William P. Letchworth was looking for the perfect site for a country retreat where he could entertain his family and friends. One morning in the spring of 1858 he stepped off a train as it slowly approached a bridge high above the Genesee River . Standing on the bridge, he was touched by the natural beauty of the powerful river rushing below. Gazing at the falls, he noticed that the sun shining on the spray below formed a perfect rainbow.
While walking along the left bank of the river, Letchworth found a large two-story frame house located near the remains of the a burned-out lumber mill. Owned by Michael Smith, the house had been built by Alva Palmer in 1828. The view was spectacular, and as he gazed toward the South overlooking the falls, he knew he had found his country retreat.
Letchworth acquired the house in February, 1859 and immediately began renovations. The local Indians had named the area “An-de-ka-ga-kwa”, meaning “the place where the sun lingers”, and it has been said through Indian lore that when the sun passes over the glen it pauses a moment longer there than at any other part of the valley. Inspired by this, Letchworth chose the word “Iris”, a synonym for “rainbow”, and named his estate the Glen Iris.
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