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Weekend Special--By John Last: Horse-Drawn Wagon Tour of Chautauqua Institute, Big Sister to Silver Lake Institute
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Sometimes we need a break from being cooped up indoors during this cold weather season. A quick getaway might provide a nice break. One option is to take a horse-drawn wagon tour of Chautauqua Institution near Mayville, New York.
For over 40 years, the Stateline Draft Horse Club has given horse-drawn wagon rides at Chautauqua Institution. It's a great way to learn about the 750 acre education and recreation center founded in 1874…if you don't mind braving the sub-freezing winter temperatures. Our guide on this day is Rod Anderson who interjects our tour with some wit.
"The horses can't read. It's a one-way street. So we can go down it because they can't read,” he said.
The wagon rides are offered only on weekends in January and February. Once warm weather arrives, the pavement is too busy with people walking or on bikes. Even though it's cold, it's nice to sit back and listed to the clop, clop, clop, of the horses.
The tour includes the Chautauqua Amphitheater, which hosts world class performers. Rod describes it as “a big hole in the ground with seats in it."
“And it's got the world’s largest outdoor organ in there,” he said. Article, Photos, Courtesy of John Last, Chautauqua Institute, and Erie News Now
Chautauqua is a showcase for beautiful and unique architecture which can be seen on your ride. One example is the Octagon House.
"Look at that. It's 8 sided. You look straight down at the top it would look like a star.” says Rod.
The ride also includes a trip past the majestic Athenaeum Hotel.
"It's the largest wooded structure east of the Mississippi,” says Rod. “It's the first one with electric lights thanks to Thomas Edison."
Edison is one of the many historic figures who has lived at Chautauqua or visited there. Edison's house is part of the tour. He was known to host many giants of industry on his porch for a sip of wine.
The horses also take visitors to the former home of the founder of the old Murphy's Five and Dime Store empire. If you look closely you can see the Roman numerals for five and ten on the shutters.
Chautauqua streets remain Millionaire's Row especially near the lake where condos have been built.
The wagon tours will be held on Saturdays and Sundays through February. The first ride leaves at 1 p.m. The last ride leaves around 3 p.m. The ride costs six dollars for adults and four dollars for children. Don't worry about the horses. We're told they love the cold weather.