Innovation & Commerce
New York State’s businesses and industries have long dominated American commerce, and the state remains a leading center of invention and science. The people of the Empire State, their businesses, talents, diversity and hard work have helped make New York a global economic force. From Thomas Edison’ Machine Works, revolutions in glass making both technical and artistic, grounding breaking DNA research and the world’s oldest photography museum, you’ll see how New Yorker’s helped shape the world we live in today.
The state has also been a showcase for many of the industrialists connected to these businesses – Vanderbilt, Rockefeller, Singer and Boldt, to name just a few -- whose opulent lifestyle has been spectacularly captured in what are now beautiful historic sites.
Below are ideas to help you get started on your Innovation & Commerce Path Through History!
The grand era of The Great Gatsby lives on in Long Island’s luxurious and historic Gold Coast mansions, built by the wealthy industrialists of the early 20th century. Visitors can tour grand estates like the Eagle’s Nest mantion at the Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum in Centerport, Oheka Castle in Huntington, Coe Hall Mansion and Planting Fields Arboretum State Historic Park in Oyster Bay, Old Westbury Gardens in Old Westbury and Falaise in Sands Point and to see furniture, materials and art pieces that their owners imported from around the world, as well as formal gardens and grounds that they had elaborately designed and landscaped.
Visitors can experience life in a typical rural Long Island Farm village of the mid-19th century at Old Bethpage Village Restoration in Old Bethpage. This 209 acre living history museum has 51 historic buildings and seven reconstructions. Its staff of knowledgeable, costumed guides and crafts persons provide a glimpse into the commercial and social life of the time.
Some of the most important advances in genetics and molecular biology have taken place at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in Cold Spring Harbor. Its scientists have conducted lifesaving cancer research, and the discovery of the structure of DNA was first described publicly at its 1953 symposium. The lab’s DNA Learning Center uses hands on programs like laboratory experiments, computer explorations and an interactive exhibition to bring the field to life for visitors of all ages.
For 100 years, Long Island has made important contributions to aerospace development. The Cradle of Aviation Museum in East Garden City has 70 air and spacecraft in eight exhibit galleries -- one of most outstanding and diverse aerospace collections in the world. From early biplanes to an original full size lunar module, visitors can see artifacts and depictions of Long Island’s vibrant aerospace industry, including many of the Long Island-built airplanes that helped America and its allies triumph in World War II. The museum’s domed IMAX theater adds to the sense of wonder.
Cradle of Aviation Museum
DNA Learning Center
Old Bethpage Village Restoration
Old Westbury Gardens
Planting Fields Arboretum State Historic Park
Vanderbilt Museum in Centerport
Find other exciting attractions in the Long Island region.
New York City:
As far back as 1824, Coney Island in Brooklyn was one of the nation’s most popular playgrounds. By the time spectacular amusement parks joined the scene and the subway brought city dwellers to Coney’s shoreline in the 1920s, a summer day’s attendance could reach one million people. Today, the fun continues with Coney’s wide sandy beach, long boardwalk, Luna Park amusement park, historic Cyclone roller coaster – still consistently rated as one of the greatest and wildest in the world -- and MCU Park, the home of the NY Mets’ farm team, the Brooklyn Cyclones.
Giving an immersive experience in historic commercial and public life, Historic Richmond Town in Staten Island rests on over 100 acres and encompasses four sites, include NYC's oldest continuously operating farm. The main village features over 30 original historic structures, including homes, commercial and civic buildings, as well as a historical museum. Three additional sites include one of the oldest homes in the country, still standing on its original location for almost 350 years, and an 11 acre organic farm.
The Garibaldi-Meucci Museum in Staten Island is the historic home Giuseppe Garibaldi, the legendary hero of Italian unification, and Antonio Meucci, who many say was the true inventor of the telephone. The simple country residence was built in 1840 in the Gothic Revival style and exhibits include Garibaldi's red shirt and models of Meucci's telephone.
