Beat Cabin Fever

by Sue Freeman

The snow comes and the snow goes. When snow is abundant it’s fun to frolic on skis, snowshoes and sleds. Even if it stays cold you can strap on ice skates and take a whirl around a local rink.

But what to do during those in-between times when the weather isn’t so great for outdoor sports? When cabin fever begins to set in? One idea is to take a step back in time to before the Civil War, when pioneers to this area were upgrading their log cabins by using glacially deposited cobblestones to build better homes, schools and churches. Use this in-between time to visit some of these structures, which are unique to this region, and learn about how and why they were built.

Close to Rochester you’ll find the Tinker Homestead and Farm Museum at Tinker Nature Park on Calkins Road in Henrietta. It’s a marvelous example of a 2 story cobblestone farm house that was built in 1828 to house James and Rebecca Tinker and their six children. Inside it’s preserved to replicate the turn of the 20th century Victorian era, but a tour through the inside and around the outside gives you an up-close look at cobblestone construction, with 17-inch-thick walls.

Make an evening of exploring cobblestone structures by heading to a cobblestone restaurant for dinner. One option is the Wilson House Inn on Lake Street in Wilson. Another is The Cobblestone Restaurant on Pre-emption Road in Geneva. Or, for a more extended outing, try sleeping in a cobblestone bed and breakfast. You can choose from The Captain Throop House on Washington Street in Pultneyville, the Maxwell Creek Inn B&B on Lake Road in Sodus, or the Peppermint Cottage and Jackson Schoolhouse B&B on Pleasant Valley Road in Lyons.

Each of these cobblestone structures is uniquely different – as are all the cobblestone buildings that cluster between Buffalo and Syracuse, south of Lake Ontario. What they share in common is the use of cobblestones. The similarity ends there. Each stone mason used his own proprietary techniques and artistic flare to create a one-of-a-kind structure. That’s why it’s fun to roam the back roads around Rochester on a quest to find cobblestone buildings.

They started as farm and rural village structures – houses, smokehouses, barns, stores, factories, taverns, churches, schools, and even grave markers. You’ll find them off the beaten track – scattered across the region. Yes, many are located along Route 104, which formed the original highway across the state, but some of these are in disrepair. The pretty ones; the truly creative ones are hidden in the countryside. So, beat cabin fever by setting out on a quest to view the history and artistry that’s hidden in plain sight throughout our region. The guidebook “Cobblestone Quest” (visit or call 1-800-431-1579) will help you locate these hidden treasurers and provide the background needed to fully understand what it took to hand build a cobblestone building, stone by stone. You’ll gain a whole new perspective on the pioneers to this region – people who probably suffered much more harshly than us from cabin fever.

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