Out on the wrap around porch of this old hotel, I look out over the quaint little town and the sun rising over Cassadaga Lake. I sit in a big ol’ rocking chair, worn smooth by time and use. There are no creaks, no rough edges. It’s chartreuse velvet cushion, near worn through, looks as though it may have been here cushioning guests all these many years. I am reminded of times long since passed. Visions of young women in their full bathing suits swimming at the lake, and of horse-drawn carriages trotting down the narrow streets bringing folks home, dressed in their finest, from the evenings dance, float though my mind.
The hotel itself is not in bad condition considering it’s more than 130 year age. I’d be happy to hold up as well. The foyer shows off some portraits of Lily Dale’s founding sisters, a large check-in desk running the full length of the back wall, and a case full of books that smell as old as they appear. In the adjacent sitting room there are more time worn seats, ones whose padding has wasted away and left divots where thousands of people have sat before me. There is a large tapestry on one wall, covered by glass to keep it from further deteriorating. It is reported to have been hand sown by blind Mollie Fancher while in a trance. It is a delicate and beautiful piece of artistry.
I am sure it was grand in its day, and the main floor foyer does a good job at alluding to its history, but these days the Maplewood Hotel has more of a big dormitory feel than that of the grand hotel it once was. The rooms are small and sparse. Some have only a sink with running water, meaning you have to use a common washroom and shower. I stay in a single room, without shower and toilet, and at a rate of only $34 a night, I’ll gladly share the facilities.
The walls are paper-thin. I can hear the gentleman next door singing to some rubbish 70’s song. Oh and not just singing, he’s been chanting at some points as well. That is what had me awake at one o’clock this morning. But not just him. I can also hear the lady three doors down having a chat on her cell phone. Even with just the one side of the conversation I can tell that she isn’t happy and that this is supposed to be her weekend retreat, a time to relax and get away from all the chaos she left back at home. Her getaway does not seem to be working for her. There is also a man snoring, I can hear him but slightly, in the room adjacent to the lady on the cell phone. I am thankful to be on the third floor as that means there are no others to be heard above me.
Lily Dale was founded as a spiritualist community. It is renowned as the “world’s largest center for the science, philosophy, and religion of spiritualism.” Thousands of people flock here every year in search of answers, looking to communicate with long deceased love ones, or hoping to be guided by spirit. Why did I come here? After meeting Ellen at an event at the Fairmont Royal York many years ago, I was intrigued by the community full of mediums, psychics and spirit workers she talked about. I wanted to come and see it all myself. On my first trip here I was so excited and wanted to experience all Lily Dale had to offer. I came, but did none of the many activities offered. I did not go to inspiration stump, or on a fairy walk, attend a service or have a reading of any kind. I did nothing, and I loved it.
There are no distractions, no chores to be done, no children to care for. There is no television or radio, no computer or internet. Even the occasional cell phone seems completely out of place. I can sit here on this porch, in this rocking chair with its worn cushion, and waste the day away. The breeze off the lake blows gently to caress my soul and lift my spirit.