Soaring more than a quarter of a mile above the heart of Manhattan, the Empire State Building is the world’s most famous office building and a National Historic Landmark. Built in just one year and opened to the public in 1931, the world-famous 86th and 102nd floor observatories offer unmatched views of New York City and on a clear day one can see to New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Delaware. Meanwhile, the Skyscraper Museum in lower Manhattan’s Battery Park City examines the historical forces and individuals that have shaped New York’s successive skylines as well as the buildings themselves through exhibitions and programs.
At the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum, visitors will not only see artifacts, but will walk on one as well, as they explore exhibits and air and spacecraft aboard a 1943 Essex class aircraft carrier that participated in several campaigns in the Pacific Theater of Operations during World War II. On the Intrepid's flight deck, over 30 aircraft tell the story of naval aviation, while in the ship's cavernous hangar deck, a variety of exhibits honor the heroes of the past and offer a peek at the high-tech hardware being developed for the future. The retired Space Shuttle Enterprise opens to the public in the summer of 2013.
Rockefeller Center in midtown Manhattan is an Art Deco masterpiece, created under John D. Rockefeller Jr.’s vision of a contemporary and innovative “city within a city.” Officially opened in 1933, the project was constructed during the height of the Great Depression and employed over 40,000 people. In winter, skaters glide across the rink and thousands of lights gleam from the always-enormous annual tree. In summer, outdoor dining options abound. Year round, visitors tour the plaza, Radio City Music Hall and the studios of NBC, as well as take in the spectacular 360-degree views from the Top of the Rock Observation Deck.
The Museum of Moving Image in Astoria, Queens occupies one of the 13 buildings that comprised the former Astoria Studio complex. Originally built by Famous Players-Lasky —known as Paramount after 1927 — to be their East Coast production facility in 1920, the studio was the site of hundreds of silent and early sound era film productions. Today, it is the only museum in the United States dedicated to exploring the art, history, and technology of the moving image through computer-based interactive exhibits, audio visual material, movie and TV artifacts and even video arcade and console systems available for play by visitors.
Empire State Building
Historic Richmond Town
Intrepid Sea, Air and Space
Museum of Moving Image
Find other exciting attractions in the New York City region.
Kykuit, the Rockfeller Estate in Sleepy Hollow, a Classical Revival-style villa, was completed in 1913 for John D. Rockefeller, founder of the Standard Oil Company. It served as home to four generations of the Rockefeller family, including philanthropist John D. Rockefeller Jr. and Nelson A. Rockefeller, four-time governor of New York and vice president under Gerald Ford. Visitors today can tour the home and see its antiques, fine ceramics, and paintings, as well as the estate’s modern art collections, classic automobiles and horse-drawn carriages, extensive gardens and views of the Hudson River.
In 1838, Alexander Jackson Davis created Lyndhurst in Tarrytown, a Gothic Revival style mansion for William Paulding, former mayor of New York City. Twenty-six years later, he doubled the villa’s size, adding a four-story tower and porte cochere for New York businessman George Merritt. Visitors today to this National Historic Landmark can explore the villa, 67 acres on the Hudson River gardens, greenhouse and a carriage house.
Locust Grove in Poughkeepsie was owned by Samuel F.B. Morse, artist and inventor of the telegraph and Morse code. The historic country estate includes an 1851 40-room Italianate mansion designed for Morse that now features an outstanding collection of antique furniture and paintings, as well as 180 acres of historic gardens with Hudson River views, five miles of carriage roads and a visitor center.
The 50-room, classical-style mansion at the Vanderbilt National Historic Site in Hyde Park was built in 1898 by Frederick William Vanderbilt, a grandson of “Commodore” Cornelius Vanderbilt, the shipping and railroad magnate and richest man in America during his lifetime. Representative of the "Gilded Age," the state features an Italian garden and grand views of the Hudson River.
Vintage World-War I-era biplanes still fly in regular air shows at the Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome. In this living history museum, one of the country’s largest collections of antique airplanes is presented in an outdoor setting, with aircraft including a 1902 Wright Glider, a British Sopwith Camel, German Fokkers and other mainstays of World War I dogfights, as well as relics from the great barnstorming days. Visitors can even take their own ride in a vintage biplane.
