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The Oregon Trail

One of the few utopian-minded 19th-century communities to survive to the present day, Chautauqua (pop. 4,464) is an idyllic 750-ac (303 ha) Victorian village of quaint pastel cottages, tidy flower gardens, and pedestrian-friendly streets—a genteel model of middle-class, small-town civilization. Chautauqua was founded in 1874 by Lewis Miller, inventor Thomas Edison’s father-in-law. It was established as a summer training ground for Methodist Sunday school teachers and is now preserved as a nonprofit, nonsectarian cooperative foundation. In the first decades of the 20th century, Chautauqua had an immeasurable effect on American culture, sponsoring correspondence courses and cross-country lecture tours that brought liberal arts education to the masses, especially in the rural Midwest.

Chautauqua, located along Hwy-394 about 11 mi (17.7 km) south of Westfield on US-20 (off I-90 exit 60), has hardly changed since its heyday and still welcomes all comers to its summer-long series of lectures and concerts. Though the emphasis is on education, Chautauqua is not entirely academic: In between broadening their minds, visitors can relax on the white-sand beaches that line the lakeshore. Day visitors to Chautauqua (716/357-6250) have to pay an admission fee ($44 morning and afternoon) and pass through a set of ancient turnstiles, as if entering a mind-improving amusement park. Others come for a week or two, renting a cottage or staying at the wonderful old Athenaeum Hotel (800/821-1881 or 716/357-4444, $179 and up, with all meals included), built in 1881.

For further information, or to request a schedule of Chautauqua classes, lectures, and events, call 800/836-2787.

New York Maps

Map of the Oregon Trail through Pennsylvania and Upstate New York.
Map of the Oregon Trail through Pennsylvania and Upstate New York.
Map of the Oregon Trail through Eastern New York.
Map of the Oregon Trail through Eastern New York.

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