horizontal banner with Preserve America logo and images of a historic downtown, farm, courthouse, and mountain

Preserve America is a national initiative in cooperation with the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation; the U.S. Departments of Defense, Interior, Agriculture, Commerce, Housing and Urban Development, Transportation, and Education; the National Endowment for the Humanities; the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities; and the President's Council on Environmental Quality.

Preserve America Community:
Auburn, New York

Auburn (pop. 27,138) is located in the heart of the Finger Lakes Region of New York, approximately 35 miles west of Syracuse. The city is the county seat of Cayuga County and its largest community. Founded in 1793, Auburn was a thriving manufacturing community even before it was linked by railway to the Erie Canal in 1834.

Auburn has been a hub for key figures and events in American history and culture, particularly those related to the Underground Railroad, Civil War, African American history, art history, and women’s rights. It’s not surprising that this small city promotes itself as “History’s Hometown.” Auburn serves as a window into forces that shaped and continue to form this country. Today the city is rich in culture, arts, and history, offering a great array of museums, historic sites, and National Landmarks such as the Harriet Tubman Home and the William Seward House.

Seward House Gardens, photo credit Kristian Reynolds

In 1859, Harriet Tubman bought seven acres of land and a house in Auburn from U.S. Senator and former Governor William H. Seward. After the war she returned to her home in Auburn and began what was to be her work for the rest of her life—caring for aged and indigent African Americans. She was a dedicated member of the AME Church and actively supported the construction of the Thompson AME Church in 1891. In 1896, Tubman purchased 25 acres adjoining her home on which stood the building now known as the Home for Aged. Though not directly associated with Tubman’s activities with the Underground Railroad, these properties, designated a National Historic Landmark, are a tangible link to this brave and remarkable woman who is known as “the Moses of her people.”

Auburn is home to outstanding examples of Tiffany glass at the Willard Memorial Chapel, Cayuga Museum of History and Art, and Westminster Presbyterian Church. Other historically significant destinations are the birthplace of talking films at the Case Research Lab and the Fort Hill Cemetery, which offers a self-guided walking tour. On the first Friday evening of each month, Auburn’s historical and cultural sites open their doors to visitors with food, entertainment, free admission, and special offers.

Auburn’s Historic Resources Review Board is responsible for preserving the city’s historic buildings located within the South Street Area National Register Historic District. A vacant contributing building within the historic district—one of the few historic manufacturing sites in Auburn that survived Urban Renewal—has recently been redeveloped as the Logan Park Lofts, improving the economic viability of the surrounding neighborhood.

The City of Auburn’s Historic & Cultural Sites Commission is a group of organizations and agencies whose mission is to promote Auburn’s attractions through collaborative marketing, programming and tourism strategies. It seeks to position Auburn as the destination of choice in the Finger Lakes through support and promotion of its history and culture. The commission includes representatives of historic sites as well as the Downtown Auburn Business Improvement District; the Auburn Enlarged City School District; and the Cayuga County Arts Council, Chamber of Commerce, Office of Tourism, and Historian’s Office.

For more information:
Auburn: History’s Hometown 

National Register Travel Itinerary: Aboard the Underground Railroad [Harriet Tubman Home for the Aged, Residence, and Thompson AME Zion Church]

National Register Travel Itinerary: Places Where Women Made History [Harriet Tubman Home for the Aged]

Posted July 03, 2012

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