Lochland, an elegant mansion south of Geneva on a bluff overlooking Seneca Lake, is best known as the residence and salon of woman suffrage activist and organizer Elizabeth Smith Miller, but its history with the family of abolitionist philanthropist Gerrit Smith, Elizabeth’s father, starts far earlier.
Gerrit first acquired the property in 1865, as a residence for Elizabeth’s brother Greene, who had been traumatized in the Civil War. Greene named the property Lochland, a Scottish name meaning "savoring the beauties of nature." Greene abandoned the estate in mid-1868 due to worsening mental illness. Unable to sell Lochland for almost a year, Gerrit gifted it to his daughter and her husband Charles Dudley Miller. The couple moved in on July 5, 1869.
Miller welcomed the move from bucolic Peterboro to the more cosmopolitan Geneva; she lost no time making Lochland a center of Geneva’s cultural and intellectual life, bringing activists and thought leaders together for convivial salons or focused organizing sessions. Frequent guests included her cousin and lifelong friend, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and fellow suffrage leader Susan B. Anthony. Stanton made weekslong visits to Lochland in 1883 and 1889. Anthony paid a lengthy visit in 1899. And Stanton and Anthony together spent two weeks at Lochland in 1894.
Lochland is also where Elizabeth Smith Miller befriended the Geneva entrepreneur, philanthropist, and partly closeted freethinker William Smith (no relation to Gerrit Smith), who frequently donated use of his Geneva opera house for suffrage conventions Miller would organize.
In 1875 Miller and six friends and family members founded Fossenvue, a lakeside summer campground at what is now Caywood Point on Seneca Lake’s eastern shore, approximately halfway down the lake from Lochland. For one month each summer from 1875 until 1901, the intellectual life of Lochland would migrate to Fossenvue in summer garb, focusing on recreational activities, fresh local food, and cultured discussion.
Charles Miller died suddenly at Lochland on February 2, 1896.
In the early 1900s, Miller and other pioneer feminists persuaded William Smith to make the largest donation of his life -- approximately $500,000, about $12 million today -- to endow a new college for women that would offer a complete liberal education, seldom offered to women at the time. William Smith College opened in 1908, with Miller making occasional contributions toward the new institution’s operating costs.
A 1908 fire seriously damaged the mansion but did not destroy it.
Elizabeth Smith Miller died at Lochland on May 22, 1911. She was 88. The estate was sold to mining executive Edward M. Mills, who resided there from 1912 to 1933. In that year, the estate was transferred to a charity that launched a school for disabled children; over time the Lochland School adjusted its mission and is now a residence for developmentally disabled adults.