Robert R. Livingston was one of the seven socially and politically prominent generations who lived at Clermont, a riverside mansion and state historic site in Germantown. Livingston helped draft the Declaration of Independence, negotiated the Louisiana Purchase and teamed up with Robert Fulton to develop the first commercially-viable steamboat which became known by the same name as this ancestral home and estate. Tours of the house and extensive gardens are available.
Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome
Vanderbilt National Historic Site
Find other exciting attractions in the Hudson Valley region.
Nestled in the northwestern Catskills, the Hanford Mills Museum in East Meredith features an authentic water- and steam-powered sawmill with a 1926 Fitz Overshot Waterwheel, restored water turbine and vintage woodworking machines. Visitors can take a tour and watch as the working mill turns logs into lumber, crates, tub covers and more. The museum’s 70-acre site also contains 15 other historic structures including the John Hanford farmhouse, a hardware store, feed mill, and woodworking shop, and a gift shop features mill-made items and local products.
Hanford Mills Museum
Find other exciting attractions in the Catskill region.
Amid the 19th century row houses in downtown Troy sits a white marble Federal style townhouse, completed just as Troy was beginning its shift from a commercial to an industrial economy base. The Hart Cluett Mansion was constructed for a businessman-banker’s family, the Harts, and sold six decades later to the Cluett family, who through their invention of the detachable shirt collar in 1820 helped give Troy its “Collar City” nickname. Tours showcase the house’s noteworthy architecture, its original kitchen and the social history of the people who lived and worked there.
Thomas Edison moved his Edison Machine Works to Schenectady in 1887, and the city became headquarters for the General Electric Company in 1892. The International Technology Archives at the Museum of Innovation and Science in Schenectady preserve that legacy with 1.6 million images from the GE Photograph Collection, as well as 15,000 patents, 1,000 motion picture films and artifacts like the 1878 Edison tinfoil record. Also available are demonstrations, a planetarium show and an interactive Science Zone.
Slate Valley Museum in Granville documents and celebrates the history of the slate industry – important for roofing and flooring material -- and its people. Its exhibits and programs interpret the geology of New York’s Slate Valley, the history of quarrying and the immigrant culture evident in the valley’s local communities.
Hart Cluett Mansion
Museum of Innovation and Science
Slate Valley Museum
Find other exciting attractions in the Capital-Saratoga region.
The Saranac Laboratory was the first lab built in the U.S. for the research of tuberculosis. Historic Saranac Lake painstakingly restored the 1894 building and opened it as the Saranac Laboratory Museum where visitors can see replicas of the original cabinetry in the main laboratory space, as well as scientific research and patient care.
Exhibits of artifacts and photos depicting the evolution of the North American maple syrup industry from the first Americans to the present are on view at the American Maple Museum in Croghan. Exhibits include syrup equipment, logging tools and replicas of a sugar house and a lumber camp kitchen and office.
American Maple Museum
Find other exciting attractions in the Adirondacks region.
Central New York and Thousand Islands-Seaway:
Built between 1900 - 1905 by millionaire Frederick Gilbert Bourne, CEO of the Singer Sewing Machine Company, the 28-room Scottish inspired Singer Castle in Chippewa Bay is located on a seven-acre island in the St. Lawrence River. A guided tour of the grounds and castle includes a five-story clock tower, four story boat house, heated squash court, pergola and rose garden, as well as hidden passage ways into almost every room and outbuilding.
In 1900, millionaire hotel magnate George C. Boldt commissioned the construction of Boldt Castle in Alexandria Bay on an island in the St. Lawrence River as a tribute to his beloved wife, Louise. It was to be their dream summer home, but tragically, Mrs. Boldt died months before it was completed. Today, visitors can use a tour boat, water taxi or private watercraft to get to the island and take a self-guided tour of the magnificently restored 120-room Rhineland-style castle, its grounds and the surrounding buildings, including the restored yacht house with its collection of historic watercraft.
