U..........G.A.Franklin, Editor & Publisher.......... ...https://www.SilverLakeDailyNewsletter.com............(585) 493 4003.............Email: SLDN@mail.com

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Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Worship in Bishop Burt Park is This Sunday Celebrating the 100th Year of Silver Lake Chautauqua's Amphitheater

What is so significant about the Silver Lake Chautauqua Assembly, its huge Amphitheater, the program years of 1888 through 1918, all followed by the arson fire of the Amphitheater in 1918?


As early as the 1850s, the Methodist Episcopal Bishop at Buffalo and his entourage of District Superintendents and other power brokers were not completely happy with the results of Camp Meetings. They were designed to convince the unchurched to "get saved" at the Camp Meeting and then go back to one's home village, join an active church and start living a life of witness for God and Jesus Christ. It was slowly being discovered that a significant number of people were returning year after year to the Camp Meeting but never engaging in a relationship with a local church in their own village.

Camp Meetings had become a large source of entertainment. Methodist preachers were known for their melodramatic story telling and emotional presentations covering everything from the vilest of sins to the wonder and beauty of eternal spiritual life.  If a husband wanted to please his rural wife, he would make plans to "go hear a Methodist preacher." Remember that this was before television or even radio and it was not at all unusual for homes not to include a windup Victrola (record players) or fancy looking pump organs. If you wanted to hear music or to sing, you went to church. If you wanted exciting and tension-filled stories, you went to church. If you wanted the best of rural entertainment, you went to a Camp Meeting. (If you wanted to dance, you went to a barn square dance.)
Sunday's Worshipers and Guests are Invited
to Dress in Period Clothing if they desire.
Click HERE for ideas.

When the Chautauqua movement came to Camp Wesley (SLI) and was approved by the local Trustees and by the Genesee Annual Conference, it was an exciting time because the camp meetings were beginning to diminish in popularity. The Chautauqua method of lectures, classes, hand-on training and occpational instruction was stirring a lot of interest as women were looking for training in jobs that women were traditionally allowed to hold. There were also plenty of training courses for the men also. Remember, these were the days before "adult education," so this inexpensive idea of offering training prior to the Camp Meeting became very popular.

Camp Wesley, having no buildings to its name at this point, sought and gained an architectural plan for four (4) special buildings to be erected to fully accommodate the increased number of people attempting to sign up during the exciting mid-1880s. The local trustees engaged the Wells Barn Building Company who specialized in a new design of auditorium that enabled the supporting poles to be at the sides of the building as opposed to the center where a good view could be blocked. The Wells family built only two auditoriums--one at Silver Lake and one in Prohibition Park on Staten Island, but many of their popular new barn designs remain throughout Monroe County.

The local trustees demanded that this first building be completed in time for the 1888 Season of the newly-named Silver Lake [Chautauqua] Assembly and the Wells family obliged them. For the first time, the Assembly was able to accommodate 2,000 guests in addition to a 500-voice choir, all under shelter and out of the rain. On a clear day, the overflow at least once hit 3,000 guests. So successful was the draw of the Chautauqua Assembly that the second building--the Hall of Philosophy--was put up in time for 1889 Season! The Ames Ave. Walkway became the main drag for people to walk between the new amphitheater and the new Hall of Philosophy which was later renamed Epworth Inn. 

Three years later in 1892, the third building was put up to serve the new courses of the Chautauqua plan of teaching and training. Named Epworth Building or Epworth Hall, it is the only one of the three first buildings that remains to this day. (The fourth building, the Children's Chapel, was never constructed even though approved.) Epworth Hall was built on Ames Ave. Walkway, half way between the Amphitheater and Hall of Philosophy. The Amphitheater came to an end by way of an arson fire by youthful hooligans. The Epworth Inn, room by room was condemned as unsafe and eventually closed down and was torn down in 1972, just three years short of the ending of the Vietnam War. Today the Willmott Lodge and Asbury Retreat Center Offices sit on the old location of the Hall of Philosophy (Epworth Inn).
With the fire of 1918, the entire ministry and outreach of the Silver Lake Assembly had to be reconsidered and redesigned for small facilities. The huge crowds that filled the Amphitheater now had to be squeezed inside Epworth Hall. The huge crowds quickly dwindled down to accommodate the smaller facilities.

Right in the middle of these popular years, 1888-1918, came the "Cleveland Depression" which was instrumental in eliminating those most affected by the economic tragedy. Worse than that, the Assembly properties were foreclosed upon with some being bought up by disinterested people who had no knowledge and/or no love of the Assembly mission and the good it did for locals. To prevent the loss of more property, Rev. John H. Stoody and his wife, Fannie Wainman Stoody, provided funds that could be borrowed at an easy rate to restore property to individuals and the Assembly. In essence, they saved the Institute for all future generations. It was, however, a time in history when only the man of the family was given the credit. Mrs. Stoody was not particularly recognized even though her support was essential.

Everyone is invited to join us at 10:30 am Sunday morning, August 5, 2018.

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