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History of the Aurora Inn

Built in 1833, Restored in 2003

Originally named Aurora House, the Aurora Inn was built in 1833 by Colonel E.B. Morgan, a native of Aurora and co-founder of the New York Times. By the mid-19th century, Aurora became a major stop on the Erie Canal for boats carrying agricultural products from area farmers to New York City. Henry Wells, of Wells Fargo fame and the founder of American Express, established Wells College here in 1868.

During its colorful past, the Aurora Inn was a favored overnight destination for travelers borne by coach, canal boat, and rail. Soon after the inn’s opening, an article appeared in the local newspaper remarking on the inn’s “regularity, neatness, and order everywhere exhibited—as well as the thousand little attentions which are paid to the comfort and convenience of travelers. Its elegance is scarcely surpassed by the most extensive houses of our large towns.”

In the early 1840s, William D. Eagles purchased the inn and engaged his uncle, former sea captain John Eagles, to manage it for him. Noted artist Charles Loring Elliott painted the oil portraits of William Eagles and his wife Nancy that hang above the fireplaces in the front parlors. Portraits of John Eagles and his wife hang in 1833 Kitchen & Bar.

When a fire destroyed the main building at Wells College in 1888, many students lived temporarily at the Aurora Inn, which they renamed the Wayside Inn. E.B. Morgan’s grandson-in-law, Robert Zabriskie, deeded the inn to Wells College in 1943. The inn again served as a makeshift residence hall during the 1960s, when enrollment at the college increased dramatically.

Despite a series of additions, renovations, and new managers, the inn struggled financially starting in the 1970s and became a drain on the college’s resources. The Aurora Foundation, a partnership between Wells College and the Pleasant T. Rowland Foundation, completed an extensive renovation of the inn, which reopened in May 2003. Today, the Aurora Inn is the flagship of the Inns of Aurora and continues to welcome guests as it has over its 190-year history.

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.