Archived Page: 175 Anniversary
Celebrate the Journey 1827-2002
Third Presbyterian Church
Celebrates 175 Years of Ministry
The Warner Observatory 

One of the colorful personalities of Rochester was Hubert Horatio Warner, developer and promoter of "Warner's Safe Liver Cure," a patent medicine of wide popularity which made Warner a wealthy man. He built an ornate mansion on the southeast corner of East Avenue and Goodman Street. At the same time Lewis Swift, a hardware merchant who had taken up astronomy as a hobby, had become so successful with his scientific curiosity that he had discovered six comets ad some 900 nebulae. In 1882, Warner, seeing an opportunity to aid a Rochesterian and to promote his product, built an observatory for Swift on the site of our present chapel at the cost for land and equipment of $100,000. The round, three-story tower, 31 feet in diameter, was topped by a dome of galvanized iron mounted on a circular track enabling the huge telescope to be turned to any point in the heavens. The 16-inch telescope was the fourth largest in the world.

People wishing to view the heavenly bodies had but to apply at the Warner office on State Street to receive a ticket for the only private observatory in the country open to the public. The wide publicity given to Swift and his discoveries also helped to spread the fame of Warner and his pills. When Third Church was erected with its tall bell tower in 1892, it was criticized by some for interfering with the field of view.

The depression of 1893 brought about Warner's downfall because of unwise investments and obligations which he had assumed. IN the same week that Third Church was dedicated in November 1893, Warner declared bankruptcy. The nearby university was too financially pressed to support the observatory/ Therefore, the East Avenue home and the observatory were sold at auction in 1894. Earlier Swift had been lured by promoters in Pasadena who offered to build an observatory on the top of Mount Lowe if he would bring out his telescope to explore their cloudless sky. With support from Warner gone, Swift one night in April 1894 packed his telescope in a long box and spirited it to the freight station. Swift followed soon. It was from this act that the Mount Wilson observatory developed. The vacant building remained as a looted eyesore to the neighborhood. Zoning restrictions made it unusable for other purposes. Finally it was razed in December 1931, and after complicated financial arrangements over several years, Third Church purchased the property in 1938.  


Back to Celebrate the Journey
Return to Third Presbyterian Church