Lily Dale Assembly: Architecture and Community-Building

Lily Dale Architecture library

The Lily Dale library was built in 1924

The second half of the 19th century was a time when progressive ideas and religious movements took hold in the United States. In the 1870s, a group of Spiritualists and Liberals began to meet in Laona, NY to discuss their beliefs and to practice healing and mediumship. They began to meet at the nearby Alden farm, eventually expanding their day-long conferences into lengthier summer gatherings. In 1879 the Spiritualist Society of Laona purchased 20 acres along Cassadaga Lake to found what would later become known as the Lily Dale Assembly. As time went on, this Spiritualist camp became a strong community.

Lily Dale Maplewood Hotel

An early photo of the Maplewood Hotel, when it had a two story wrap around porch

As the Spiritualist movement grew, more people were drawn to Lily Dale. An increasing amount of events and activities brought more and more visitors. In 1880 the hotel that is now known as the Maplewood Hotel was built, overlooking Cassadaga Lake, to accommodate the crowds expected for the camp meeting. Lily Dale became a stop on the Dunkirk, Allegheny Valley and Pittsburg railway in 1871, resulting in further expansion of the community.

Lily Dale Architecture Assembly Hall

The Assembly Hall was built in 1888

A permanent auditorium for services and meetings was built in 1883. It was remodeled in 1901 with a seating capacity of 1,200. A variety of other buildings were built in the 1880s and 1890s, including the Octagon Building, the Assembly Hall, the Pagoda, the Forest Temple, the Post Office, and various cottages. The Assembly Hall contained the Lily Dale library until the Marion H. Skidmore Library was built in 1924. In 1928 the Andrew Jackson Davis Lyceum was built to house the Spiritualist Sunday School, in which children six and older were taught about Spiritualism. It was named after the preeminent American Spiritualist Davis, who was an early proponent of  Spiritualism.

Lily Dale old parkBy 1894 there were over 200 cottages, with about 40 families living on the grounds year-round. As the practice of Spiritualism gained notoriety, well-known figures began to visit Lily Dale, including Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Mae West, Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, Mohandas Gandhi, and suffragette Susan B. Anthony.

Lily Dale Architecture 3 houses parkThe dominant architectural style in Lily Dale is Victorian, as many of the buildings and homes were built in the late 1800s. The beautiful Victorian style of the buildings transports the visitor back to an earlier time in American history.

All land in Lily Dale is owned by the Assembly, but houses can be purchased as leasehold properties. To own a house in Lily Dale, the buyer must be a member of the Lily Dale Assembly. One of the qualifications for Assembly membership is being a part of a recognized Spiritualist church for at least one year. In this way, the Lily Dale community remains true to its Spiritualist philosophy.

Lily Dale Community slideshow

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In this series, we explore different facets of Lily Dale Assembly and Spiritualism:

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6 thoughts on “Lily Dale Assembly: Architecture and Community-Building

  1. Pingback: Lily Dale Assembly: 19th Century Reform and Revival in Western New York | The Supernatural Fox Sisters

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  3. Pingback: Lily Dale Assembly: Spiritualist Practices in the 19th and 20th Centuries | The Supernatural Fox Sisters

  4. Pingback: Lily Dale Assembly: Home of America’s Oldest Pet Cemetery | The Supernatural Fox Sisters

  5. Pingback: Lily Dale Assembly: How the World’s Largest Spiritualist Center Came to Be | The Supernatural Fox Sisters

  6. Pingback: Lily Dale Assembly: Leolyn Woods and Being One with Nature | The Supernatural Fox Sisters

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