About 12 miles from the southern tip of Skaneateles Lake sprawls the city of Cortland (pop. 19,800). Set in the midst of fertile farm country, Cortland was once a small industrial center, best known for its wire cloth, lingerie, and corset factories. Along Main Street between Tompkins Street and Clinton Avenue is a National Historic District of handsome homes and commercial buildings.
Cortland also claims literary fame. It was here that Chester Gillette, the real-life counterpart to the character Clyde Griffiths in Theodore Dreiser’s An American Tragedy, met Grace Brown. Gillette once worked in his uncle’s Gillette Skirt Factory on the north side of town, and lived in the still-standing double house at No. 17 East Main Street.
1890 House Museum
Perhaps one of the houses spotted by Gillette/Griffiths in his ramble was the castlelike 1890 House Museum (37 Tompkins St./Rte. 13, 607/756-7551, www.1890house.org, 1–4 p.m. Thurs.–Sat. year-round, adults $5, seniors and students $3, children under 12 free), built by wire manufacturer Chester F. Wickwire. Now an informal museum, the house holds 30 rooms filled with parquet floors, stained-glass windows, ornate stenciling, and hand-carved woodwork. Above the top floor, a tower provides excellent views of the town. Walking-tour maps of Cortland’s Historic District can be picked up here.
Cortland Country Music Park
Part RV camp, part country-music mecca, this 18-acre site (1804 Truxton Rd./Rte. 13, one mile north of the I-88 intersection, 607/753-0377, www.cortlandcountrymusicpark.com) bills itself as the “great Nashville of the Northeast.” During the summer, four or five concerts by such top performers as Roy Acuff and Kenny Rogers are staged, along with two-steppin’ dance classes, square dances, and jamborees. The park offers live music by regional bands on weekends year-round, and special events including horseshoe tournaments, the Old Timers Show, and the Festival of Bands.
Largely built by volunteer fans, the music park was started up in 1975. Centered on a low-slung Opry barn, it is equipped with one of the largest dance floors in the Northeast, an outdoor stage, and a Hall of Fame Museum (open only during events). In the museum, you’ll find everything from a black-sequined dress formerly owned by Tammy Wynette to white boots once worn by Roy Acuff.
It’s worth traveling about eight miles south of Cortland to visit the Book Barn of the Finger Lakes (198 North Rd., Dryden, 607/844-9365, 10 a.m.–5:30 p.m. Mon.–Sat., noon–5 p.m. Sun.). The sprawling 1850s barn houses nearly 98,000 used, rare, and scholarly books. It is run by Vladimer Dragan, who buys and sells all his books in person, even making house calls to estates and libraries. The bookstore is located off Route 13 opposite the Tompkins-Cortland Community College.
Greek Peak Mountain Resort and Hope Lake Lodge and Indoor Waterpark (2000 Rte. 392, 877/965-6343, www.greekpeak.net, $340 fireplace suite for 2–4 people) is a newly opened four season resort catering to skiers, families, and spa lovers. There are waterpark-inclusive packages and accommodations tailored to guests’ individual interests. The resort offers three restaurants, over 30 ski trails, a tubing center, Nordic skiing and snowshoeing, while onsite full service Waterfalls Spa gives non-snowbunnies plenty of treatments to enjoy.
© Avalon Travel and Sascha Zuger from Moon New York State, 5th Edition