Sonnenberg Gardens

151 Charlotte St., Canandaigua, New York

The summer home of Frederick and Mary Thompson of New York City


Deer Park & South Lawn

Your first view of the South Lawn is when you enter through the Charlotte Avenue gate. It is only a hint of the treasures you will soon experience.

Photo taken by J.R. Manning in October 2020




Frederick Thompson was a founder and a director of the First National Bank (today's Citibank.) The Thompsons bought a farm in Mrs. Thompson's hometown of Canandaigua that overlooked Canandaigua Lake. They replaced the farmhouse with the forty room, Queen Anne mansion.

After the unexpected death of Frederick, Mrs. Thompson began the development of the remarkable gardens between 1903 and 1920. Mrs. Thompson built the first privately owned Japanese Garden in North America. She also cancelled her reservation on the HMS Titanic so she and her friends could attend a flower show.

The Thompsons were childless, so when Mrs. Thompson died in 1923, the estate passed to her nephew, Emory Clark. In 1931, Clark sold Sonnenberg to the US Government and the Canandaigua VA Hospital was built on the adjacent farmland. The mansion was used to house doctors and nurses. In 1973, the mansion and gardens were acquired by the State of New York and the gates were opened to the public. In 2005, it became a state park.

National Register information 

Posted to the National Register of Historic Places on September 28, 1973
Reference number
Areas of significance
Landscape Architecture; Architecture
Level of significance
Evaluation criteria
C - Design/Construction
Property type
Historic functions
Single dwelling; Forest
Current functions
Hospital; Park; Forest
Periods of significance
1900-1924; 1875-1899
Significant years
1887; 1900
Number of properties
Contributing buildings: 1
Contributing sites: 9


19th Century (37,860)
Built 1887 (619)
Built during 1880s (6,489)
Canandaigua, New York (14)
Ernest Bowditch (2)
House (27,660)
K. Wadamori (1)
New York (6,188)
Ontario County, New York (66)
Private owner (54,398)
Slate (5,715)
Stone (26,160)

Update Log 

  • January 11, 2021: New photos from J.R. Manning
  • January 11, 2021: Updated by J.R. Manning: Updated status, added description, and added photos