MICHAEL JOHNSON/Livingston County News
The meticulously-maintained King's Daughter's Home in Dansville, formerly a seminary, a school and a hospital, is on the real estate market.
On the Market
For sale: A part of Dansville’s history
A Dansville historic landmark is waiting for its future to unfold, filling it with life once again.
The King’s Daughters’ Home is situated on the East Hill with a proud past. It was built as the Dansville Seminary, a select private school, and later became the first hospital.
Well-known people have visited and others have lived within its walls. Always it has been in the shadow of its famous next-door neighbor, The Castle on the Hill.
“As a community member I remember it through the years,” said Tom Wamp, Licensed Real Estate Broker and agent for its sale.
The three-story red brick building sits on 4.5 acres of land. A covered porch is the front entry underneath a vintage neon sign.
The first floor consists of a spacious open area with a wide staircase leading to the second floor. There is a massive living room, dining room, sun porch, kitchen facilities and offices.
The second floor houses bedrooms; a conference room and a chapel with stain glass windows overlook the village. The third floor includes additional bedrooms, a beauty shop and a recreation room. Wide hallways, light-colored walls accented in dark wood and high tin ceilings are prominent throughout. There is a full basement, garage and parking area.
“You’d think that you could move right into it. I visualize it as a combination use place. Get the first floor going, perhaps as office space and then develop the other two floors,” said Wamp. “Its desirability depends on the creative person.”
Up until the spring of 2011 the building housed independent living folks under the auspices of the King’s Daughters, a philanthropic, non-denominational group based in Chautauqua. The place was forced to close because of the decreased number of residents and lack of money to operate. Modern assisted living facilities, such as Morgan Estates in Geneseo, offered services that the Dansville facility was unable.
Patty Simmons, Administrator of the King’s Daughters, remains at the place overseeing bill paying and managing day- to -day needs. Linda Zirgulis, Executive Board member comes, too.
“The residents have been gone for a little over a year, but we can still feel them here,” said Zirgulis. “Our husbands mow the lawn for us just to keep things looking good.” Both admit that the structure is imposing on the outside, but there is a quality of humanness on the inside. They have many fond memories of residents and their families.
Generations of Dansville Central School children came to the King’s Daughters to sing Christmas carols sitting on the stairs and the residents surrounding them on the first floor near the decorated tree. They would bring gifts and chat with the folks.
In fact, the halls and 30-plus rooms have an assortment of antiques left behind by residents’ families. Memorial wall plaques dating back to 1923 are evident on bedroom doors.
Climbing the stairway to the attic where the walls have not been painted over, there are signatures written randomly. Simmons speculated that they could be from early students dating back to the 1800s.
“I’m willing to let people look and maybe network with others to come up with an idea for the place. There are some areas that need to be up-dated like the elevator and individual bathrooms in bedrooms,” said Wamp.
Following the opening of the Dansville Canal and the increase in the community’s population, by 1858 there was need for a more advanced education for the older children. The new Seminary building was completed in 1860 at a cost of $12,000.
Former President Millard Fillmore, who resided in Dansville briefly in 1814, spoke to the children in their new building. Other famous speakers during the years included Clara Barton and Ralph Waldo Emerson, American essayist and lecturer. Twenty years later fiscal stability was a problem, and all Dansville students needed a public school district.
In 1890 Pittsburgh physician Dr. George Ahler purchased the building for a summer home. It was not long after that Ahler had other plans and the facility became the Danville Medical and Surgical Hospital. The hospital would come to specialize in the care of cancer patients, and was cited as one of the first hospitals to use X-rays in radiation treatment.
The hospital would have its share of financial difficulties. During a re-organization in 1908 the facility turned to cancer research under the supervision of Dr. Roswell Park, Buffalo. Park was the founder of Roswell Park Institute, the first center in the world exclusively for cancer research.
There were other ventures, such as a competing health resort with the Jackson facility, but to no avail.
Finally at a King’s Daughters convention in 1911, a home for the elderly was proposed. The 56-year-old building was bought for $6,500 and it changed focus once again. It was refurbished for residential living quarters.
The building has served the Dansville community in educational, medical and benevolent ways. What will come next for the Health Street mansion is what keeps people talking.
For a complete look at the facility along with its specifications go to tomwamp.com and find commercial listings.
Click on a thumbnail below to launch a slideshow by Michael Johnson, Livingston County News photographer.