Summer in Aurora, 2008 - another great Aurorafest parade float mocks the pleasant fanatics.

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The National Associated Press Story of Fall 2007 began this way...

On the eastern shores of Cayuga Lake lies a tiny village of enchanting beauty and charm.  Early settlers called it the village of constant dawn and it evokes that feeling today -- historic, lakeside mansions dusted in a kind of timeless glow, a red-brick inn with gleaming white porches, ivy-clad buildings rising from the stately lawns of Wells College.  Even the village market, where exquisitely perched baskets overflow with ripe tomatoes and eggplants, seems almost too good to be true.  For some who live here, it is.  "How polished we are now, how shiny," says village historian Sheila Edmunds. "But at what cost?"

The village of 700, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was anything but shiny six years ago. Paint peeled off old mansions, the inn struggled to stay open and the college struggled with enrollments. And then a wealthy benefactress swept in, bringing money and promises and a stirring vision of the future. She bought some buildings and tore others down. She moved houses and businesses and trees. She buried power lines. She spent $2 million on a lavish refurbishing of college interiors. She rattled the village to its core. "It wasn't restoration," says music teacher Karen Hindenlang of the changes, which tore apart old friendships and rankled neighborly goodwill. "It was a descent to madness."

Randi Zabriskie, owner of Jane Morgan's Little House clothing store, says it unleashed nothing short of a war.  "It was like this great white Arabian horse came walking through our village and little houseflies jumped on it -- sad, diminished people who didn't understand that this place was going to dust and she saved it."

The savior was Pleasant Rowland of Madison, Wisconsin, who made her fortune creating The American Girl doll -- pricey toys with homespun historical biographies.  Today, debate still simmers. Did the doll tycoon save Aurora?  Or in attempting to restore and recreate it, did she transform the village into a glossy historical caricature that somehow lost its soul? ...

[Read the rest of the story here.]

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This page created August 2008.