The Rose Hill Mansion and the Mike Weaver Drain Tile Museum at the Johnston Farm will open for the 2005 season on May 1. Administered by the Geneva Historical Society, these properties help to tell the story of the social and agricultural development of Geneva and the Finger Lakes Region in the early 19th century. A National Historic Landmark, Rose Hill Mansion and its Empire furnishings exemplify the Greek Revival style and illustrate the lifestyle of the well-to-do families who settled the area.
The first person to build a house at Rose Hill farm was Robert Seldon Rose, who immigrated to Geneva from Virginia in 1803. Rose built a two-story frame house, which is now the Rose Hill visitor center. After Rose’s death in 1835, New York City wool merchant William K. Strong purchased the property and built the Greek Revival house in 1839. Strong was not a farmer, but turned to banking and civic development once established in his new home. The elegant house with its imposing view of Seneca Lake, symbolized the Strong family’s prominence in the community. Active in New York politics, Strong was friends with Governor William Seward and entertained President Martin Van Buren at the house in the fall of 1839. The Strong family left Rose Hill for New York City upon the death of Mrs. Strong in 1843.
The next owner, Robert J. Swan, helped the farm to achieve its greatest success. Learning about the benefits of tile drainage from his neighbor (and father-in-law) John Johnston, Swan laid almost sixty-one miles of tile to drain the swampy land and quadruple wheat production. The New York State Agricultural Society recognized this achievement with awards in 1853 and 1858. The Swan family remained in residence until 1890. The Geneva Historical Society acquired the property in 1965 due to the generosity of Waldo Hutchins, Jr., who also funded the work of restoration in memory of his mother, Agnes Swan Hutchins.
The Mike Weaver Drain Tile Museum opened in 1994 when the Geneva Historical Society completed restoration of the Johnston Farm House, located just south of Rose Hill on 96A. The museum houses some of the Johnston family furnishings and the drain tile collection of Mike Weaver. The museum pays tribute to the evolution of drain tile technology in the United States, as well as to John Johnston, the innovative gentleman who first brought it to his farm in Seneca County in 1835.
Rose Hill is open for tours Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Sunday, 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $3 for adults, $2 for seniors and children 10 to 18. Children 9 and under are free. The Mike Weaver Drain Tile Museum is open by request. For further information call -789-3848.
Located on the grounds of Rose Hill Mansion is the Rose Hill Antique Consignment Shop, which features a diverse assortment of antiques and keepsakes. For shop hours or information about consigning items call 789-5915 or 789-5151.
The Geneva Historical Society receives major funding from the New York State Council on the Arts, the Institute for Museum and Library Services, the New York Council for the Humanities and the Town and City of Geneva.