New York is a state filled with history dating back millennia thanks to the many Native American tribes that lived in the state prior to European settlement. Unfortunately, though, much of this history isn’t preserved for visitors to explore.
However, the state is home to several great places to learn Native American history, and one such spot is Ganondagan State Historic Spot near Victor in Ontario County, New York.
Ganondagan State Historic Site, also known as Boughton Hill, preserves and tells the story of a Seneca village that was destroyed by the French in the late 17th century. Prior to its destruction, Ganondagan was the largest Seneca village and is said to be where the Iroquois Confederacy was born.
Today, visitors can explore a museum, go into a recreated longhouse to learn how the people here lived, and hike trails that wind their way through this important land.
Visits to Ganondagan State Historic Site start in the visitor center, which was just completed in 2015. Known as the Seneca Art and Culture Center, this large building features a variety of exhibits that cover topics including Seneca culture, the Iroquois Confederacy, and the destruction of the village in 1687.
The museum is really well done and offers a great overview of the importance of the site and what life was like for the Seneca in the 17th century. There is also a video that tells the story of the attack on the village and the impact it had on Native American history that’s definitely worth taking the time to watch.
In addition to the video in the main display area of the museum, there is also a very well-done 15-minute film that showcases the Iroquois Creation Story. While this story doesn’t have anything specific to do with Ganondagan, it does offer a really fascinating look into the history and culture of the Iroquois Confederacy.
While the museum is fantastic, the real highlight of Ganondagan State Historic Site is the recreated longhouse.
Constructed in the late 1990s, this longhouse was built using many traditional techniques and helps to tell the story of what life was like for Seneca tribespeople in the late 17th century.
This 65-foot building would have been occupied by one large family of Seneca and could have slept many people within the extended family.
Inside, the space is filled with many recreated items that the Seneca would have owned during this time period, including both traditional items and items that would have been traded with Europeans and other Native American tribes.
Guides walk visitors through the site, explaining both Seneca culture and how many of the items would have been used.
While the entire site is interesting, the longhouse was definitely the spot where I felt like I learned the most about the significance of the site and Seneca culture. While it’s hard to imagine what it would have looked like with up to 150 of these homes on the site, it’s great to get a glimpse into this piece of American history.
While there are no other created buildings at Ganondagan, the large site, as well as the adjoining Fort Hill, featuring several miles of hiking trails that go through what was once a large Native American village.
Some of these trails feature signage that tells the story of the area while others are simply beautiful walks through the woods, but they all allow visitors to get a feel for this historic site.
While I highly recommend visiting the site and paying the admission fee to see the museum and the interior of the longhouse, there is no admission charged for visitors to walk the trails here.
Overall, Ganondagan State Historic Site is a fantastic spot to stop to learn about the history of Native Americans in New York. Whether you are looking for a short trip from Rochester, traveling I-90 across the state, or are exploring this portion of the Finger Lakes, I definitely recommend checking out this historic destination.
Ganondagan State Historic Site
Hours: Wednesday-Saturday: 9a-4p
Cost: Adults: $8, Children: $2
Address: 1488 NY-444