Few villages in Upstate New York have the cache of Seneca Falls. As home to the Women’s Rights National Historical Park and the likely inspiration for “Bedford Falls” in It’s A Wonderful Life, this place has a unique appeal that’s not found in most towns five times its size.
I could easily have spent a full day exploring the historic places in Seneca Falls. The eastern face of the Women’s Rights NHP visitor center features an engraved version of the Declaration of Sentiments along with the names of the women who signed it. The village contains the homes of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Amelia Bloomer among other sites important to the suffrage movement. But between Covid restrictions and a rambunctious toddler, we decided that this wasn’t the right time for a day long history lesson.
I found the Ludovico Sculpture Trail while searching for outdoor activities within an hour’s drive of Ithaca. The name and lack of official website intrigued me and led me to add it to a long list of potential stay-cation ideas.
As a place that was free, open, and outdoors, we decided to check it out. We parked at the eastern end of the trail near Bridge Street and set out to see what we could see.
The only other place of this sort I had encountered was in Chelsea, Michigan. The Chelsea Sculpture Walk was more of a community exposition of contemporary sculpture and less of a trail. I recall the dozen or so sculptures were arranged roughly within a block or two on either side of Main Street.
The Ludovico Sculpture Trail is built on the old Lehigh Valley railroad and closely follows the Cayuga-Seneca Canal. (This canal spurred the development of Seneca Falls and connected it to the Erie Canal.) The trail is grassy, level, wide, lined by mature trees, and offered good views of the waterway.
A trio of sculpted female faces graced the entrance. These women were the village’s first female mayor, the village’s first female police officer and New York’s first female senator: Hillary Clinton. This seemed a thoughtful way to connect the history of Seneca Falls’ suffrage movement with the present.
As we ventured further down the trail it became clear that the trail had intentionally chosen female artists and installations that represented the history and culture of the area. Only a few feet into the trail we found a sculpture of Amelia Bloomer, a prominent figure in the women’s rights movement.
Much of the sculpture was representational, depicting individuals or composites, for example, a pair of sculptures of immigrant canal-diggers. A few notable abstract works stood out, such as “Bacchus” (below), a work that connects the viewer to the region’s viticulture.
The trail’s namesake, Frank J. Ludovico, donated the property for the development of the trail in 1999. While it seems that there was some local opposition to the trail at the outset, it now appears to have been embraced by the Seneca Falls community. The trail was clean and in good condition for our visit.
While the sculpture trail probably isn’t on most Seneca Falls visitors’ must-see lists, it proved to be the perfect pandemic-friendly mix of cultural enrichment and outdoor recreation.