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3 Tours

This page has been planned as a Pictorial Tour of (1) The Pioneer Cabin & Museum, (2) The Asbury Retreat Center, and (3) The Silver Lake Institute. 

Historical Marker

First Building on the Museum Campus 

Native American Tree House

Outside View of the large museum building.

Inside View of the large museum building.
First Area School House

First Area Church
Moved from Covington St., Perry NY circa 2006 

Partial View of Campus Layout:
Left--Cabin; Center--Church; Right--School

Satellite View of Pioneer Cabin Museum Campus
January 3, 2017

Located on the shores of Silver Lake in Western New York, Asbury is a premier retreat center that offers a variety of facilities to meet everyone's needs. Our site boasts over 60 acres and over a quarter mile of shoreline on Silver Lake. In addition to providing facilities for groups to conduct their own retreats, meetings, worship services, and programs, we can assist with program planning, guide groups through our low ropes course, conduct retreats and workshops, lead singing and games and provide supervision for recreational activities. Asbury also offers year round retreats for families, children and youth, clergy, and adults.

The one-way "in" road entrance to the Retreat Center is located on Chapman Road opposite the Perry Avenue Intersection. This area of land from Chapman Road south to the "paper street" of Fifth Avenue, used to be the newest and least developed "campus" section of the Silver Lake Institute. Asbury Camp & Retreat Center was deeded over to the former Genesee Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church on behalf of the Camp & Retreat Center in a process begun in 1957 and concluded in 1959. The Camp & Retreat Center then purchased an annual Franchise as did all other property owners within the bounds of the Institute. Finally in 2016, the "campus" section was legally separated from the Silver Lake Institute and today serves as a completely separate entity under the Upper NY Conference of the United Methodist Church (which is the new name for the statewide merger in 2010). Both the Camp and the Institute continue to work cooperatively on designated projects such as the Biennial Silver Lake Experience which was initiated in 2015 and continuing every two years including 2017.

Willmott Lodge (1) built in 1991, with Campus' Offices located on the Lower Level. 
The first building you come to on the left, having entered the Camp & Retreat grounds, is the Willmott Lodge. Built in 1991, Willmott Lodge was built with help from a grant from the Willmott Foundation. Willmott Lodge created additional space for people of all ages to come year round, with two identical wings with bedrooms, shared baths, and a common meeting room between wings. A second meeting room was added in 2004 to Willmott Lodge (right). All visitors entering the grounds must report to the Office located on the lower level which is the same level as the entrance driveway. Many years ago this entrance driveway used be known as Palestine Road. Willmott Lodge replaces the original Hall of Philosophy which stood on the exact location from 1889 through 1972 when it was necessary to raze it for safety purposes. More history and photos in the "History of the Institute" button in the Menu/Site Map.

Snack Shack
In the late 1940’s money was raised to remodel and refurnish buildings used for summer programs. The Snack Shack (#3) was built to house the book room and soda fountain and is still a place where you can enjoy an ice cream treat or purchase Asbury souvenirs.

Satellite Map of Asbury Camp & Retreat Center north of the cabins.

Koinonia Inn (6)
In 1983, Koinonia Inn was built as the new year round dining and meeting space.

Asbury Manor (7)
In 2007, a New Asbury Manor was completed to replace The Methodist Manor. The Asbury Manor marked the entrance into a new century with motel-like accommodations. Bedrooms with private bathrooms, a full service kitchen, dining, and living room, as well as handicapped accessibility, modernized the ambiance of the previous Methodist Manor, still keeping the gorgeous view of Silver Lake.

Asbury Swimming Pool (9)

Volleyball Sand Court (12)

May Pole (11)

Asbury Deck

Canoeing on Silver Lake at Asbury

The money raised in the 1940s Capital Funds Drive to remodel and refurnish buildings used for summer programs included three additional summer cabins (#1,#2,#3).
 Russell Lodge (Big Cedar), and Cabins 1, 2, 3

Two winterized cabins (#4,#5) were built to sleep 22 people with showers, bathrooms, and a common meeting space. Camp Asbury became a place for people to learn, work, play, and worship together in a Christian atmosphere surrounded by God’s beautiful Silver Lake setting.
Cabins 4, 5, 6 and the Meadow


Used from 1873-1887
The 'Campgrounds of the Genesee Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church' moved from Bergen, NY, where it had been chartered by NYS in 1857, purchased land at Silver Lake, circa 1871, and in 1872 earnestly began preparing the land for its first Camp Meeting which was held in August of 1873. The very first "building" put up for that first meeting at Silver Lake was the Pavilion or "preachers' stand." It had a raised floor and a roof, but no walls. It stood for 14 years and became very warn and leaky. 

