Charming ChautauquaCounty village offers history, antiques, & locally produced items
The Village of Westfield in ChautauquaCounty, just over an hour’s drive from Buffalo, is a charming village filled with historic homes built in the early 1800’s. It is a place where you can learn about ChautauquaCounty’s history, hunt for antiques, shop for fresh produce, or sip a glass of wine.
The first European settlers arrived in 1802 and the area was initially known as the “Cross Roads,” because it was at the intersection of the road running between Buffalo and Erie and the Portage trail. One can learn more about Westfield and ChautauquaCounty history by visiting the McClurgMuseum, which houses the collections of the Chautauqua County Historical Society. (www.mcclurgmuseum.org)
This 16-room mansion, located in MoorePark, was built by James McClurg between 1818 and 1820. A wealthy man, McClurg wanted to provide his family with more stately living conditions than the other area settlers, who lived in more modest log homes. When the last of McClurg’s descendants died, the home was left to the Village of Westfield to be used as a public building.
The current exhibit, “Lincoln Legacy: ChautauquaCounty’s Connection to the Great Emancipator,” focuses on President Abraham Lincoln and his connections to Westfield and ChautauquaCounty.
On February 16, 1861, President-elect Lincoln addressed a large crowd at the Westfield train station as his inaugural train made its way to Washington, D.C. It was at this gathering that Lincoln had his notable meeting with 12-year-old Grace Bedell; immortalized in the charming statues located across the street from MoorePark, in what is referred to as Lincoln-BedellStatuePark. Bedell had previously written Lincoln a letter suggesting he grow a beard to improve his appearance. He followed her advice, and at the meeting he asked her how she liked the whiskers. The statues were sculpted by Westfield native, Don Sottile, and erected in the park in 1999.
Five years later, Lincoln’s funeral train made a stop in Westfield. There are many other connections between Lincoln and county residents that are examined in the exhibit. Also on display are Civil War diaries, letters, enlistment and discharge papers, photos, and more.
Keeping with the Civil War theme, as it is the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the Civil War, there will be a Civil War encampment on the grounds of the McClurgMuseum on August 5-7, with re-enactors depicting both Union and Confederate soldiers. The Civil War theme is further explored at the nearby Chautauqua Institution during week nine of the summer season, August 21-27, which is entitled The Path to the Civil War. This session is in collaboration with the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation and the National Museum of African American History and Culture. (www.ciweb.org)
Since Chautauqua County is celebrating its bicentennial in 2011, there are a number of special events this summer celebrating the county’s history, including a Bicentennial History Fair which will take place August 13-14 at the Chautauqua Inn & Suites in Mayville. Fifty-two historical organizations from the county will have displays about their groups and military re-enactors will be offering demonstrations of what life was like 200 years ago.
There are numerous antique shops located in the village of Westfield which are open year-round. However, antique buffs from all over western New York and Pennsylvania will converge on Westfield for the 73rd annual Westfield Antique Show, which will take place Saturday July 16 from 10 am-6 pm and Sunday July 17 from 11 am-4 pm in Eason Hall, 23 Elm Street, Westfield. This show, a fundraiser for the Chautauqua County Historical Society, is the oldest continual antique show in the United States. Admission is $5. (www.westfieldantiqueshow.com)
Two weeks later, on July 30 from 9 am-4 pm, the second annual Book and Paper Show, which features antiquarian books, postcards, maps, magazines, Americana, and more, will be held at Firemen’s Exempt, 75 Bourne Street, Westfield. Admission is also $5.
Westfield has an award winning farmer’s market which takes place on summer Saturdays from 9 am-2 pm in MoorePark, located at the intersection of Route 394 and US 20. Close to 50 carefully chosen vendors offer locally grown seasonal produce, locally raised and processed meats, free range eggs, Amish baked goods, maple syrup, unique crafts, and more, including wines from local wineries. The market, which is in its fifth year, is a New York Producers certified market, meaning that goods are regionally grown or made and farm fresh. They also have monthly special events and art demonstrations.
Another unique place to shop in Westfield is the Cross Roads Market, which is open every Saturday, May-December, from 9-5. Cross Roads features dozens of vendors, including fruits and vegetables, coffee, candy, crafts, clothing, home décor, and more. (www.thecrossroadsmarket.com)
Westfield is located in a large grape production region. In fact, Dr. Thomas Welch, founder of Welch’s Foods, built his first grape juice factory in Westfield in 1897, and it became known as “The Grape Juice Capital of the World.” Today, the region is second only to California in grape production.
The fact that so many grapes are grown here led to the establishment of a number of small estate and farm wineries nearby. Lake Erie Wine Country, formerly known as The Chautauqua Lake Erie Wine Trail, www.lakeeriewinecountry.org features 23 commercial and estate wineries located in both New York and Pennsylvania. The wineries are open daily for tastings and sales and one can also visit during special events, such as their annual wine and cheese weekend, which is held in May or their holiday wine event in November. Another opportunity to sample and purchase New YorkState wine is at America’s Grape Country Wine Festival, which will be held at the Chautauqua County Fairgrounds in Dunkirk on August 13-14.
One of the most scenic areas in Westfield is BarcelonaHarbor, located along Lake Erie. This area has a large parking area, boat launch, and docking facilities for boaters and fishermen. There is also the Barcelona Lighthouse, a 40-foot high stone lighthouse that was originally commissioned in 1829. It was the first public building in the United States to be lit with natural gas. It was decommissioned in 1859 and sold to private owners. You can view the lighthouse from the road or the parking area, but since it is privately owned, do not trespass, as it is someone’s home!
If you go
Here’s a link to general information about Westfield www.westfieldny.com
Directions from Buffalo
Take the New York State Thruway/Interstate 90 west towards Pennsylvania to Exit 60, Westfield. Turn left on New York State Route 394, travel for approximately 1 mile to reach the village center.