History of the Park

Parks and Picnic Grounds
For over 171 years, Long Point Park on Conesus Lake in Geneseo, New York, is where people went and brought their children to picnic, play, and celebrate for generations. Long Point Park is rich in history, nostalgia, and memories with activities that have been unique, historic, and diverse while attracting people from around the country.

The Wadsworths of Geneseo
Col. Jeremiah Wadsworth (1743-1804) of Hartford, Connecticut was one of the wealthiest and most influential men of the post-Revolutionary War era. In 1788, he made the arduous trip to the Genesee Country to judge its worth, finding it richer than he ever imagined. After purchasing more than 200,000 acres along the Genesee River, Col. Wadsworth offered his young cousins, brothers James and William Wadsworth, 2000 acres of prime farmland in and around what would be Geneseo. The Wadsworth brothers acquired thousands more acres, becoming the largest landowners in Western New York. James and William were known far and wide for their philanthropy and innovative farming methods. This prominent family remains synonymous with the Genesee Valley to the present day.

Long Point
In 1844, when James Wadsworth died, he wanted to honor his brother William by dedicating over 25 acres of land on Conesus Lake to become what we now know as Long Point Cove and Long Point. In Colonel James A. McPherson's Conesus Lake Transportation Co. booklet from 1883, it is noted that James Wadsworth dedicated Long Point Grove as "a public picnic grounds for all time in memory of his 1790 2nd encampment at Lakeville en route to 'Big Tree' Geneseo from Canandaigua".

In the mid 1800s, railroads appeared almost overnight, and amusement parks built along those lines
flourished. This process marked the dawn of the American amusement park industry. By 1899, 250 parks operated throughout the nation. Six years later, this number grew to 700. By 1920, more than 1,500 amusement parks bustled with a novel brand of family entertainment that included live concerts, vaudeville performances, and concessions within an attractively landscaped park. Long Point Park was part of this nationwide trend.

By the spring of 1882, excursions to Long Point were promoted by the Erie Railway Railroad and Conesus Lake Railroad Company. The trains would arrive at the Conesus Lake Station in Lakeville and then
the boats and steamboats (like the McPherson later renamed Starrucca) would transport passengers to destinations on Conesus Lake including Long Point and McPherson Point. Often, so great were the attractions of Conesus Lake and her mighty steamboats that the trains would have to run in two shifts consisting of 15 to 21 train passenger cars each.
The park became a destination location for people across western New York, often bringing crowds of over 10,000 people per day. In 1901, 20,000 people gathered at Long Point Park to attend the Livingston County Picnic there. Picnics with amusements like Merry-Go-Rounds have been documented at Long Point since 1896. Other rides such as the Helter Skelter (which was a curved slide, also referred to as the Cyclone House), Shoot the Chutes, a huge Toboggan Slide (built by the Town of Geneseo in 1886), and the Razzle-Dazzle (a giant pyramid like a teeter totter), were a few of the early rides at Long Point.

These amusements and picnic facilities attracted families from across New York State, helping Long Point to be recognized as the "first picnic ground in New York State" in 1906. In July 1906, The Livonia Gazette had an advertisement for the Erie Railway Railroad which stated “Long Point, a complete picnic resort, twenty acres of beautiful grove and acknowledged to be the first picnic grounds in the State, has been equipped with every convenience essential to entertaining large excursions. Good ball grounds, pavilions, Toboggan slide, Helter-Skelter, Circle Swing, Merry-Go-Round, etc. Church and society excursions are furnished a free stove, dishes, tables, benches, etc. Special trains will be run from Rochester connecting with the large, new, commodious steamer Conesus which carries 1,000 people and was built especially for handling large excursions. Special rates for excursions parties...call on Erie agent of address, H. T. Jaeger, general agent passenger department, Buffalo.”