Used from 1888-1918
The Pavilion was replaced by a magnificent marvel of its time--an auditorium with no poles to block views, but rather built with rounded arches that supported the roof at the sides, out of the line of sight of the audience. There were only two built--one in NY Downstate and the other here at Silver Lake! It was completed and first used in 1888. It could and did hold 2000 people in the audience and a chorus of 500 on its stage. After 30 years of use, it needed and received a refurbishing but shortly after, it burned down in 1918. With its loss, went the Institute's capability to accommodate groups larger than Epworth's capacity. The land it was on and the land surrounding, became Bishop Burt Park. Some 30+ years later, a new public road was extended through the west end of the Park from Perry Avenue on the north, down through Kingsley Avenue on the south which then connected with Chapman. The entire new public road was named Perry Avenue.

Used from 1889-1897; and 1919-1972

The 'Hall of Philosophy,' originally a two-story building with all classrooms, built in 1889 (see sketch at left), was given a brand new first floor, raising up the existing two stories and adding a dining room, kitchen, and large meeting room to the first floor (see photo at right). The upper floors became more useful as overnight rooms. After only about 8 years of use, it fell into foreclosure in 1897 and changed hands and purposes several times within a 22-year span, before being returned to the Institute in 1919 and becoming the Epworth Inn.

Used from 1944-2006
The Sutton Estate was owned by Mr. Edward Sutton, the founder of the Fro-Joy Ice Cream Company of Buffalo which eventually was sold to General Foods. Included in this prime piece of Lake front property was a three-story structure with twenty rooms, a ballroom and 32 beds, right on the Lake front. This beautiful property was purchased in 1944 by the Silver Lake Institute to expand the capacity of the Institute's "Campus" area (the area of the Institute south of Chapman). 

After more than two years of negotiations beginning in 1957, the campus area, by legal agreement, while remaining within the Institute boundaries, became the property of the former Genesee Annual Conference in 1959. A second legal agreement negotiated over a three year period between the Institute's Legal Committee and the Upper NY Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church's Trustees, was confirmed in the State Supreme Court at Warsaw NY in February of 2016 that the Institute would relinquish the campus area as part of the Institute grounds, establishing two legally and structurally independent entities. 

Epworth Hall is perhaps the best known building or highlight on the Institute grounds. It was built in 1892 and is our oldest and largest remaining building. Its location is convenient both to the Institute and to the Asbury Camp & Retreat Center. Epworth hosts our largest, and smallest concert groups, worship services, lectures, dramas, meetings, panels, discussions, dances, and Teas. Epworth Hall had to be used for many of the largest of gatherings after the amphitheatre burned in 1918. 

Today Epworth is limited by a lack of fire escapes for the second floor, so local fire codes restrict its use to 275 audience members mainly seated on comfortable first floor chairs, recently donated by the Kraft family in Loving Memory of former resident, Mrs. Lorraine Kraft.

In continual use from 1892-present

Ames Avenue (gold lines above) used to be the main foot path for traveling between the auditorium and the Hall of Philosophy between 1889-1918. It continued as the main foot path from the center of the residential area to Epworth Hall from 1892 through the new millennium until vehicle parking was permitted. (Ames Avenue continued to be pivotal when the Hall of Philosophy, renamed Epworth Inn, was returned to SLI campus ownership in 1919.) A revival of the foot path was brought about in 2017 when parking was restricted and an upgrade of the foot path begun.

