Mary's Top Matches
About Mary Lee Thompson (Clark)
Mary Clark Thompson (1835 – July 28, 1923), born Mary Lee Clark, was a noted philanthropist and wife of banker Frederick Ferris Thompson.
Mary Lee Clark was born in Naples, New York in 1835 to Myron Holley and Zilpha Watkins Clark. She moved with her family to Canandaigua, New York when she was about two years old.
She attended various schools in Ontario County, including the Ontario Female Seminary.
Mary's father Myron was elected Governor of New York State in 1854, and the family took up residence in Albany, the state's capital. It was in Albany that she met her future husband, Frederick Ferris Thompson, son of prominent New York banker John Thompson. The couple were married on June 17, 1857 in Canandaigua.
Although the Thompson's principal residence was at 283 Madison Avenue in New York City, the couple spent their summers in Mary's girlhood home of Canandaigua on a farm they purchased in 1863. In 1885, they tore down the farmhouse and replaced it with a 40-room Queen-Anne style mansion. They named the home Sonnenberg (German for "sunny hill"), which was the former name of the farmhouse.
Philanthropic Interests and Life as a Widow
The Thompsons became generous benefactors to multiple organizations and established themselves as philanthropists. Some of the more notable institutions benefited by Thompson endowments and donations include Williams College, Vassar College, and Teacher's College (now Columbia University).
Frederick Ferris died in 1899 and Mary soon made Sonnenberg her principal home. She continued to give generously to civic, religious, and educational institutions, though her philanthropic work focused principally on the community in which she lived. In Canandaigua, she established and built the F.F. Thompson Hospital, the Clark Manor House, and the Woodlawn Cemetery chapel. She donated land for the city's post office, and contributed heavily to the local YMCA, the Ontario County historical society, the Wood Library, and numerous local churches.
She also maintained an interest in preserving the history of Native Americans in the New York area, and made multiple contributions to the State Museum in Albany for that purpose.
Her interests also included enjoyment of gardens, and she had a number of formal gardens built at Sonnenberg. Often she would allow the public to come on to her property and walk through her gardens.
Mary Clark Thompson died on July 28, 1923. She is interred at Woodlawn Cemetery, Canandaigua, New York.
Comptroller Clark Williams was her nephew.
Her home, Sonnenberg, is preserved and operated as a museum