Visitors to the Farmers’ Museum in Cooperstown can experience the interplay among trades, village life and agriculture in New York State circa 1845 by exploring its Colonial Revival stone barn listed on the National Register for Historic Places, a recreated historic village, the Empire State Carousel and a working farmstead. The museum, one of the oldest living history museums in the country with a collection of more than 23,000 historic items, features interpretive exhibits, authentic demonstrations and hand-on activities showing the technology of 19th century farming.
The Remington Firearms Museum in Ilion tells the history of the gun industry that Eliphalet Remington started in 1816 and is still in existence today. The museum also presents the history of the Remington Standard Typewriter and the Remington Sewing Machine.
Drive into yesteryear at the H.P. Sears Oil Co. Service Station Museum in Utica, a one of a kind, completely restored 1929 service station. Art Deco exterior fixtures like clock face gas pumps and an oil change pit complement the station building and its nostalgic interior furnishings.
The Oneida Community (1848-1881) was the longest lived, and one of the most radical and successful of the 19th century social utopian experiments, where residents produced a variety of industrial goods. Its 1861 93,000 square foot brick Oneida Community Mansion House in Oneida serves as an extraordinary reminder of the social reform movements that swept the nation during that time. Exhibits and collections showcase art, military equipment and more.
The Broome County carousels located in several local area parks in the Greater Binghamton area are six of the fewer than 170 antique carousels still in existence in the US and Canada. They were created by New York carousel maker Allan Herschell and donated to the public between 1919 and 1934 by George F. Johnson, shoe manufacturer and benefactor. Visitors can ride the carousels from Memorial Day to Labor Day free of charge.
H.P. Sears Oil Co. Service Station Museum
Oneida Community Mansion House
Remington Firearms Museum
Find other exciting attractions in the Central New York region and Thousand Islands-Seaway region.
Over 120 years ago, in a small workroom in Binghamton, the Stickley brothers started handcrafting simple wooden chairs. Ever since, Stickely has been making furniture in New York, and is particularly known far and wide for its Mission Style work which came out of the Arts & Crafts movement of the late 19th century. The Stickley Museum in Fayetteville is located in the original L. & J. G. Stickley furniture factory which was in use by the company from 1900 – 1985, and its 8,000 square-foot exhibit of furniture and design history spans over 100 years and includes Mission and Colonial furniture highlights.
The 1890 House in Cortland, a grand limestone mansion built by successful industrialist Chester F. Wickwire now listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is a symbol of the grandeur of the Victorian and Gilded ages. The lavish interiors of the 30-room mansion feature parquet floors, jewel-like stained-glass windows, ornate decorative stencilling and oak and cherry woodwork. Visitors can discover artifact-filled period rooms, rotating exhibits and carriages on view in the Carriage House.
The area’s rich aviation heritage is explored at a variety of attractions across the region. The Wings of Eagles Discovery Center in Horseheads features a large collection of aircraft -- a number of which were manufactured in New York -- that played important roles in American military and industrial history. Visitors can also test their flying skills in a flight simulator or purchase a ride in a vintage plane. The 1941 Historical Aircraft Group Museum in Geneseo (1941hag.org) displays aircraft of the World War II and Korean War eras, provides informational displays and sponsors flight events with historic aircrafts, including the Geneseo Air Show, known as the 'Greatest Show on Turf." In Hammondsport, the Glenn H. Curtiss Museum celebrates the life of the town’s famous son known as the “Father of Naval Aviation,” on the site of his early aviation experiments with Alexander Graham Bell. The museum features reproductions and originals of Curtiss’ history making flying machines and motorcycles, in addition to other antique aircraft, bicycles and automobiles.
Located on the historic Willard-Case Estate in Auburn, the Cayuga Museum and Case Research Laboratory is where Theodore Case invented the process of putting sound on film in the early 1920’s. Visitors can tour the restored lab, see original equipment, and learn about this world-changing invention that came from a greenhouse-turned-backyard science laboratory.
