Friday, August 7, 2009

Find the history in your own backyard…

Nestled in the little hamlet of Texas, New York, Mexico Point Park is one of the most breathtaking natural areas we have discovered in our travels. A special thank you to our tour guide Sandra for showing us around the park, which is located on the shores of Lake Ontario at the northern point of the Mexico Township.

To say that the views are spectacular would be an understatement and, while its serene beauty is unparalleled, the true charm of the park lies in its history.

Mexico Point Park
The park’s history is as colorful as its sunsets. It was once home to the Mexico Point Clubhouse, which was originally built in 1906. This lively summer resort was popular with local residents and vacationers. Guests of the inn were met at the train station by a horse-drawn bus which carried them to their summer retreat. Visitors of the clubhouse enjoyed boating, swimming, sunbathing, ball games, clambakes, dances and many other social events.

In the 1940s, boxing legends Carmen Basilio, Joey DeJohn and Joe Netro used the resort as a summer training camp.

Sadly, the resort succumbed to fire in 1952 and all that remains are the stone foundation and walls, the grand fireplace, and the heavy ship chains and connecting pillars at the former entrances of the building.

Here are some of the views of the park:

Casey’s Cottage
Another feature that remains as a testament to the park’s history is Casey’s Cottage. Formerly the carriage house of the resort, it was abandoned with the arrival of the automobile. In the 1930s, summer resident and Columbia University Professor Dr. William C. Casey arranged to take over the facility with his friend, German artist Severin Bischof. With the help of their friends, the pair transformed the barn into an 11th century English manor house.

The medieval influence is apparent in the life-size wall carvings, the leaded stained glass windows, the Great Hall with its majestic fireplace and quotes from Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales” carved into the broad beams. On the second floor, visitors will find an ornate chapel and a balcony overlooking the Great Hall. A porch was added to create the illusion of a moat.

The cottage was abandoned after Dr. Casey’s death in 1978. Ten years later, the Friends of Mexico Point took over the restoration efforts and now maintain the facility.

Take in these images from the cottage:

Spy Island
Perhaps one of the most fascinating tales of this park, and indeed the entire area, is that of Silas Town, Mexico resident and Revolutionary War hero. An American spy commissioned by General George Washington, Town was selected to uncover the battle plans of British Colonel Barry St. Leger.

While he was hidden on a small island in the Little Salmon Creek, Town overheard St. Leger’s intentions to attack Fort Stanwix (located in present-day Rome, New York). After much discussion, and at the insistence of Mohawk chief Joseph Brant, it was decided that the British troops would set about the charge by way of Oswego and the Oswego River. Town made haste to report his findings to the American troops at Fort Stanwix. Thus warned, the soldiers were able to repel St. Leger’s troops, forcing their retreat.

This defeat was an important factor in the British loss at the Battle of Saratoga – long considered the “Turning Point of the Revolutionary War”.

After the war, Silas Town returned to make his home in Mexico. He regaled his friends and neighbors with tales of his many adventures and endeared himself to all. Before his death in 1806, Town asked to be buried on the small island where he had hidden all those years before. Local residents honored his request and erected an obelisk monument in his name. There is now a park bench near the site where visitors can sit and pay their respects to this local hero.

Discover Spy Island with these photos:

Mexico Point Park is located on Mexico Point Drive West, just off New York State Route 104B in the town of Mexico. It is open from Memorial Day week-end through Labor Day week-end. Swimmers can enjoy the beach from late June through Labor Day, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. weather permitting.

In addition to spectacular views and fascinating history, the park features picnic tables, grills, a pavilion, bathrooms, a beach, park benches, trails and wooden sculptures. The park also hosts several community events throughout the year.

Don’t miss the upcoming Mid-Summer’s Eve celebration! Enjoy medieval music, food and fun from 7 to 9 p.m. on Tuesday, August 11; Wednesday, August 12; and Thursday, August 13. Admission is $25 and reservations are required. For tickets, call 315/963-7657.

If you would like more information about historical attractions and events in Oswego County, please visit our Web site at