Some of the Cottages of Chautauqua

It has been gray and rainy all week but yesterday, between rainstorms, I grabbed some morning free time to explore Chautauqua. The website for the Chautauqua Institution gives this description of the community:

Chautauqua Institution is a community on the shores of Chautauqua Lake in southwestern New York state that comes alive each summer with a unique mix of fine and performing arts, lectures, interfaith worship and programs, and recreational activities. Over the course of nine weeks, more than 100,000 visitors will stay at Chautauqua and participate in programs, classes and community events for all ages—all within the beautiful setting of a historic lakeside village.

Self-improvement through lifelong learning was at the heart of the impulse that motivated Americans and founded Chautauqua in 1874. Chautauqua’s tradition of self-improvement through lifelong learning continues today through a variety of programs aimed at the exploration and exchange of ideas in an atmosphere that encourages civil discourse.

There are communities like Chautauqua scattered around the country, all founded with the same ideals in mind; Oak Bluffs in Massachusetts and DeFuniak Springs in Florida, among them. Chautauqua, where I am, was the first, and the word ‘chautauqua’ was often used to describe other communities in this movement.

Besides the obvious draw of speakers and music and theater and opportunities for learning, the Victorian cottages that sprang up in Chautauqua are a feast for the eyes. These homes are often held onto through succeeding generations. Some are summer homes. But there is also a year-round community here of about 300 residents. In the summer, the numbers jump to the tens of thousands.

I took some photos yesterday to give you an idea of why I am gasping every time I walk down a narrow path or road. It’s gorgeous here.

chautauqua - cottages

chautauqua - cottagewithyellowdoor

chautauqua - cottagewithshades

chautauqua - cottagewithstripedawnings

chautauqua - the bowery

Lots of the cottages have names, like this one.

chautauqua - favorite porch

Almost all of them have incredible porches with wicker furniture and charming details. This one? I fell in love. Check out the blue wicker chair, the shutters around the blue door, that table with framed photo, the cupboard on the wall. Sigh.

chautauqua - farmhousestyle

This farmhouse-style cottage had an incredible cottage garden. You can see the white wicker chairs on the porch. And if you look a little closer, you’ll see this:

chautauqua - pinkwicker

That pink wicker rocker is calling my name. Adorable!

chautauqua - cottageconstruction

There’s lots of construction and landscaping going on right now. The ‘season’ here starts in 10 days or so. I wish I could have captured what was inside the front door of this cottage. I could see a new vintage-y looking kitchen island with beautiful pendant lighting.

These narrow cottages really evoke the Chautauqua movement for me. I’ve seen countless photos of them over the years.

chautauqua - pinkcottage

Here’s a perfect example. Could you die? The gingerbread, the upper balcony, the charming screen door….it’s like a dollhouse!

chautauqua - signs

There are shops, lecture halls, restaurants and all of it is on the shores of Chautauqua Lake.

Heaven. I could live here quite easily and I told Don that in no uncertain terms.

More later. I have a day off tomorrow and it just might be sunny.

Happy Saturday.


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  1. says

    What a darling place, I love the purple cottage. It’s quite striking. It was so cold here yesterday I turned my electric blanket on. I thought summer was supposed to be on it’s way??

  2. jeannine says

    Thank you for taking us along on the trip with you! I do not think I would have a problem living there either :-) The cottages remind me of Cape May, NJ.

  3. Judy says

    Thank you so much for the tour…and for making me jealous.
    Need to go thrift shopping for a lamp to put on my back porch like the white house with awnings.
    Great porch and garden ideas. Love the colors.

    • Claudia says

      I know…so many ideas! I love the way the porch is king here and people decorate them for comfort and everyday living.

  4. Tana says

    I’ve seen pictures and read about Chautauqua and have always thought how I would love to go there one summer. Remember the movie “UP” and how all the dogs would stop what they were doing when someone said “squirrel!”? That is exactly what I did when looking at those beautiful homes and I read the word “dollhouse”.

  5. Vanessa Bower says

    This is very much like Bay View near Petoskey, Michigan. During the late 1800’s the Methodist decided to build a Victorian cultural community in the Little Travers Bay Area. Just as in Chautauqua, the summer cottages are passed down to family members and are oh so adorable. Unfortunately the area is laden with security and not very accepting of strangers/tourists/myself taking pictures of the cottages or gardens. (Boo on the meanies.) The community still offers cultural events during the summer months and is quite popular.
    I’m glad that you’re enjoying yourself and able to post. I can’t wait to see more photos of Chautauqua.
    Enjoy the day,

    • Claudia says

      I know of Bay View, Vanessa. There are gates in and out of Chautauqua and when the season starts we’ll all have to carry Gate Passes.

  6. Janet in Rochester says

    Victorian cottage style is SO pretty. Especially now when modern residential architecture doesn’t seem to include porches or any kind of ornamentation at all. I think I have four different “coffee table” books on porches and LOVE looking through them. How lucky are you? For several weeks, you get to live smack in the middle of a “bygone era!” Enjoy! And rake lots of pix!

  7. Chris k in Wisconsin says

    What a wonderful spot in which you have landed for a few weeks. If one has to work, (and we all do!) this looks like an ideal spot for sure! I bet you wish Don and Scout were with you to walk and gaze! Hope you have a great day off tomorrow and that you can be outside to enjoy it. Thanks for sharing with us!!

  8. Donnamae says

    Beautiful homes…lots of wonderful detail! I could so see you and Don living there…obviously you could too! At the very least…you should find a wicker chair…and spray it a memorable color! I can see why you are having fun…that place just oozes charm! 😉

  9. Sandra Hunt says

    Here in Gladstone, Oregon we have a Chautauqua Festival. This area is so much younger than the east coast, but is still rich with history. Here is a link to information about our Chautauqua. I have to say the cottages in Chautauqua, New York are divine. I drooled when I saw them. Really enjoyed this post.

  10. Nancy Blue Moon says

    Oh my Claudia..those wonderful “dollhouse” homes..and all those beautiful colors..I think I shall swoon like the Victorian too can see you living there..The temperature here yesterday was a humid 84 degrees and even the cats were lying in front of the it is a cool 63 degrees..strange June weather indeed..

  11. says

    Hi Claudia,

    Well, this is PURE story book whimsy and fun! I’ll take the charmer with the butter yellow shutters, powder blue door and window frames, and pretty green flower boxes, thank you! This is one of the most dreamy and delightful homes I’ve ever seen and the town sounds idyllic; a plethora of artistic celebration, indeed! Thanks for sharing …the post – the house, is another matter!;))

    Happy weekend!


    • Claudia says

      That’s the cottage I loved the most, too. Such a wonderful color combination on that porch!

  12. says

    Oh what a gorgeous place to get to spend two weeks in!! Those cottages are just breathtaking! Looks like lots of gingerbread work. So pretty. Hope you have some time to roam around. Have you been to the miniature shop yet? Drool, drool.


  13. Nancy Moreland says

    Love all the cottages, would not be hard to live there. have a wonderful time!

  14. LauraC says

    What a lovely place! I live in western NY (Rochester) and yet I have never been there.

      • LauraC says

        I don’t suppose that you want to make a pit stop in the Rochester area (Webster) on your return trip? If you ever are in this neck of the woods and want to stop, let me know. I would love to meet you!

  15. Annie G says

    Such beauty! Thanks for sharing and I think it is delightful that you are getting to experience this and have a gig at the same time.

    • Claudia says

      If you looked up the definition of ‘charming’ in the dictionary, you’d see a picture of Chautauqua.

  16. Nancy says

    I would like to thank you for sharing your experiences with us, Claudia. You write and photograph so well; it’s the next best thing to being there.

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