At the outbreak of World War II, Elmira was the first site chosen to develop a glider program and train pilots for the war effort. Motorless flight is honored in the “Soaring Capital of the World” at the National Soaring Museum. Visitors can view the world’s largest collection of sailplanes and gliders, as well as hands-on exhibits, films and archive holdings dating to the late 1800's.
In the 1860s, a local banker named Elias Hungerford believed that Corning’s good railroad and Erie Canal transportation, together with local supplies of coal and sand, would allow for the cultivation of a glass industry that would put his town on the map. That legacy lives on at the Corning Museum of Glass in Corning, where visitors can experience the art, history and science of glass through live hot glassmaking demonstrations, Make Your Own Glass classes, hands-on glass technology exhibits and the world’s largest collection of glass – 45,000 contemporary and historical objects spanning 3,500 years.
The George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film in Rochester is a National Historic Landmark telling the story of photography, motion pictures and Eastman – inventor, entrepreneur and founder of the Eastman Kodak Company. Guest can explore the Eastman mansion and gardens, as well as its unparalleled collections and archives.
Through more than 70 faithfully restored and furnished buildings and costumed interpreters, visitors can experience commercial and public life in the 19th century at the Genesee Country Village and Museum in Mumford. Complete with a pottery maker, cooper shop, blacksmith, tinsmith and more, Genesee Country Village is one of the largest living history museums in the US.
Cayuga Museum and Case Research Laboratory
Corning Museum of Glass in Corning
Genesee Country Village and Museum
George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film
Glenn H. Curtiss Museum
National Soaring Museum
Wings of Eagles Discovery Center
Find other exciting attractions in the Finger Lakes region.
America’s most famous desert – Jell-O – was developed in the late 1890s by a carpenter in LeRoy. Today, the Jell-O Museum in LeRoy, just behind the historic LeRoy House, explores the history of this innovative brand. A large new exhibit looks at the advertising behind Jell-O with audio and video recordings of pitch-people through the ages, like Kate Smith, Jack Benny, Lucile Ball, Andy Griffith and, of course, Bill Cosby.
The Holland Land Office Museum in Batavia is the site of the original 1815 Holland Land Company Office where 3.3 million acres of Western New York land was surveyed and sold, giving it the moniker “The Birthplace of Western New York.” Exhibits include the early history of Genesee County, a military collection and the gallows used for public executions during the 19th century.
The Herschell Carrousel Factory Museum in North Tonawanda is located in the company’s original 19th century factory building. Both the building and the 1916 #1 Special Carrousel housed there are on the National Register of Historic Places. Visitors can discover the art, science, math, music and social history of the early American amusement industry through the museum’s rich artifact collection, including hand-carved wooden carrousel animals and the only remaining music roll production equipment from the Wurlitzer Company.
Located just four miles downstream from Niagara Falls, the New York Power Authority Power Vista in Lewiston is set amidst the spectacular scenery of the Niagara River Gorge. The hydroelectric power produced at this plant is responsible for powering the majority of New York State, generating 2.4 million kilowatts – enough power to light 24 million 100-watt light bulbs at once! Visitors can learn about hydroelectricity and the historic role it has played in the Niagara Frontier with 50 + interactive exhibits about hydroelectricity and an observation deck perched 350 feet above the Gorge.
Herschell Carrousel Factory Museum
New York Power Authority Power Vista
Find other exciting attractions in the Greater Niagara region.
Within a 50 mile radius of Cattaraugus, approximately 150 different cutlery companies existed during a 200 year period in our nation’s history. The location of 9 Main Street is where knives were offered for sale when the building was constructed in 1888. The American Museum of Cutlery in Cattaraugus brings this history to life with photographs, its premier examples of knives, swords, edged tools and weapons, and documents like blacksmith ledgers, factory records and interviews with cutlers.
American Museum of Cutlery
Find other exciting attractions in the Chautauqua-Alleghany region.
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