Dr. Edwin Eldridge moved to Elmira, New York in 1857. He purchased a parcel of land with a lake and created a beautful sculpture garden. Eldridge died in 1876 and the land lay dormant until the City of Elmira purchased the property in 1889.)
What Central Park is to New York, Fairmount is to Philadelphia, and the Common and public gardens are to Boston; this garden of beautiful things is to Elmira. When w reflect that the city is growing with almost unexampled rapidity, and will soon surround the loveliest retreats with crowding houses and places of business, we see in a new light. the taste and foresight of the gentleman whose liberal hand has wrought these wonders.
Photograph by W. T. Purviance, circa 1875 for The Scenery of the Erie Railway. Courtesy of the Barnes Library, Elmira.
The passenger on the Erie Railroad, as he leaves Elmira for the west, passes, as he emerges into the open country, a miniature lake, a velvety lawn, with statues, fountains, magnificent drives, neat buildings and ponds. To his inquiry, reply is made that this is Eldridge Park.The drive to the park is through a willow-bordered avenue leading up to a broad English gateway, with its gate open; no hostile warder warning one away from its loveliness. Passing through this gateway, we see just in front, under the shadow of a large tree, three mounds surrounding a jetting fountain. On two of these mounds stand white statues of the only two seasons known in this climate, and on the third the figure of a deer, which stands as if ready to seek freedom beyond the inclosure. Before us is the circular lake, of about fifteen acres in extent, encircled by a necklace of willow-trees. Around this is a splendid drive, while right and left wind roads in most enticing curves, and views of beauty startle the eye at every step. Turning on the firm gravel to the left, we drive past a boat lying close to the beach, where the lapping waves make a low and peaceful murmur, and delightful vistas are just through the trees, while opposite is the statue of Andromeda, the daughter of Cepheus, king of Ethiopia; her mother, Cassiope, boasted of beauty superior to the Nereids. As a punishment for such presumption, Andromeda was chained to a rock in the sea, to be devoured by a sea monster. She was rescued by Perseus, who, after a desperate conflict, slew the monster, and claimed her as his bride. This is a fine copy of a statue by Lawrence McDonald, and which belongs to Queen Victoria. It adorns the Queen’s palace, at Osborne, Isle of Wight.
Rounding the delightful curves and viewing the slopes, skirted by emerald escarpments, whence shoot at every turn sweet surprises, we pass the bowed form of another statue, "Contemplation," who, with pensive head, seems to review the long past.
As we reach the top of the plateau we gaze off over a delightful vista of lake and trees, of flowery nooks, and white, gleaming statues, sparkling fountains, wild dells, beds of flowers, stately trees, and delightful arbors, and a paradise it seems before us; beyond is Sabrina, and over the trees the lake; around us a spacious lawn inclosing another basin, where, as if floating in her boat of shells, stands the "Maid of the Mist," just risen from the sea; a veil of thinnest gauze, air woven from the myriad drops that shoot upwards around her, half-hiding her beautiful form. As we turn, a rainbow kindles the mist, as if Iris herself was hiding there, and the maid is transformed into some aerial being.
It was an experiment, throwing these choice grounds open to the public. It is a compliment to the taste and good sense of the public that this confidence is not abused. No articles are sold within its inclosure, and one annoying drop in almost every cup of bliss is banished from here.
The streetcars run to the park. The grounds comprise some two hundred acres.
From HISTORY OF TIOGA, CHEMUNG, TOMPKINS & SCHUYLER COUNTIES, NEW YORK by Everts & Ensign, Philadelphia, 1879.