Constructed on the shore of Cayuga Lake by Alonzo Morgan Zabriskie in 1903, Rowland House is encompassed by ancient trees, an historic Grecian temple, and a spectacular two-story boathouse.
Rowland House offers ten chic guestrooms, each with a private marble bath, vibrant color schemes, original modern art, stunning views, and luxurious linens. Four guestrooms — along with a private lounge — comprise the entire third floor, decorated with the distinctive and playful designs of MacKenzie-Childs.
With the rental of all ten guestrooms at Rowland House, guests may plan private dinners and events at the home. View our private rental packages and contact Sara at 315.364.8828 for pricing and availability.
History of Rowland House
Alonzo Morgan Zabriskie was born the deaf grandson of E.B. Morgan in 1867. An avid sailor, Alonzo spent much of his youth on Cayuga Lake, and even assisted in saving passengers off a capsized catamaran at the age of 17. While on land, Alonzo enjoyed raising chickens in his spare time.
Alonzo married the “beautiful and accomplished” Belle Loader of Saint Louis in 1902. An opulent, high-society affair, Belle selected a wedding color scheme of green and white. After a brief honeymoon, Alonzo began construction of a grand new home—now Rowland House—later that year. Built for entertaining, the home hosted many bridge games, charity sales, and other social functions at the bequest of Belle. In the winter, the newlyweds retreated to Palm Beach, where Alonzo could fish year-round—it was here that Alonzo conquered a nine-foot hammerhead shark with six successive shots from his revolver.
In 1912, Alonzo, Belle, and their seven-year-old son Lansing moved to an even grander home in Greenwich, Connecticut, but kept their Aurora house for future use. Tragically, Alonzo died of angina (a heart condition) less than a year later—in May of 1913. Continuing his family’s philanthropic legacy, Alonzo left his grand lakeside home to Wells College.
In October of 1913, the newly inducted President of Wells College, Kerr Duncan Macmillan, moved his family into the home. Macmillan’s two young sons made good use of the home as a playground of sorts, and Kerr hosted many of the college’s social functions here.
A noted scholar of the German Protestantism movement and ordained minister, Macmillan successfully led the college through particularly difficult times—overseeing Wells through both World War I and the Great Depression. Shortly after the war’s conclusion, a devastating fire destroyed much of downtown Aurora. In an effort to save the Inn—whose cornices began smoldering—Macmillan joined the fire brigade on the Inn’s roof, dumping buckets of water to prevent the fire’s spreading. Later that night, he took back to his home the many unattended children whose parents continued to fight the blaze. Macmillan retired from his presidency in 1936 and passed away two years later. He is buried in the Oak Glen Cemetery of Aurora, where Alonzo also rests.
During the planning and renovation phases of the Aurora Inn in the early 2000s, this home was used as the headquarters for the Aurora Foundation and Aurora Interiors. Restoration of the property commenced in 2013 under the stewardship of philanthropist Pleasant T. Rowland, an alumna of Wells College, noted educator, author of early childhood literacy programs, and founder of American Girl. Dotted with art and furnishings from her personal collection, Rowland House pays tribute to both Pleasant’s vision and philanthropic legacy.