Sonnenberg Gardens – Sunny Hill

This Mansion was the home of Frederick Ferris and Mary Clark Thompson. Frederick was the founder/director of First National Bank in the City of New York, which later became Citibank. Their home in Canandaigua was one of many they owned worldwide, however, it was their favorite, and they spent many summers at the property. While the home is vast it truly has a homey feel. The home on the property was originally a farmhouse, however, the Thompson’s replaced that structure with the Queen Anne mansion of 40 rooms, which was built from 1885-1887.

One of the Mansion’s Parlors

The Dining Room

Mr. Thompson’s Office is of Chinese and Japanese decor.

While there a docent played the Thompson’s Steinway Piano which is unique as it has 84, rather than the usual 88 keys.

What a treat.

Mary Clark Thompson..

Her Bedroom

Some of her clothes

Mrs. Thompson was originally from Onondaga County. Her father was the Onondaga County Sheriff and later served 2 years as New York’s Governor. She met her husband at a party while her father was Governor. They were married within 6 months of meeting. Their marriage was a happy one, however, the couple had no children. Upon their deaths the home was willed to a nephew, but this was during the depression, so the nephew sold it to the federal government for $100,000. The actual value of the home and property was several million yet during the depression money was tight, and this was a fair sale according to one of the many well versed docents at the Mansion.

On the property a VA Hospital was built, and the home was used as a residence for nurses and doctors until 1970.

Mrs. Thompson’s sister was a teacher in the area and had a bedroom at the Mansion.

The Thompson’s had many diverse interests – hiking, music, animals, and travel. Some rare finds are pictured below.

Mary was involved in the community with one of her main concerns the Iroquois Indian population. She donated much of her time and energy to improve their lives. She was so loved in the community upon her death flags in the county were half masted.

Added Bonus – during this month there is an exhibit on the Underground Railroad. There are many interesting placards to read regarding this time in history. One fascinating fact – it was recently discovered that information regarding the location of railroad stops were “stitched” into quilts. As of yet these codes have yet to be deciphered.

Underground Railroad Map


Upon her husband’s death Mary focused her grieving on the development of the gardens at the Mansion. Let’s visit them.

The Japanese Garden – this was the first Japanese Garden in the United States

The Rock Garden – my favorite

The Blue and White Garden – only blue and white flowers with a Diana statute looking on..

More Gardens..

After the visit traveled into the City of Canandaigua which is a beautiful spot. Walked along the lake and took in the mountains and other scenery. While there “young adults” were busily snapping pictures in their Senior Ball attire. What fun to watch these folks and their parents socializing while pictures taken. Also in this area are several high end restaurants and I was even able to locate an EV charger, and while slow it worked and I was able to return to Rochester with some charge left.

Had a wine tasting at New York Kitchen. For $13 received 4 ample samples – is that a rhyme or what? Also had their seasoned french fries – yum for $8. and have enough for 5 future servings. This restaurant is an interesting concept as it gives cooking lessons, as well as the usual music.

What a phenomenal visit!

Would love to summer here.

View from the porch of the Sonnenberg Mansion.

There are many comfortable chairs on the porch to relax in.

Take a moment and enjoy.

I did.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s