So popular was tourism to Conesus Lake that in 1891 presented before STATE OF NEW YORK, EXECUTIVE CHAMBER, ALBANY, MARCH 25 1891. An Assembly bill, introductory No. 51. entitled; an act to authorize Edward L. Thomas to establish and maintain a ferry across Conesus Lake from Long Point on the west side of said lake to McPherson Point on the east side of the same. But it is herewith returned without approval suggesting it should have been the County's matter by Gov David B. Hill. In 1895, an Electric Railway was even considered by the citizens of Geneseo to be built from the village to Long Point Park. (Livingston Democrat May 9, 1906).

Ice was harvested on Conesus Lake which helped make Conesus Ice Cream that was sold at Long Point Park as one of the refreshments for families to enjoy. Conesus Ice Cream was marketed in Rochester, New York and also sold at Silver Lake, New York.

By 1910, Miles Woodruff and his wife Kathryn were the Manager/Leasee of Long Point Park and the Long Point Hotel/House/Inn. Harry and Margaret Berry worked with him. Mr. Berry was a stationary steam engineer in Rochester before relocating to Long Point. He had come to Long Point with a partner to operate a carousel arriving via a steamboat at Lakeville Dock. They stayed in the Cobblestone House south of the driveway entering the park (which was the Long Point Hotel and Wadsworth home before that).

Senator James W .Wadsworth, Jr. funded the building of the Conesus Lake Life Saving Corps. Station No 1 in partnership with the American Red Cross and Geneseo Normal School in 1923.  This was the First Life saving station built and fitted in corporation with the American Red Cross in Livingston County NY on Conesus Lake.  Present research is leading us to believe that this station is possibly the  First life saving station corp built in corporation with the American Red Cross in the United States! Also in 1923 the new large Dance Hall was built that brought in nationally known bands from across the country. It was the largest Dance Hall in the area. In 1949 the dance hall was adapted to become a popular roller skating rink.

A friend of the Wadsworth Family, Col Nathan Shiverick, had an idea of a military training camp which they experimentally ran at Long Point Park in 1922. Camp Wadsworth was established to train US Army Reserve officers (referred to as the R.O.T.C. - Reserve Officer's Training Camp) from the Buffalo, Rochester, and Albany areas. The land was divided off from the picnic grounds and the dance hall area (between the creek and the Cobblestone Cottage). The Camp continued operating until 1941, when it was ended because of World War ll. Camp Wadsworth became the first and last operational “Contact Camp” in the United States.

Over time, more features were added or improved to make the north end of the park more family friendly, such as improved concessions, a new Picnic Pavilion, and a miniature golf course. Carl Johnston came to Long Point in 1931 as an Auditor/Accountant, and he later became an Assistant Manager for Harry and Margaret Berry who were managing and leasing the land from the Wadsworths. During 1931 shuffleboard , archery, and the miniature golf course were added at Long Point along with later addition of a Chair-plane, Shooting Gallery and Miniature Gasoline Vehicles. The beer tent eventually became the beer garden and was improved by Carl Johnston.

Harry Berry started offering free lifesaving & swimming classes with trained lifeguards in 1924. A large float was anchored offshore for more experienced swimmers to enjoy. Colonel Tooey operated his motorboats for excursions and ran a ferry service to McPherson Point from Long Point Park. 

Long Point's miniature golf course was greatly improved and renovated in 1942 and again in the 1960s. The park operated during the first two years of World War II, but as more and more local workers were drafted, the pleasure transportation was stopped, and closing was the only option. To support the war effort, Long Point Park was closed from 1943 to 1945.

Post World War II
The 1940s and 1950s marked a time of steady growth for Long Point, growth that grew on the success of another Upstate New York business: The Allan Herschell Co. Inc. Herschell manufactured carousels and other rides as early as 1883 in Tonawanda, NY. By 1945, this Buffalo area manufacturer had become the largest manufacturer of amusement rides in the world.

