LANDMARK SOCIETY INVITES PUBLIC TO FREE SPECIAL VIRTUAL TOUR OF WARNER CASTLE
Did you know there is a castle located in Highland Park that sits atop an elevated site overlooking Mt. Hope Avenue? Warner Castle, built in 1854, is the new home to The Landmark Society of Western New York. And now the public is invited inside the impressive building (virtually of course) to see its remarkable restoration and learn about its history.
“The Landmark Society was approached in 2018 by the County of Monroe, and asked to consider relocating its headquarters,” said Wayne Goodman, Executive Director. “The result is a unique leasing partnership with the County that is preserving this iconic building.”
After almost 2 years of work the Landmark Society hoped to host tours during this month. “But due to the pandemic we are going to do the next best thing,” said Goodman. “We created a 50 minute video that can currently be found at www.landmarksociety.org/thisoldcastle/ and we invite the public to take a peek inside the castle and learn more about its place in Rochester’s history.”
“A Virtual Housewarming Tour of Warner Castle,” is sponsored by Marshall Boxes, Edgemere Development and the generous donation of many donors.
Horatio Gates Warner, bank president, court judge, and newspaper publisher had the imposing fortress constructed to his specifications under the supervision of architect Merwin Austin. Warner lived here until his death in 1876 and his family continued to occupy the house for another generation. At the time of its construction, the castle, set amidst a 50-acre farm, was located at the edge of the city, with entrance gates and a gatehouse on Mt. Hope Avenue. The gray stone, castellated building expresses the mid-19th-century taste for the remote in time and place and contributes to the picturesque quality of the Mt. Hope/Highland Preservation District.
The castle remained in the Warner family until 1902, when it was sold to Mr. and Mrs. George Ramsdell and, in 1912, to businessman, Frank Dennis and his wife, Merry. Mrs. Dennis replaced an old barn at the rear of the property with the Sunken Garden, designed by Alling DeForest, Rochester’s most acclaimed landscape architect during the first half of the 20th century. Among his other projects are the gardens at the George Eastman House and Harbel Manor, the Harvey Firestone estate in Akron, Ohio.
After Mrs. Dennis’ death in the 1930s, the castle stood empty for several years, then was used as a sanitarium, until the City of Rochester acquired it in 1951. From 1953-1964, the Parks Department used the property for its herbarium and offices, until the latter became crowded, at which time the castle was leased to the Rochester Civic Garden Center. Over the next six decades, they hosted lectures, classes, a reference library, and special events for their members and the public in this 22-room building. While there has been some remodeling over the past 150 years, the interior retains its high ceilings, tall windows, walnut woodwork, marble and parquet floors, and an impressive entry hall with scenic wallpaper and grand staircase.
“With its remarkable history, distinctive design and incomparable setting, the Castle offers a strategic opportunity for the sensitive redevelopment and re-use of a unique property located in a premier park in Rochester’s park system,” said Goodman. “And we wanted to share this story with our community and those who support preservation and look forward to the day when we can invite guests inside.”
About The Landmark Society: The Landmark Society of Western New York, Inc. is one of the oldest and most active preservation organizations in America, serving nine Western New York counties. Formed in 1937, The Landmark Society continues to protect the unique architectural heritage of our region and promote preservation and planning principles that foster healthy and sustainable communities. For additional information about The Landmark Society, visit www.landmarksociety.org. The Landmark Society is supported in part by New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.