Monday, August 9, 2010

Aurora and Pleasant (part 1).

(Pleasant's Main Street home)

Sometime last week I got an email from my mom that said, "Are you all through with postings of the trip? You took soooooooooooooooooooo many pictures, I keep waiting for more!!!" So Mom, this one's for you ...

In central New York there is a charming little village along the banks of Lake Cayuga called Aurora. It is the home of Wells College which, until 2005, was an all girls school founded in 1868 by Henry Wells, who also started two other little companies you may have heard of: Wells-Fargo and the American Express Company. (I know.)

In 1980 Aurora was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Well, one certain alumna of Wells College came into a bit of money and decided that she wanted to restore the village of Aurora, which she loved. So from 2001-2007 redevelopment of historic properties took place by this entrepreneur whose name is Pleasant Rowland.

Maybe you have heard of her ... Pleasant Rowland? As in the Pleasant Company, as in The American Girl doll company? That's her.

Pleasant sold her doll company in 1998 to another company, who knew a good thing when they saw it, and who were willing to pay a pretty penny for it.

You've probably heard of them too: Mattel? They bought Pleasant Company for $770 million dollars. I can hardly even wrap my brain around that number - 770 million dollars. Together, with Wells College, Pleasant founded the Aurora Foundation and started her restoration dream of bringing the town "back to life", beginning with the Aurora Inn on Main Street.

My mother just loves Aurora (and loves American Girl dolls, but that is really beside the point) and she loves real estate, renovations, and historic preservation, so on one of her visits to Aurora she became acquainted with Pleasant's "girl Friday" and they became friends. She told my mom about Pleasant's sincere desire to restore the town's historic character and beauty and also to improve the local economy.

Well, Pleasant received praise from some for her efforts, but harsh criticism from others who felt that the Foundation was too quick to renovate some of the historic structures and did not follow necessary review procedures. Critics also complained that Pleasant had not been accessible for consultation with the community. It became hard for her to even come into Aurora, so in May of 2007 she ended her association with Wells College (who owns half the land in town) and shut down the Aurora Foundation.

That story makes me a little sad. But fortunately, most of the redevelopment was completed and I would have to say that the historic character, charm and beauty definitely abounds in Aurora, just like Pleasant hoped it would.

Not too far up the road, on the outskirts of the village, is an incredible stop called MacKenzie-Childs. Have you heard of MacKenzie-Childs ......


  1. I wanted an american girl doll more than anything when I was in 5th grade. I read the book religiously and adored Samantha- the little victorian brunette! Every Christmas I asked for one but Santa always forgot. Years later, when I asked why I never got one, I found out that my dad was too cheap to buy one (even though he bought the boys expensive nintentos). Even now, I'd still love one! HA!

  2. I do loooove my Samantha doll. ;)How do you know all this info? Smart lil' mama.