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Finger Lakes Economic Development Council Announces Historic Restoration Project Underway at Sonnenberg Gardens

(June 11, 2013)

Finger Lakes Economic Development Council Announces Historic Restoration Project Underway at Sonnenberg Gardens

The Finger Lakes Economic Development Council today announced a major roof repair project has begun at the Sonnenberg Gardens and Mansion State Historic Park. The project is supported by a $43,000 award Sonnenberg received through Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s Regional Council initiative to help strengthen the historic park’s place as a leading Finger Lakes tourism destination.

“To grow our economy, the Finger Lakes Region must continue to solidify its position as a destination of choice,” said Joel Seligman, University of Rochester President and Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council Co-Chair. “Investing in Sonnenberg Gardens and Mansion Historic Site is a smart way to capitalize on our region’s strengths in history, culture and natural beauty.”

“The Finger Lakes region’s recreational and cultural institutions are critical contributors to the Finger Lakes’ high quality of life and are an important source of jobs and business activity,” said Danny Wegman, Wegmans Food Markets CEO and Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council Co-Chair. “This picturesque estate has tremendous potential to become a recognizable destination in our region and, as such, the council is pleased to support and breathe new life into Sonnenberg Gardens and Mansion State Historic Site.”

Sonnenberg Gardens and Mansion State Historic Park is a late-19th century Victorian Estate with a Queen Anne-style mansion and nine historic, themed gardens of the world. Sonnenberg is the former summer home of Fredrick Ferris Thompson and his wife, Mary Clark Thompson.

“I applaud the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council for this investment in the revitalization of the historic Sonnenberg Gardens and Mansion State Historic Site,” said Rose Harvey, Commissioner of the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. “Historic landmarks and cultural destinations are fundamental building blocks of vibrant, exciting tourism destination. This investment in Sonnenberg will give people one more reason to visit the Finger Lakes region.”

The project continues the stabilization of the Roman Bath, a pool and enclosing structure built on the mansion grounds for Mary Clark Thompson in 1914. The historic roof repair will replace the clay roof tiles and gutter system to save this structure from further decay. The original tile maker Ludowici Company, still in business today, manufactured all the missing tiles for the project. This past February the nonprofit organization that operates Sonnenberg Gardens and Mansion was awarded $15,000 grant from the Davenport-Hatch Foundation of Pittsford, N.Y. to secure the remainder of the matching grant toward the $86,000 project. The project is expected to be completed by the end of July.

“This 50-acre estate is one of the few remaining in the United States distinctive for extraordinary collections of period architecture, statuary, floral displays, fountains and a conservatory greenhouse complex,” said David Hutchings, Executive Director of Sonnenberg Gardens Mansion and Historic Site. “The nonprofit is very excited about being able to secure funding through the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council to restore this structure for Sonnenberg Gardens and Mansion State Historic Park as we steward the legacy of the Canandaigua Thompson family estate.”

Sonnenberg Gardens is one of 214 state parks and historic sites within the New York State Park System. The park system is an anchor of the state’s tourism economy. A recent study by Parks & Trails New York found the park system generates $1.9 billion in economic activity and supports 20,000 jobs.

In addition, the improvements to Sonnenberg Gardens continue Governor Cuomo’s commitment to strengthen tourism in Upstate New York. Following the recent New York State Tourism Summit, Governor Cuomo announced the launch of New York’s largest tourism campaign in decades, committing nearly $60 million to grow the industry, create jobs and attract even more visitors to the Empire State. As the fifth largest employment sector in New York, tourism supported 714,000 jobs and generated more than $29 billion in wages in 2012. One out of every 12 jobs in New York is tourism-related. The more than 202 million international and domestic visitors that visited the Empire State last year resulted in $57 billion in direct tourism spending, and generated $7 billion in state and local taxes.

In 2011, Governor Cuomo redefined the State’s approach to economic development by establishing 10 Regional Economic Development Councils (REDC) across the State. The REDC and Consolidated Funding Application (CFA) process have transformed economic development in New York State, creating a statewide framework for bottom-up regional economic growth.
Statewide, the first two rounds included $1.5 billion in investments to support more than 1,400 projects, which are creating or helping to retain an estimated 75,000 jobs. As part of round one, Sonnenberg Gardens and Mansion was awarded $43,000 from the NYS Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation’s Environmental Protection Fund, which assists in the development of parks and recreational facilities or to preserve, rehabilitate or restore lands, waters or structures for park, recreation or conservation purposes.

The Regional Economic Development Council initiative (REDC) is a key component of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s transformative approach to State investment and economic development. In 2011, Governor Cuomo established 10 regional councils to develop long-term strategic plans for economic growth for their regions. The councils are public-private partnerships composed of local experts and stakeholders from business, academia, local government, and non-governmental organizations. The regional councils have redefined the way New York invests in jobs and economic growth by putting in place a community-based, bottom up approach and establishing a competitive process for State resources. As a result of the first two rounds of competitive awards, the State is supporting more than 1,450 regionally significant economic development and community revitalization projects that are creating new jobs for New Yorkers and generating investments to grow the economy. For more information on the regional councils, visit