Exploring Upstate guest contributor Jacalyn Meyvis visits Lyons, New York to learn about H.G. Hotchkiss and how he become one of the largest producers of peppermint oil in the world
Lyons, the Peppermint Village, is a small town located in Wayne County, about 50 minutes from the heart of Rochester. I highly recommend taking the backs roads, which is only a few minutes longer than I-90 (and no tolls)!
I met with Patty Alena, historian and president of Lyons Heritage Society. The Lyons Heritage Society owns and manages the historic H.G Hotchkiss Essential Oil building located on the Erie Canal. The building is registered with both the State and National registries.
In 1841, on the newly completed Erie Canal, Hiram Hotchkiss began the H.G Hotchkiss Essential Oil Company. During the late 1800s, with hard work from 90% of the local farmers, he bottled the peppermint oil and sold it internationally, while winning numerous awards for purity and quality. He became the world’s leading distributor.
In 1990, Patty started the Lyons Heritage Society and the Lyons Peppermint Days. She is a retired American history teacher and now runs the H.G Hotchkiss Essential Oil building. She says, “this is my thing.”
The museum is full of the once booming companies’ belongings. Including beautiful bottles, labels (I love the original labels!!), wooden crates, and international certificates (even signed by Prince Albert and Napoleon Bonaparte). Patty walked me through the President’s office, bottling room, filtering room, packaging area, and showed me a stunning show globe from the 1876 Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia. This was used show off his oil!
In 2010, the last Hotchkiss family member and great-granddaughter of the founder, Anne, passed away. Since then, Patty and her husband have been restoring the building little by little with help from the Lyons community. “We have a very vibrant heritage society with over 100 members, and we keep the museum going with membership dues and fundraisers. We have a wonderful board of trustees.” Her husband keeps the building maintained with unbelievable hours invested.
Patty and the staff of the museum stay on call to provide tours throughout the summer. There are individuals who greet the boaters on the canal and ask if they’d like a tour of the museum. They have given more tours this summer than they ever have! “I love giving the tours and I learn from the visitors, there are people who come in and they have a wealth of knowledge. Some know a lot about old buildings.”
In 2011, Patty purchased 200 bottles from Anne’s estate sale. They now sell the bottles, which contain the original oil, for $8 (the oil does not go rancid). However, the museum is running out of peppermint oil. The museum sells the bottles to keep the museum going. Patty believes they will be out of the remaining oil by this time next year. I purchased two bottles!
“My knee sometimes flares up with arthritis, within two minutes the ache is gone. I use it when I need it, if I have a sore throat or headache. When we leave for Florida in the winter, I leave empty bottles around and spray around the baseboards to keep the mice away.”
Uses for Peppermint Oil
- Headaches – rub into forehead and back of neck, take a few drops internally
- Heartburn – put a drop or two on the tongue and inhale
- Insomnia –aids in relaxation, use as bedtime tea
- Pets – rub a drop or two into the paw to settle a nervous animal down
The H.G Hotchkiss building is located at 95 Water Street, Lyons, New York 14489. The building is open Friday and Saturday from 10am-3pm and offers public and private tours. Visit www.lyonsheritagesociety.org for more information.
Jacalyn Meyvis is a freelance photographer in Rochester, NY. When she’s not planning the next adventure, find her moon gazing and touching plants. Follow her on Instagram and see her work at www.jacalynmeyvis.com