About the Finger Lakes
PHELPS & CLIFTON SPRINGS
The adjacent communities of Phelps and Clifton Springs are full of small town charm.
The village of Phelps and section of the village of Clifton Springs lie within the town of Phelps. But because they are such distinct communities, we'll devote a separate section to each.
Town and Village of Phelps
Learn about Clifton Springs here.
Historically speaking, Phelps has had its identity tied to sauerkraut. The town, for the fields full of cabbage, and the village, for the factories that fermented that cabbage into sauerkraut. While farms in and around Phelps still grow a lot of cabbage that ends up as commercial sauerkraut, the sauerkraut factories left the village. Still, the community rallies around this heritage every summer with Phelps Sauerkraut Weekend, a quirky yet festive event that includes a parade, cabbage bowling, sauerkraut eating contest, carnival rides and chocolate sauerkraut cake.
But to think that Phelps is only about sauerkraut would miss the mark. Thanks to Flint Creek and the Canandaigua Outlet, two main waterways that run through the town and village, Phelps was once known as a mill town, but dairy farming now dominates the flatlands and gentle hills (though other crops also flourish here). A cluster of light manufacturing businesses adds diversity and strength to the local economy. Phelps Cement Products, for example, has been producing concrete masonry units and other building products since 1946.
The village of Phelps is a pedestrian-friendly place, home to many thriving businesses. Within a mile along Main Street and its side streets you can shop at a hometown pharmacy, antique and gift shops, an art gallery and a small foods market and deli.
The Historic Phelps Hotel Restaurant and Party House, a convenient group meeting location as well as a popular place for Friday fish fry and drinks, and the Water Side Wine Bar, a former mill converted to a cozy bar that serves wine, beer and gourmet light fare with a view of the Flint Creek waterfalls. Crafty Ales & Lagers is a nano-brewery located in one of Phelps's oldest stone buildings.
The Phelps Community Historical Society calls the Howe House home, and runs a museum there with permanent and rotating exhibits that include 19th century household and farm equipment. The Howe House also boasts a rare, two-story brick outhouse.
The Phelps Community Center provides recreational and educational programs for residents. The Phelps Arts Center, located in a National Historic Trust 19th century Gothic Church, helps promote arts education and enrichment through exhibits, concerts and classes.
Cobblestone houses, built in western New York from the 1830s until the Civil War, are especially prominent in Phelps. These are seen roadside as you travel through town and in Phelps's smaller hamlets such as Oaks Corners, Fort Hill and Knickerbocker Corner.
The eastern trailhead of the V-shaped, 23-mile Ontario Pathways is in Phelps, with the first few miles of this recreational trail passing by more waterfalls on Flint Creek.
Phelps has easy access to Rochester (45 minutes away) and Syracuse (an hour away) via exit 42 to the New York State Thruway, at the junction of two of Phelps's main arterials, Routes 14 and 96. For lodging, Phelps offers a bed and breakfast east of downtown and Cheerful Valley Campground with campsites for RVs, trailers and tents. Cabins are also available and the fishing in the Canandaigua Outlet is a popular activity.
The village of Phelps was organized around 1793, and the town of Phelps around 1796. Both were incorporated in 1855. The village was originally known as Vienna, and the town as Sullivan, but were later named for Oliver Phelps, one of the two land spectators from Massachusetts who orchestrated the massive Phelps & Gorham Purchase of 1788, which has created what we now know as western New York. Oliver Phelps became the first judge of Ontario County. He lived and was buried in Canandaigua, but never called Phelps his home.
Village of Phelps: 1,989 (2010 Census)
Town of Phelps: 7,018 (2010 Census)
Town of Phelps: 65.3 square miles (including .3 square miles of water)
Village of Phelps: 1.2 square miles
The town of Phelps is in the northeast corner of Ontario County. Seneca County lies to the east, Wayne County to the north. The New York State Thruway runs through Phelps, as does Routes 96 and 14.
The terrain in the northern section of Phelps is made up of drumlins. Farther south, the land is gentle rolling hills. Flint Creek runs through the village of Phelps.
Agriculture: Dairy and field crops dominate, but there is also a diverse range of crops, from cabbage, strawberries and sunflowers to maple syrup, Christmas trees and organic vegetables.
Manufacturing and machining: There is a strong contingency of light manufacturing in Phelps, much of it along Route 96. Z-Axis does electronic design and manufacturing; Magnus Precision Manufacturing produces precision machined parts, tooling and components for aerospace, medical, optics and photonics and industrial.
Students who live in the town and village of Phelps attend the Phelps-Clifton Springs Central School District, also known as Midlakes.
Crooked Bridge Park: This William Street park welcomes visitors who want to splash in the creek or have a picnic.
Redfield Park: Community park with gazebo, concession building, baseball field and playground. Outdoor summer concerts held here.
Methodist Memorial Park: Majestic trees make a great spot for a shady picnic.
Phelps Community Center: Programs for sports and recreation, fitness classes and educational programming are all available at this active community center. There is also a playground and sports field.
