I know from the pics I posted last week of the State Park it must look as if we spent all of the long weekend just wandering around the park.
Nope. We had time for some exploring as well.
On Saturday morning the village nearest to the park had a small farmer's market so we decided to pop into Perry to see what we could find. The town did not become Perry until after the War of 1812. Perry previously had several names, including Slabtown, Shacksberg, Beechville, Columbia and Ninevah. Shortly after the War of 1812 the town was renamed after General Oliver Hazard Perry, hero of the Battle of Lake Erie.
Perry boosts an interesting downtown with a number of shops, restaurants, and an amazing butcher. The sausage from the butcher was so good that we stopped in on our way home and bought 7 pounds of sausage to take home! We also enjoyed the independent bookstore - I have a rule - I have to buy something from any independent bookstore I discover while out on our travels - and I did.
There was a lot more to see and do in Perry but we ran out of time. More for our next trip I suppose.
The other village we explored was Mount Norris. The community was first called "Allen Hill" and "Richmond Hill" by early settler Ebenezer Allen. The Village of Mount Morris was incorporated in 1835. It was then named after Robert Morris, the financier of the American Revolution, and later owner of The Morris Reserve, from which the lands around Mount Morris were sold to settlers. It was suggested that these lands were sold at unfairly low prices to friends of the Morris estate, in an attempt to create something akin to an oligarchical rule by landowners in the area.
One of the town's famous citizens was Francis Bellamy. He is the Author of the Pledge of Allegiance which was published in the September 8, 1892. This is the memorial to this famous towns person.
There is an interesting story behind the town's revitalized downtown. Like so many small upstate rust-belt towns, Mount Norris was not prepared for the final quarter of the 20th century. Its manufacturing jobs evaporated. A new Interstate, I-390, bypassed it. Its ambitious kids went away to college and didn’t look back. Its downtown became empty and funereal, thanks to the fluorescent allure of big-box stores like Wal-Mart not far away.
Things began to change in Mount Morris in 2007. That was when a New York city detective named Greg O’Connell quietly began buying up buildings — he now owns 20 — on Main Street. For some he paid as much as $140,000. Others he snatched up for $4,000 at tax-lien sales. Then he went to work. He restored the historic storefronts and interiors, cleaning the tin ceilings. He renovated the apartments on the second floors, bringing in fresh paint, oak and maple floors, new windows, nice bathrooms.
O’Connell charges the businesses located on the main floor of these buildings as little as $100 a month in rent, but he asks for things in return. He’s a longtime admirer of Jane Jacobs and he learned from her and other urban planners. O’Connell’s leases require businesses to leave their lights on at night, to change their window displays at least four times a year and to stay open one evening a week.
Looking at the main street you can see the effect he has had on the town.
We decided to have lunch at Questa Lasagna - one of the first businesses to open in one of O'Connell's buildings. The restaurant's motto is: “No freezers, no fryers - always fresh".
The restaurant isn't very large. Inside it has a nice decor and a jazzy feel, with tin ceilings, brick walls, and interesting art. We both had the pasta special of the day which was a chicken ravioli.
Lunch came with homemade bread, and a small salad for only $ 9. This ended up being one of the least expensive restaurant meals of the weekend and by far the best!
After lunch we wandered down the street to an ice cream shop (also owned by the people behind Questa Lasagna) called Zeppos. Here all ice cream is homemade hard ice cream, using a variety of local and all natural ingredients. This is one of those easily unnoticed gems in a small town that the locals keep quiet about so they can have it all to themselves.
A few people on Yelp complained that they didn't have 'normal' flavours. Fools. If you want normal ice cream flavours go to freaking Dairy Queen and have a cone of chemicals. If you want amazing ice cream with interesting flavours than Zeppos is the spot for you. Mount Norris, your secret is out.
I know we'll be back when we are next in the area.