I need a vacation (certainly not a stay-cation)! And, I miss my children. I’m probably not alone.
It wasn’t all that many years ago – my children are 19 and 22 – when options (in a good year) might include the Giacalone/Clarke family spending a week in a modest cottage or apartment at Chautauqua Institution. Although CI’s 800-acre campus and cultural and educational community in Mayville is only 70 miles or so down the I-90 from Buffalo, it always felt like a whole new world to this “working class” parent.
But, not surprisingly, even as magical a place as Chautauqua Institution can’t escape the tentacles of Covid-19. Early in May, its board of trustees announced that CI would “suspend any in-person programs” this summer, convening its arts, education, interfaith and recreational programming online. It’s not clear whether the public will be given an opportunity to don a face covering, purchase a day pass [or, take advantage of the free “Sunday Pass”], and stroll the grounds (maintaining social distancing, of course).
Given these realities, I’m stuck reliving favorite family memories [yes, when my children were still “adorable”] through photos I’ve taken over the past two decades. I’m sharing the assembled pictures with you in hopes of either refreshing your own pleasant recollections, or creating some new images for you to enjoy.
But I would be remiss if I didn’t first share two fairly recent occurrences that have tarnished my image of CI a bit: First, harmful blue-green algae blooms have forced closings of Chautauqua’s “little beach” [as my kids called it], and curtailed other water activites.
And, the CI board of trustees made the controversial decision in 2014 to demolish a structure, built in 1893, which the State’s Historic Preservation Office characterized as the “physical, functional, and spiritual heart of the Chautauqua Institution” – the Chautauqua Amphitheater. When plans to demolish the Amp first went public, the National Historic Trust, a privately funded nonprofit organization that works to save America’s historic places, named the Chautauqua Amphitheater a “National Treasure,” and placed the Amp on its 2015 list of “Most Endangered Places,” expressing the following:
“The Chautauqua Amphitheater is the heart of a National Historic Landmark District located 70 miles southwest of Buffalo, NY. Internationally recognized as a forum for American culture and history, the Amp has hosted a wide range of leaders, activists, and artists over its 122-year history. FDR delivered his “I Hate War” speech there in August of 1936. William Jennings Bryan, Susan B. Anthony, Thurgood Marshall, and Bobby Kennedy all walked its boards, as did Ella Fitzgerald, Lionel Hampton, Marian Anderson, Susan B. Anthony, Van Cliburn, Amelia Earhart, Booker T. Washington, Bill and Hillary Clinton, and Sandra Day O’Connor, to name a few.”
Demolition of this beloved piece of America’s cultural history occurred in 2016. [For the record, I represented a group of CI property owners and residents in State Supreme Court in a zealous-but-futile effort to stop the demolition. If interested, please read this post,and this one.]
Anyway, here are some happier images that I hope you’ll enjoy.
My son turned one at CI:
And my daughter mustered the courage to ride a tortoise (bunny in hand):
The Miller Bell Tower could be heard (and, often seen) throughout the grounds.
The “little beach” was a frequent lure.
But we all felt a bit tired after too much sun and sand.
The “cottages” and accommodations along the shoreline range from grand old Victorians to modern summer getaways, to the classic Atheneaum Hotel. [Some folk certainly know how to “rough it.”]
Our lodgings were always centrally located, and a bit more rustic, but brotherly and sisterly love abound.
The CI campus includes many places to learn and expand your perspective. In addition to the Amphitheater (the historic old, and its expanded replacement), daily lectures by national and international scholars and leaders also take place at the Hall of Philosophy.
[Above: PBS’ Jim Lehrer with Mark Shields and Michael Gerson at the Amp, 07-08-2012]
To no one’s surprise, my children preferred a place in the woods called The Nature Classroom, as well as playground activities.
Works of art and places for quiet contemplation appear around many corners.
And you can find some slightly less high-brow artistry.
I don’t want to forget the physical center of the campus, Bestor Plaza, and a sampling of the wonderful century-old residences that hug the shady, brick walkways traversing the grounds.
Here’s hoping that the in-person opportunity to stroll the paths, and take advantage of the cultural, educational, and recreational programming at Chautauqua Institution, are available to everyone in the foreseeable future.
With All Due Respect,