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Public invited on virtual tour of Warner Castle

Messenger Post Media
Monroe County Post

Warner Castle, built in 1854, is home to the Landmark Society of Western New York. The public is invited inside the building, virtually, to see its 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.”

The Landmark Society hoped to host tours after almost two years of work.

“Due to the pandemic, we are going to do the next best thing,” Goodman said. “We created a 50-minute video that can currently be found at 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.”

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 Mount 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 Mount Hope/Highland Preservation District. 

The castle remained in the Warner family until 1902, when it was sold to Mr. and Mrs. George Ramsdell, then to businessman Frank Dennis and his wife, Merry, in 1912. Merry replaced an old barn at the rear of the property with the Sunken Garden, designed by Alling DeForest, a Rochester landscape architect during the first half of the 20th century. Among his other projects are the gardens at George Eastman House and Harbel Manor, the Harvey Firestone estate in Akron, Ohio.

The castle stood empty for several years after Merry’s death in the 1930s, then was used as a sanitarium until the city of Rochester acquired it in 1951. From 1953 to 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, it hosted lectures, classes, a reference library and special events 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 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 reuse of a unique property located in a premier park in Rochester’s park system,” Goodman said. “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.”

Warner Castle in Highland Park sits atop an elevated site overlooking Mount Hope Avenue.