Sonnenberg Gardens Japanese Garden Tea House

Sonnenberg Gardens and Mansion

Sonnenberg Gardens is an exceptional example of the lavish wealth and philanthropy of the Gilded Age. Like the mansions in Newport, Rhode Island, Sonnenberg was a summer home for Frederick, the founder of First National Bank (now City Bank) and his wife, Mary, who grew up in Canandaigua and whose father was Governor of New York State.

I found it fascinating that Mary and her traveling party had tickets to sail home to the United States on the RMS Titanic April 14, 1912. She changed her plans and decided to stay in Europe a bit longer.

Sonnenberg Gardens tram mansion

Getting Around Sonnenberg Gardens

Once you’ve parked and come through admissions, the park is free to explore. You could either view the map as a literal step-by-step guide or wander aimlessly and see what you can discover on your own. The main roads through the 50-acre property are paved and easily walkable. Some of the places you can explore, like the Tea Garden and the Rock Garden, are accessed by windy, uneven footpaths. There are also trams available that can take you anywhere in the park, but are especially useful getting from the entrance to the mansion and back. The drivers are excited to share details and stories as you drive along.

Sonnenberg Gardens tram

Sonnenberg Gardens turret

40 Public Gardens
Around Rochester

Inside Sonnenberg Gardens Mansion

You can explore two of the three floors in the mansion. Unlike other historic homes where most of the space is roped off, you are pretty free to explore every detail up close. With the exception of a few notes to please not touch or sit, you could almost make yourself at home! These are just a few pictures I fell in love with while wandering around:

Sonnenberg Gardens bedroom window

Looking out over the Italian Garden

There is a bedroom porch on the second floor that offers a perfect view of the gardens below.

Sonnenberg Gardens garden view

Sonnenberg Gardens view

The Italian Garden (1903)

Sonnenberg Gardens Italian garden walkway

Sonnenberg Gardens Italian Garden path

The Rose Garden (1906)

Sonnenberg Gardens Italian Rose Garden

Sonnenberg Gardens metal structure

The Old-Fashioned Garden (1906)

Sonnenberg Gardens Old Fashioned Garden

The Blue & White Garden (1912)

Sonnenberg Gardens fountain

The Japanese Garden & Tea House (1906)

Sonnenberg Gardens Japanese Tea Garden

Sonnenberg Gardens Japanese Tea House

Sonnenberg Gardens Tea Garden Buddha

The Sub-Rosa (1907)

Sonnenberg Gardens Sub Roas

Sonnenberg Gardens dragon fountain

The Greenhouse Conservatory Complex (1915)

The glass conservatory is an example of Lord & Burnham’s extraordinary work. Their portfolio includes the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens, where they were contracted by Frederick Law Olmsted during the development of Cazenovia and South Parks.

Sonnenberg Gardens Conservatory

43 New York State Parks
Within a 2-Hour Drive

The Rock Garden (1920)

Sonnenberg Gardens rock garden path

Sonnenberg Gardens stone bridge

Spend a Day in the
Finger Lakes Region

Finger Lakes Wine Center

The 1911 stained glass Tiffany-style window was crafted by the Pike Stained Glass Studio in Rochester, NY. William Pike, founded the company in Rochester in 1908, after working for Louis Comfort Tiffany in New York City. Enjoy a wine tasting, for a small fee, in their tasting cellar located near the parking lot. Learn more

Sonnenberg Gardens Abundance

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