In 1946, Long Point Navigation Company, formerly Tooey's Boat Lines, consisted of three speed boats that reestablished a regular ferry service to McPherson Point. In 1949, Stephen and Irene LaGrou came to Long Point, bringing with them a Carousel/Merry-Go-Round with a pair of white goats. And soon thereafter, the Kiddie Speed Boat Ride was added to the children and parent's delight.

In 1950, Stephen LaGrou added the Tilt-a-Whirl, Little Dipper Roller Coaster, Rocket Ride, Kiddie Sky-fighter Ride, and Assorted Kiddie Rides from the The Allan Herschell Co. Business was so good that a new and larger carousel was purchased for $14,250 in 1950. A carousel/merry-go-round has been the center point for Long Point Park as far back as 1896. In 1959, the Rocket Ride was sold and replaced with the Scrambler Ride in 1962. In 1958, John LaGrou brought a 1921 Big Eli Grand Mount Ferris Wheel built by the ELI Bridge Company to Long Point Park.

John and Alice LaGrou purchased the leasing rights/operations of the Park from Carl Johnston upon his retirement in 1967. John LaGrou officially took over operations on January 1, 1968.
The multiple activities in the park complimented each other and provided something for everybody who came to Long Point Park. Some of the family could go get refreshments, ice cream or experience the infamous French Fried Potatoes with a splash of malt vinegar or ketchup. While others enjoyed putting on the Miniature Golf, taking a spin in the Roller Skating Rink or go for an excursion boat ride. The children could ride the rides while Mom and Dad could enjoy refreshments while socializing at the Beer Garden. Others could try their skill at Penny Arcade-Shooting Gallery, SKEE BALL, FIVE-O, 3-IN-A- LINE, Balloon Darts or have their picture taken in the Photo Booth. In the late 1940s and early 1950s you could watch a movie under the stars projected on to the back of the Concession House. All these things made some wonderful memories which continue to be passed on to future generations.

There was no admission fee, so you could go for one ride or spend the entire afternoon at the park. The locals enjoyed this park because you could bring your family there at a reasonable price, and ride all kinds of rides, and get something to eat while being in a family-friendly environment. It was also convenient to not have to travel a considerable distance to have an enjoyable and memorable afternoon or evening. It really became part of people’s lives to come out and spend a day at the park or go bathing/swimming. Additionally, the Livingston County Sheriff's Department began having their annual springtime Ball/Dance at the dance hall in 1949. Later, in 1959, they also began the Annual Kiddies Days, where buses would transport thousands of children from all over Livingston County to spend the morning or afternoon riding all the rides and enjoying a free hot dog, drink and ice cream.

Another popular event was the annual Coca-Cola or “Coke” Days whereas you could get discounts on rides, food/drink, and boat excursions by bringing Coca-Cola bottle caps to use as money. The Anderson Coca-Cola Company in Dansville provided raffles and prizes.
Long Point Park was the kind of park that you could bring your family to and feel safe. The activities and fun created memories that were shared for generations. It was a wholesome park for young and older children and families. The park became known for inexpensive, clean, fun, family entertainment that was close to home. It became a part of the local fabric and was known for decades as the “Playground of the Genesee Country”.

Long Point Park was still being leased out until Reverdy Wadsworth's sudden death in 1970. On November 2, 1973, Mr. and Mrs. John LaGrou purchased the park from the Wadsworth Estate.

On May 26, 1976 the “Memorabilia Building” was officially opened at Long Point Park. An amazing project initiated by the Conesus Lake Association with permission of John and Alice LaGrou to convert the first enclosed Dance Hall building of 1898 into a temporary museum in celebrating the Bicentennial. The east side of the building was filled with historical antiques, treasured items and pictures. It attracted over 10,000 visitors in the five months it was open that summer. The building of itself has an amazing and rich history. In 1898 it was built as the first enclosed Dance Hall when Matthew Tooey was Manager/Leasee and in 1923 it was converted into a Bathhouse for Camp Wadsworth's Officers. After WW ll it housed the BINGO Game until 1951 when the game was outlawed by the Johnston Act. Then it was used by Jim Meagher the “Carnival Barker” for the FIVE-O Game until it moved to the new Roller Rink/Dance Hall in 1958 . The building was used for storage until it became the “Memorabilia Building” for the Bicentennial. Currently the SUNY Geneseo Crew Team uses the building for their activities.

