Your Hometown: Interlaken
What's in a name? Well, for people living in the growing Town of Farmer at the turn of the 20th century, the name of their summer haven was a matter of pride, but it did not last. Our Tamara Lindstrom takes a look back at how some influential families, with the help of a railroad company, changed the name from Farmer to something with more international appeal.
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INTERLAKEN, N.Y. -- By the early 20th century, the small Town of Farmer on the shore of Cayuga Lake was beginning to boom.
"In 1904 we had a very bustling community. We had a number of stores. You went to the meat market; you went to the dry goods store. You had furniture builders who were also the undertakers,” said Diane Bassette Nelson, Interlaken Historical Society.
The serene natural surroundings soon caught the eyes of wealthy vacationers from downstate, turning Farmer into a sought-after vacation destination.
"You have a lot of people that were building these big, expensive, very nice, very pleasant summer homes,” said Bassette Nelson.
The luxury homes springing up painted an impressive scene for the visitors as they rolled into town, but it's what they heard aboard the train that left a little something to be desired.
"The conductor would be saying all out for Farmer and that was not necessarily what some people wanted,” said Bassette Nelson.
The less-than cosmopolitan name fell flat to big-city ears.
"The name Farmer was too rural,” said Bassette Nelson.
So some influential families took their cause to a higher power; the Lehigh Valley Railroad.
"You took the train to get someplace. Everybody didn't have cars and were really at that point just changing over from horse, buggy, train to more automobiles,” said Bassette Nelson.
The railroad company agreed to build a brand new depot, if the Farmer citizens would change the name, and sponsored a contest.
"The winning entry was Interlaken, by a school teacher at the Farmer high school. She had been in Europe, as we understand it, the summer before and visited that wonderful summer traveling place Interlaken, Switzerland,” said Bassette Nelson.
The lush green haven situated between two lakes reminded her of home. In 1904, the name was officially changed and the new train depot soon followed.
"The Lehigh Valley Railroad ran through here as a passenger train until the late 1950s and you could get on the train and go to New York City. A lot of people did,” said Bassette Nelson.
The popularity of automobiles eventually made the train obsolete, and an empty lot is all that remains where the celebrated depot used to be, but evidence of the railroad's influence on the town will always remain in the name.