Phelps Sauerkraut Weekend: http://phelpsny.com/sauerkraut-weekend/
Town of Phelps: http://phelpsny.com/
Village of Phelps: http://phelpsny.com/village/
Phelps Chamber of Commerce: http://phelpsny.com/chamber-of-commerce/
Phelps Community Historical Society: http://phelpsny.com/historical-society/
Clifton Springs owes its identity to the Sulphur Brook that runs through it. In fact, the village was formerly known as Sulphur Springs, and those waters helped establish the village as an important healing center in 1850, thanks to Dr. Henry Foster, a deeply religious physician whose Clifton Springs Water Cure turned the village into a utopian healthcare center for body and spirit for many decades. (His home is pictured at right.)
Another person who made medical history in Clifton Springs is George Edward Barton, whose experience of using work to recover as a convalescent led the birth of occupational therapy in 1917.
The Clifton Springs Sanitarium Co., which encompassed many buildings espousing Foster's holistic regimen, was the predecessor to today's Clifton Springs Hospital & Clinic, a modern, full-service hospital that is part of the Rochester Regional Health system. It is the oldest continuously operating business in the village and one of the largest employers.
The hospital keeps the spirit of Dr. Foster alive at the Springs Integrative Medicine Center & Spa, a facility that offers a variety of alternative therapies, from massage and mineral baths to acupuncture and Ayurveda.
The Clifton Springs Hospital is also linked to the historic Spa Apartments, a senior living facility that was once where Dr. Foster's water cure was practiced. Other architectural treasures along this village's Main Street include the Peirce Block, a long, colorful structure that houses small retail shops; the four-story Foster Block, which holds both apartments and street-level shops; the Warfield Block, home to a gourmet restaurant and bakery; and the Foster Cottage Museum, once Dr. Foster's home and now home to the Clifton Springs Historical Society.
Another anchor in the Clifton Springs business community is the G.W. Lisk Company, which started out in 1910 making cake pans, tin pails and spraying devices. Over 100 years later, those utilitarian goods have been replaced by electromechanical products used in the aerospace, defense, on/off highway, and oil and gas markets.
The residents of Clifton Springs are proud of their cultural and community assets, from the Clifton Springs Library housed in an old railroad station and the John L. Brown Memorial Park with picnic pavilion and playground to the Main Street Arts, a gallery highlighting contemporary arts and fine crafts by local and national artists.
Today Clifton Springs is still a thriving village with retail stores, gift shops and eateries, many of which are under covered walkways along the historic Main Street. The historic Warfield block is home to Warfield’s Restaurant & Bakery a fine restaurant with a seasonal menu of elegant country fare. Warfield’s gardens serve as a retreat for restaurant patrons and visitors. The Peirce Block is home to Peirce's Antiques and Gifts.
Settlement in Clifton Springs began in 1801, but the village was not formally incorporated until 1859, a decade after Dr. Henry Foster established his Water Cure therapy.
Village of Phelps: 2,127 (2010 Census)
1.4 square miles
Most of Clifton Springs is within the borders of the town of Manchester, but the eastern section lies within the town of Phelps. The village is about 15 miles east of Canandaigua. Route 13 (Main Street) is the main thoroughfare, though Route 96 is very close by.
While Main Street is mostly flat, the village has some gentle contours. Sulphur Brook runs through the hospital grounds.
Healthcare: Clifton Springs Hospital & Clinic is a full-service hospital that is affiliated with Rochester Regional Health.
Manufacturing: G.W. Lisk Company makes electromechanical products used in the aerospace, defense, on/off highway, and oil and gas markets.
Small businesses: Retail, service businesses and other small businesses are located in the village.
Students in Clifton Springs attend the Phelps-Clifton Springs Central School District, also known as Midlakes.
Foster Cottage Museum: Built by Dr. Henry Foster in 1854, this Victorian museum is now a great place to learn about Foster's Water Cure and the nursing school that ran in the village for several decades.
Spa Apartments: Once known as The San, the former Sanitarium Building was completed in 1896 and then became a full-service hospital in the early 20th century. It is now an apartment building for seniors, but the original chapel and its favrile glass mosaic by Louis Comfort Tiffany is a worthwhile visit.
Main Street Arts: This commercial gallery showcases works of contemporary art and fine crafts by upstate New York artists.
Sulphur Brook: Next to the Clifton Springs Hospital & Clinic runs the water that was the source of Dr. Foster's Water Cure. The walking path and gardens near the stream also meander about the hospital grounds, and include a peaceful labyrinth.
Main Street shops: The Peirce Block, the Foster Block and other historic downtown buildings house interesting shopping opportunities, from gifts and books to hardwares and a bakery.
Springs Integrative Medicine Center & Spa: Treat yourself to a variety of alternative therapies, from massage and mineral baths to acupuncture and Ayurveda.
Sulphur Springs Festival: Welcome back to the Victorian age. A parade starts off the weekend’s events, followed by bed races down Main Street. Food, games for the kids, and Victorian fashion show are also part of this annual June event.
Festival of Lights: This annual holiday celebration in December takes place at night in downtown Clifton Springs. Caroling, appearances by Santa, hot drinks and food are part of the festivities.
Village of Clifton Springs: http://www.cliftonspringsny.org/
Clifton Springs Area Chamber of Commerce: http://www.cliftonspringschamber.com/