Throughout the sunny days and warm moonlit nights on Conesus Lake, many people were able to share a ride on the carousel, or hold hands during couples roller skating. Lore and Vince DiSalvo (Honorary Long Point Historians) came together after roller skating at Long Point.

The Fire
On July 23, 1988, a fire devastated Long Point Park, destroying many of the buildings. The Roller Skating Rink /Dance Hall with the attached structures housing the FIVE-0 and SKEE BALL Games were destroyed. Sadly the historic Concessions House of 1880 with attached Arcade-Shooting Gallery was partially burned but the entire structure had to be razed. Thankfully the amusement rides escaped the fire and they were sold by auction in 1990.

Without fire insurance, the LaGrou family could not afford to rebuild the park. John and Alice were planning to retire and had received an offer from a land developer. Instead, the LaGrou family was able to negotiate to sell the land to the Town of Geneseo. The town saw that this park was valuable to the community, as the last public access to Conesus Lake on West Lake Road (with other access points at Vitale Park on the north end, and the boat launch on the east side), and the only permitted location for the general public to swim was Long Point Park. Thankfully, through the efforts of Geneseo's Town Supervisor, Walter Kingston Jr., the town was able to establish Long Point as a public park and to preserve public access on the west side of Conesus Lake.

On June 1, 1990, the LaGrous transferred the property to the town of Geneseo. Sadly, John and Alice LaGrou and family had to bid a fond farewell to the park that two generations of their family helped to create over the last 41 years. Because of their devotion and the devotion of those before them, so many people young and old still have treasured memories. Many thanks go to Walter Kingston Jr., John and Alice LaGrou, the Town of Geneseo, Hop Manapol, and all who supported the efforts to keep Long Point Park a public park for others to enjoy and to honor James Wadsworth's request and legacy.

A New Beginning
Improvements to the park, funded by the town, included new bathroom facilities, and a barbecue cooking pit donated by Geneseo Kiwanis Club in memory of deceased member Ted McCauley. The wide open lawns of the park, where the buildings once stood, serve as open space available to the public, where the annual Fiddler's Picnic, Cops for Kids Day, and the Conesus Lake Association Arts and Crafts Festival.

Hop Manapol, a member of the Geneseo Town Board, took it upon himself to spearhead the beautification of Long Point Park in 2004, making the park a more attractive and tranquil location for families to enjoy. Hop and assistance from the Geneseo Garden Club members, have allowed the beautiful gardens at the park to flourish.

With limited resources, Hop was able to attract people to the park again, using the grounds for receptions, reunions, organization meetings, weddings and relaxation as it was when the park was founded. Hop also recognized the great history of the park, and in 2008 he started gathering artifacts from Long Point Park and around Conesus Lake. He created a museum at the former LaGrou Family cottage, renamed in memory of Walter Kingston Jr. Nearby schools started to take field trips to Long Point to learn about the history of the park and experience it's beauty.

In 2015, the Town Board of Geneseo formed a Long Point Park Master Plan Committee to develop a plan for the future of Long Point. The Committee was inaugurated in January of 2015, and finished its work in December of 2015. The town will be writing a new chapter in Long Point Park History as they are looking to better utilize Long Point Park – year round, with developments to be suggested by the soon to be appointed steering committee. Stay tuned...

Please note: the information we have posed is accurate as of the March 23, 2016. New historical discoveries are found each day, which could alter this material. As new discoveries are made, we will update our findings to reflect the most accurate information that you may find. For the most accurate and complete information on Long Point Park History, we suggest that you speak with the Town Of Geneseo's honorary Long Point historian – Lore DiSalvo