Cobblestones of the Finger Lakes: Cobblestone Springs, where time stands still
The former home of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Spence with its 21 rooms affords a panoramic view of Seneca Lake. To construct this house, field stones were gathered from all parts of the farm. The cobblestones used as the veneer were gathered from the beach of Lake Ontario near Sodus Point and brought by boat to Starkey Point. The stones were hauled to the site by a team of oxen, a distance of 13 miles. The dwelling is unchanged with the exception of the slate roof which was later replaced. Its’ walls are 30 inches thick and included an upstairs ballroom.
Dr. Henry Spence settled in Lakemont on the farm in 1818 and eventually built this house. Work began in 1848 and was completed in 1851 at a cost of $30,000. The next generation to live here was Dr. Byron Spence, a prominent horticulturist. He had been a lieutenant in the Quartermaster Corps during the Civil War. Dr. Spence later practiced here and the house for a time was a local hospital. He died in 1884. His son, Robert Spence Sr., for a time, was in the hardware business in Elmira and Horseheads. Later he established a turkey business on this 260-acre farm. He also raised sheep, cattle, capons, and even pigeons.
Today, it is a retreat center under the auspices of the Sisters of St. Joseph. It regularly offers programs related to spirituality, community, and ecology. Its facilities are also available for individuals or groups, including two formal parlors for gatherings of 10 to 15 people, overnight retreat accommodations for several people, and a library.
Photos by Richard Palmer