Rose Hill Turns 175!

August 30th, 2014
Looking at an elegant 6-columned Greek revival house across an expanse of lawn from just outside a low white gate.

View of Rose Hill Mansion from the gate by the road.

Over the years several families have called Rose Hill home, and one of them was the William Strong family.  In 1835 Strong purchased the Rose home and property.  After amassing a fortune as a wool merchant in New York City, Strong retired and moved his family to Geneva. It was Strong who built the Greek Revival mansion people see and enjoy today. To build the mansion, the Rose house was moved to the north and converted it into a carriage house (currently the Rose Hill Mansion Visitor Center and Gift Shop).  The original 1809 kitchen was kept in place and Strong built his mansion around it.

Though we know that the mansion was built between 1837 and 1839, the earliest reference date for its completion is September 7, 1839. Why September 7? According to newspaper accounts that’s when President Martin Van Buren visited Rose Hill.  Below are two very different accounts of the Presidential visit.

From the Courier

Saturday the 7th inst. was signalized by the “grand entre” of the President of the United States into our quiet little village; and as the old Federal Gazette has been discontinued, it may be expected that we should give some account of the pageant.
…Well – the day arrived – and the steamboat arrived, (with less than her usual number of passengers,) and Van Buren arrived, accompanied by a long string of carriages…. On reaching the Hotel, the Marshal requested the audience to give “three times three,” with which a part of the company complied, and raised a feeble cry, which died away at number seven, and the two remaining cheers were dispensed with.
Mr. Van Buren then, with the federal office-holders “near his person,” mounted the piazza, the timbers of which being, like his sub-treasury scheme, somewhat rotten, gave way, and very disrespectfully landed the little group of “spoils men” safely upon the ground.  We understand the “Northern man with Southern principles,” was a little frightened, and that for a few minutes, heartshorn [sic] and cologne were in brisk demand…. Mr. Sutherland made a long speech to Mr. Van Buren, and Mr. Van Buren delivered a short speech to Mr. Sutherland….

After shaking hands with some of the citizens, the President retired to a private house to partake of the hospitalities of a personal friend, leaving the “dear people,” some of whom…had come from fifteen to sixty miles to help do him honor, to go fasting home, or to take their dinners without him at the public houses. Mr. Van Buren attended church on Sunday, and yesterday morning proceeded on his way to Auburn, where we understand the next act of the farce was to be performed.

Studio portrait of a balding, white haried man standing next to a table with a book in his hand.

Martin Van Buren. Portrait by Matthew Brady.

An excerpt from the Geneva Gazette

On Monday morning, in company with the Committee of Arrangements, and a number of citizens, [President Martin Van Buren] proceeded on his way to Waterloo. After visiting the splendid mansion of W.K. Strong, Esq., on the east side of Seneca Lake, he was received by the Committee from Waterloo with a great concourse of citizens from Seneca County and with them proceeded on to that place. We have thus briefly given an account of the President’s reception at Geneva, sensible that the description falls far short of reality…

In honor of the 175th anniversary of President Van Buren’s visit we will host a birthday party for Rose Hill Mansion on Sunday, September 7, from 2-4 p.m. Our Education Coordinator, Alice Askins, will present a program about William Strong, at 2 p.m. on the back patio. After the program there will be a behind-the-scenes tour of the mansion and, of course, birthday cake will be served. The event is free and open to the public.

On a side note, after building his beautiful home, Strong did not live there for very long. Four years after its completion, his wife died and Strong moved his family back to New York City.

Bearded man in a military uniform sitting with a sword across his lap.

William Strong, builder of Rose Hill Mansion.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *