of the property. It is open for guided tours May through October; www.genevahistoricalsociety.com.
Ganondagan, 277 acres, was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1964. It is the site of a 17th century Seneca village that was attacked and destroyed by the French in 1687. You can learn about the Senecas by viewing exhibits at the visitors center and by touring a full-size replica of a bark longhouse. The visitors center is open May-October; the grounds are open year-round; www.ganondagan.org
> Livingston County
The entire village of Geneseo was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1991. Architects consider the village a museum of historic buildings; many are built in Federal and Colonial Revival style. The two mansions on either end of Main Street were built by the founders of Geneseo, brothers James and William Wadsworth; www.livingstoncountyhistorical society.com.
There are two National Historic Landmarks in Rochester. The George Eastman House, which now houses the International Museum of Photography and Film, is a 37-room mansion, located on 12 acres along East Avenue. It is the largest single-family home ever built in Monroe County and has been restored to what it looked like during Eastman's lifetime. George Eastman, founder of Eastman Kodak, was responsible for bringing photography to the common man. If you visit during the summer months, be sure to take a guided tour of the gardens, as well as the interior tour. It is open year-round; www.eastmanhouse.org
Susan B. Anthony's 1850 home was her base as she worked for women's suffrage. The Victorian home, now a museum, is filled with memorabilia and displays, and is open Memorial Day to Labor Day; www.susanbanthonyhouse.org.
> Genesee and Orleans counties
The Holland Land Office Museum in Batavia processed early land transactions for all of Western New York. The 1815 Federal-style building, declared a landmark in 1961, was built with 20-inch-thick stone walls, making it fireproof. It was saved from demolition in 1894 and today the museum has exhibits focusing on Genesee County history. The museum is open year-round and admission is free; www.hollandlandoffice.com.
Cobblestone masonry was developed in Western New York after the completion of the Erie Canal in 1825. Route 104, from Lewiston to past Rochester, has more cobblestone buildings along it than any other road in America. The Cobblestone Museum Complex, on Route 104, just north of Albion, features three National Historic Landmark cobblestone buildings, which include the oldest cobblestone church in North America (1834), a parsonage (1840), and a schoolhouse (1849). The museum is open from the end of June to Labor Day; www.cobblestonesocietymuseum.org.
> Chautauqua County
The charming Victorian gated community known as the Chautauqua Institution is best known for its nine-week summer season that offers performing arts, education, religion and recreation. There are numerous historic buildings on its 856 acres, including the chalet-style Lewis Miller cottage, which is a National Historic Landmark. Miller, co-founder of the Institution, had the cottage precut in Akron, Ohio, and then shipped to Chautauqua for assembly. The cottage is not open to the public, however, the grounds are open year-round (an entrance fee is charged during the summer); www.ciweb.org.
Learn more about National Historic Landmarks and Buildings on the National Register of Historic Places at the national Park Service website, www.nps.gov/nhl/designations/listofnhls.htm.
Local architecture historian Chuck LaChiusa has a website about Buffalo architecture and history, www.buffaloah.com.