Auburn (pop. 26,821) is a proud industrial city with a solid, hilly downtown and a rich stock of historical homes, including that of William H. Seward, the antislavery Whig governor of New York. Seward founded the Republican Party, was a U.S. senator, served as secretary of state under presidents Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson, and single-handedly negotiated the purchase of Alaska from Russia in 1867. The William Seward House Museum (33 South St., 315/252-1283, Tues.-Sat. 10am-5pm, $12), on Hwy-34 a block south of US-20, contains all the original furniture and many fascinating historic exhibits. Down the street from the Seward home, you can also tour the home of the once enslaved underground railroad heroine Harriet Tubman, who, from before the Civil War until her death in 1913, lived in the tidy white house that was recently protected as part of the Harriet Tubman National Historical Park (180 South St., 315/882-8060, Thurs.-Sat., donation). In 1859, William Seward, then a U.S. senator, quietly sold Harriet Tubman the home for almost no money, which was both generous and illegal, and he and Tubman are both buried in the town’s Fort Hill cemetery, west of South Street between their two homes.
Right downtown, the sparkling streamlined Hunter’s Dinerant (18 Genesee St., 315/255-2282, Fri.-Sat. 24 hours), a 1950s O’Mahony, offers great greasy-spoon breakfasts, slices of thick lemon meringue pie, and a panoramic view of the aging Genesee Beer sign that watches over the wide streets of the hill-hugging downtown.