Glimpses of the Past
People, Places, and Things in Letchworth Park History

"The Vernacular"

Local place names in Letchworth Park

One of Webster's definitions for "vernacular" is that it is "commonly spoken by the people of a particular country or place". The vernacular of Letchworth Park can conjure up some interesting images, most of which have survived from very early in park history. Places like Snake Hill, Sugar Loaf, Lee's Landing, Eagle Hill, Lauterbrunen, Cole's Cliff, The Slide, The Flume, Five Corners, Red Pine Point, Smokey Hollow, Big Bend, Kisil Point and Squakie Hill. These are all familiar landmarks to the employees of the park but they do not appear on the official maps with the exception of the Trail Map which does refer to a few of the above.

For fun we will put you on track from south to north and when you visit the park you can speak like a native, and visit some, or all, depending on your inclination. Begin, as with all Letchworth lore, in front of Glen Iris.

From Glen Iris you look across the gorge you are looking at the "Slide". It is an obvious unstable area and has been that way since the construction of the Genesee Valley Canal disturbed the soils. From here proceed northerly and you go up Eagle Hill. The name derives from two large eagle statues mounted on stone pillars that once stood beside the trail up to the house on the hill known as Lauterbrunen. Lauterbrunen was built by Mr. Letchworth and still stands.

As you climb Eagle Hill you come to a level area that is known as the Plaza level. It is obviously not the top of the hill because you can see across the bridge over Degewanus Creek that there is more hill to climb. This is due to the leveling of the topography and the fact that Pinewood Lodge is at this level, as is the turnoff to the left to go to the Mary Jemison area, and from the right comes traffic on the one way road up from the Upper Falls area of the park.

Between the top of Eagle Hill and Inspiration Point, (many feel it is closer to Inspiration Point) is "Cole's Cliff", the area from which Thomas Cole painted a scene of the river and falls that hangs today in the historic mansion of former Governor Seward in Auburn, NY. Cole was a famous landscape painter whose works are displayed in the New York Museum of Art.

A side trip is needed for two items, so bear right and go down into the Lower Falls area. You must walk through the picnic area and find the long stairway down to the river level that allows access to the Flume, and Sugar Loaf. The Flume is the very narrow gorge that the river flows through under the footbridge-- imagine the river flowing over that bridge as it did during the flood of 1972 then look at the tower of rock that the river swirls around, that is Sugar Loaf. Near the entrance to cabin area "A" you will find trail 5 that goes to the river and Lees Landing -- the old fording place that was used by pioneers. This was part of the Lee Family farm where Mildred Lee Hills Anderson, the author, grew up.

Returning up from Lower falls area and continuing north past the Castile Entrance you pass "Great Bend Overlook" and drop down Snake Hill. It is called this because of the twisting nature of the road or whatever your imagination might decide in such a wild area. On the other side of the river is Trail 10, Big Bend trail that is the same huge bend in the river coarse.

Northward past the scenic picnic areas at Wolf Creek, Tea Table, Eddy's, St. Helena and on beyond the Gardeau area you will note Trail 14 to the left (west) that goes to the park boundary. This is known as Five Corners where once five roads intersected before closure of the two in the park.

Returning to our northerly route you will come to a small inconspicuous parking area. Hiking easterly from there you find the area known as Red Pine Point. Still northerly the next two areas to pull off on drive-through roadways are the Smokey Hollow overlooks. The gorge viewed from them is Smokey Hollow. Misty clouds like fogbanks common in the river area are the source of the name and are quite impressive on early fall mornings.

Kisil point describes the physical feature where the gorge of Silver Lake Outlet meets the gorge of the Genesee River. This feature is best known to tent and trailer enthusiasts hiking there from the camping area. Others must use Trail 18 from just south of Gibsonville.

Squakie Hill is the slope to the Mount Morris entrance after passing the Mount Morris Dam area. It was once the site of Seneca village and reservation. An overlook on the left marks this historic spot that commemorates Seneca Nation ties to the valley of the Genesee. On a clear day the Rochester city skyline is visible.

So there you have some of Letchworth Park's "vernacular", the local names employees and local folk use but few visitors know. The most obscure and easiest to use to stump your friends is Red Pine Point. Let us know if you have a reference point from the past that we missed.

Tom Breslin

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