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History of Rowland House

Built in 1903, Restored in 2014

The eldest child of Nicholas Lansing Zabriskie and Louise Morgan Zabriskie, Alonzo Morgan Zabriskie was born in Aurora in 1867. He spent his early childhood with his parents, younger brother Robert, and grandparents E.B. and Charlotte Morgan in the comfort and safety of their shared family home, known today as E.B. Morgan House.

Alonzo discovered his passion for sporting—especially boating and fishing—during his childhood in Aurora and once helped rescue passengers from a capsized catamaran in Cayuga Lake. As a young adult, Alonzo joined the traveling social scene in the last vestiges of the Gilded Age, where he met the “beautiful and accomplished” Belle Loader, a society figure from St. Louis. The couple married with an opulent green and white-themed wedding in 1902.

Around this time, Louise’s health began to decline, and she wanted her two sons close to her. To lure her sons back to Aurora, she built a grand home for each: the property now known as Rowland House for Alonzo and Belle in 1903, and the property now known as Zabriskie House for Robert and his wife Aubin in 1904. Built for entertaining, Rowland House was the setting for Belle’s many bridge tournaments, charity sales, and dinner parties. Louise passed away in 1906, and Alonzo and Belle moved to Connecticut a few years later.

In October of 1913, the new President of Wells College, Kerr Duncan Macmillan, moved into the home. Macmillan’s two young sons made good use of the home as a playground of sorts, and Kerr hosted many college social functions here. Macmillan successfully led the college through particularly difficult times, overseeing Wells through World War I and the Great Depression. Macmillan passed away in 1938, and the Morgan-Zabriskie family later sold the home.

During renovation of the Aurora Inn, this house was used as the headquarters for the Aurora Foundation. Restoration of the home commenced in 2013 under the stewardship of Pleasant T. Rowland, an alumna of Wells College, noted educator, author of early childhood literacy programs, and founder of American Girl. Dotted with fine art and worldly antiques from her personal collection, Rowland House today pays tribute to Pleasant’s vision and philanthropic legacy.

More to Explore

Called Deawendote, or the “village of constant dawn,” by the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, Aurora was established by Anglo-Americans in 1795 following the Revolutionary War and is today a National Historic District. Many of the buildings in this village—from grand mansions to quaint cottages—now make up the Inns of Aurora, a resort founded with the philanthropic vision to restore this special place and welcome visitors for generations to come.