This grand old building, also constructed in 1892, was a collaboration between the Institute and the Women's Christian Temperance Union whose building on Walker Road had been burned down by locals angry about the anti-alcohol and anti-smoking public speeches. Its temperance work was always at odds with some of the establishments along the entertainment strip of Walker Road. Since the Institute was still a gated community at this point, it was believed that the new building would be safe from further arson and that proved to be true. The W.C.T.U.'s temperance work was in agreement with the Methodist Episcopal Church's stance on alcohol, so the W.C.T.U.'s conferences were welcomed at the Institute. See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/

At the turn of the century (1900), the so-called Cleveland Depression had affected the Institute and significant parts fell into foreclosure. The Rev. John C. Stoody put up the money to buy out the foreclosed properties and sold them back at affordable rates, thus rescuing the Institute from demise. It was decided to rename this building after the Institute's benefactor, John C. Stoody Memorial Hall. Stoody Hall originally had a wrap-around porch. The W.C.T.U. left their building to the Institute circa late 1950s and the Hall was re-designated The Chapel. Not long after it was turned into a meeting and activity Hall and the small kitchen was added to the side by closing the side porch circa late 70s/early 80s.

Bequeathed by Wilbur N. Hoag of Akron, NY, this Hall was originally built as a place where Mrs. Hoag could show her art work. Security of the premises has been a problem throughout its history and many valuable pieces of art and antiques are no longer in its possession. At one point, the building itself, along with the Blue Dock across the road, both began to fall into disrepair and there were serious questions as to their viability. After continuing rumors of both needing to be torn down, an active contingent of volunteers were drawn together who worked long and hard to rebuild the Dock and the Hoag Memorial. The venture was successful and both are now tremendous assets again. Hoag Memorial is used regularly for weekly Art Shows, group meetings and Trustee meetings. Remaining questions: "What year was this reconstruction started and completed?" and "Who were these volunteers?"

Having gone with the national trend of the United Methodist Church of legally separating itself from heretofore "Methodist Groups" (hospitals, nursing homes, institutes) for insurance and liability purposes, it became necessary for the Institute to build its own Office, Garage & Maintenance Shop. This concrete block building was put up circa 1959 to accommodate the Institute's lawn and street equipment along with a capacity to make some of its own repairs. The Office and Lavatory were at the far west end of the building and didn't need to be very large since most of the work being done was by volunteers who worked out of their cottages and other permanent homes. Currently the office maintains telephone and answering service, DSL for internet service, copying and printing capabilities, and limited file storage. It is staffed Mondays from 3 to 5 pm to sell garage stickers.

The last of our significant buildings is a small cottage structure that was converted for use as a United States Post Office, complete with window sales and mailboxes. The building is considered a beloved gathering point where community members have the opportunity of greeting one another on a regular basis as they each travel to this "central" point for their mail. Ironically, the building is privately owned and rented to the U.S.P.S. The building and U.S. Postal Service was almost lost to the Institute community several years ago when the U.S.P.S. was doing major cutbacks in post offices to help balance their budget. They have been seriously hurt by the email phenomenon. Hearings were held at Koinonia Inn and the Institute Post Office was lucky enough to get continued at a part-time basis as opposed to being closed down. At the time of the hearing, residents became aware of the fact that local post offices were being evaluated on their overall sales and their ability to pay for themselves. Many residents have made the concerted effort to do all of their postal business with the Silver Lake Post Office so the next round of cutbacks will also not bring closure to this beloved centerpiece.

SLI's Big Blue Dock preceded by the flag garden, the brick
Heritage Walkway, and the Arbor representing
an original 1870's ticket gate structure.

The Institute's Blue Dock, located at Lakeview and Wesley Avenues, has always been a centering location for rest, relaxation, meditation, "Dessert on the Dock," and appreciation of the Institute and its beautiful location on the Lake Front. From Lakeview Avenue, Wesley Avenue takes off eastward toward the other end of the property, passing the beloved Post Office and the Office/Garage/Maintenance building, all of which are accessible from Wesley Avenue. The Dock area can be seen all the way from the distant Wesley Avenue and Thompson Avenue intersection at the other end of the developed section of Institute property.

September 2013 Service of Dedication.
In 2012, the Institute Trustees approved a plan created by the Long-Range Planning Committee, to 
develop a walkway made up of memorial bricks that would artistically connect Lakeview Avenue with the Blue Dock. Today, the "Heritage Walkway," containing many names of Institute families and individuals make up this attractive and symbolic walkway which detours around the American Flag Garden and Memorial Plaque. Near the beginning of the walkway is a Arbor reminiscent of the much, much larger archway which originally served as the ticket gate closest to the railroad, sometimes referred to as the first railroad station (based on a mislabeled photo from 1875). The current archway is bordered by two stone flower beds on either side, creating a welcoming and beautiful starting point for this newly beloved memorial. The Heritage Walkway was dedicated in September of 2013 in an outdoor service on the Green next to the walkway.

This large, green area is the center of the Institute, and probably the second best known and recognized after Epworth Hall. It originally was the land upon which the exceptionally modern Amphi-theatre or Auditorium was built. This first, real building (having not only floors and a roof, but also walls), accommodated 2,000 audience guests with room for a 500-voice choir in the front "on stage." It was built in 1888 and completed in time for the 1888 Season. Its design was nationally noted since there were only two of its kind built--both in NY State--one downstate and one in Western NY at Silver Lake. Its uniqueness evolved around the absence of poles blocking parts of the audience vision. The rounded beams allowed for the weight of the ceiling to be held up at the sides and out of the visual line of sight of the audience. It alone permitted the Institute to accommodate very large numbers at their preaching, teaching, performance and entertainment services. Its loss to fire after a thorough refurbishing in 1918 was a serious blow to the Institute community and forever changed the ultimate future of the Institute's programs. So this Park is held in a certain amount of reverence to a time of spectacular suc-cess--one which could never be duplicated again--at least in terms of numbers between one and two thousand and choirs of 500.

Prior to 1950, all roads within the Institute were still of the design of unpaved footpaths with just enough room for one horse and wagon at a time. Following WWII, returning troops began demanding quality interstate highways such as they had enjoyed in Europe. One of those returning troopers was General Dwight D. Eisenhower who became President of the United States and went about making the highway-expressway dream come true for the exploding market for family automobiles. As use of cars increased, use of passenger trains decreased and no where was this felt more than at the Institute where train travel also rapidly decreased and road traffic was trying to increase, but found it difficult to do with the Institute's 19th Century roads.

In a forward looking move by the Institute Trustees, a plan was put into place whereby the size of Perry Avenue between Camp Road and Bishop Burt Park would be widened and extended over to Chapman Avenue, as the Institute's first and only public road. In planning this road, there were two things the Trustees of the early 1950s set out to avoid. The first was to avoid splitting the Park in half with a dividing line of traffic. The second was to avoid destroying the residential and historical nature of the main, yet narrow footpath known as Ames Avenue, still heavily in use. These things were not at all difficult to avoid. Thompson Avenue and Janes Avenue already connected Camp Road with Chapman, albeit both being one-lane roads. At that time there were no other roads that connected Camp with Chapman directly; nothing resembling a thoroughfare, just private residential "one-laners" in a heavily residential area on the western side of the Institute.

The choice of a curved extension of old Perry Avenue (which originally ended at Embury) paved around the western-most section of Burt Park was a fairly logical choice. This left Park Avenue untouched, except for some added parking spaces along Park Avenue and a few parking spaces along the new, short, curved section of Embury Avenue in front of Stoody Hall. Bishop Burke Park was not split in two and maintained most of its size and character.

Once the new extension of old Perry Avenue transversed Burt Park, it created an intersection at Genesee Avenue and very close to Kingsley Avenue. At that point, to the immediate west of Kingsley was an abandoned and looted old cottage which the Institute bought, tore down, and by so doing, made the new width of Kingsley (without the cottage there) acceptable for the connection of the new Perry Avenue extension and widening of the rest of Kingsley. Since there were private properties over at Chapman's north side, the old Kingsley Avenue already had a curve built into it in order to bypass the private properties. The old Ames Avenue location, as it came out on Chapman, was too close to the private property which included a cottage, to meet the Town and County standards for public roadways.This Kingsley curve was therefore made to cross the last section of Ames Avenue which then caused it to be far enough from the private property lines and entered Chapman about a car length to the east of old Ames Avenue. That last little section of old Ames Avenue was given over to the private property as a driveway which is used to this day as such (2017). 

This was the amazing solution to putting through a public road. The entire newly-built Perry Avenue extension from Embury Ave. to Chapman Ave. was now renamed simply, "Perry Avenue" from Camp Road to Chapman Avenue. While Ames Avenue used to end at a four-way intersection crossing Chapman and entering the campus area of the Institute directly (see below, right), the widening and paving over of Ames also created a slight curve away from that intersection, creating instead two T-intersections (see below, left):

End of the Tour; 
Now take 5-minute walk up to the Charcoal Corral 
for food, pizza, or ice cream.

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