Knox Farm State Park- The stables remain intact at the East Aurora park which was prominently known for their horses.
The sun is shining on Knox Farm - From left to right: Renee Oubre, Jean Knox, Gerald L. Halligan.
Cicadas hum and birds chirp as the wind blows through the greenery of the picturesque landscape of Knox Farm. The 633 acres of the state park in East Aurora has been toured and visited by thousands of visitors. Gerald L. Halligan and Renee M. Oubre co-authored a book entitled “Knox Farm State Park” and will hold a book signing at the Hamburg Public Library on July 29 and at the Erie County Fair on August 11, 15 and 17.
I met Halligan and Oubre for an interview on the farm; it was a beautiful day and luckily I was able to meet Jean Knox, widow of the late Seymour Knox III. The two authors worked closely with Jean during the development of the book.
“We had to have conversations with Jean. You can read a tour or you can read a history book about the Knox family. That’s totally different than sitting down and having a conversation with a person who actually lived in that time, that era. You get that story, and that’s precious,” said Halligan. He described Jean as an artist and her longing for the farm to become a permanent green space, a haven for wildlife, was in a sense, a form of art. “This (farm) is a living testament to her vision.”
Jean was lively and warm-hearted as she spoke to me about the family history and progression of the farm. When her brother-in-law, Northrup Knox, was ill they discussed the farm and what was to become of it.
“I said to him “It’s 80 years from now and we’re both dead…what do you want this place to be?” And he said: “well, I want it to be exactly the way it is now” and I said “well, so do I, let’s try to make it a park,” Jean said with a laugh, as she looked around at her accomplishment. The Knox Farm became a monument of preservation.
The book took about a year and a half to finish. It is a blend of multiple tours: Jean’s tour while living on the farm, the Friends of Knox Farm tour and one that sits as a visual aide in the Visitor Center. The book serves as a self-guided tour, with the compilation of information, imagery and a map. The book is comprised of photos, both vintage and contemporary, in addition to a forward by Seymour H. Knox IV.
The farm stretches far in a triangular shape and holds highlight spots among the vast stretch of land; the horse stables, the Lord & Burnham green house, and the Zen Garden, to name a few. Ellen Biddle Shipman designed the landscaping on the property. In her time she was considered the dean of landscape architecture and was particularly known for her extensive knowledge of plants. Her landscapes stayed fruitful throughout the changing seasons, otherwise known as the “perpetual-bloom effect.” The book has pictures and captions describing the Shipman gardens. She also designed a folly so that while standing at the lower pond, one sees the reflection of the main house that sits at a distance above. In a nostalgic reverie, Jean described the natural beauty of the farm while she lived there. “At one time it was a fly way for the geese,” she said. Every morning 250 geese would fly through” and she would watch in wonderment. Bits of information such as this are now permanently recorded into book form and give visitors an even more in-depth perception of the back-story.
Special events are currently held on the scenic farm; most notable is the “Tapas on the Terrace.” Guests dine on the terrace of the main house then take in a concert performed by the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra playing on the open field nearby.
Halligan gives credit and much gratitude to the Friends of Knox Farm for their support. The book will be sold at major booksellers, such as Barnes & Noble, local bookstores, Walgreens, Wegmans and A.C. Moore. However, any books purchased directly through the friendsofknoxpark.org web site will help the preservation of the farm since those proceeds will go directly to the cause.
“If you don’t believe in anything, you have to believe that there’s something out there that is unseen that we don’t know about,” said Jean Knox. Gerry Halligan and Renee Oubre uncover the previously unknown stories about Knox Farm State Park and present it as the Knox family was and is: dignified and humble.
The Hamburg Public Library is located at 102 Buffalo St.