Mount Hope Neighborhood Association


The Towne House Motor Inn and Restaurant
by Carol Baumeister

We know that the intersection of Elmwood and Mt. Hope Avenue is a major crossroad and has been for a long time. The construction for CollegeTown includes tearing down the Towne House building that has recently been used as dorm housing for UR students. What was it before it was dorm rooms?

 

The Town House Motor Hotel was built in 1957-58 by James Wilmot, who started the Wilmorite Corporation which is still a major company in Rochester today. It opened on August 9, 1958 and was considered a truly modern, luxurious facility when it opened. We still see the mid-century architecture style with the big stone wall facing south on Mt. Hope Avenue and the Towne House sign still attached. The 500-foot plate glass window wall facing Mt. Hope Avenue was the longest in Western New York at the time it was built.

It had 138 units in the L-shaped building that we still see today. It also had banquet facilities and was so successful in its first year that more banquet space had to be added. It was the first hotel to be built in the City of Rochester since the Treadway Inn at the corner of East Avenue and Alexander was built in 1952.

 


The Towne House Motor Inn and Restaurant cost $1.5 million to build and was built deliberately to draw upon business travelers who wanted a hotel close to downtown but also the airport, as well as being close to the University and Strong Memorial Hospital. At the time, there was no other hotel like it in the vicinity.

Ads in the Democrat & Chronicle describe it as having "a magnificent blend of relaxing contrasts geared to comfort and pamper the most demanding traveler." It was also advertised as being "completely fireproof," with "sparkling waterfalls, an oasis of tropical flora, a serpentine lounge and a spectacular welcome home fireplace."

Towne House Motor Inn

 

The Times Union newspaper reported September 26, 1958 that the Towne House had exceeded expectations during its first month and James Wilmot was quoted as saying the motor inn was "extremely successful." Most of the clientele was businessmen who wanted to be close to the airport, but it also attracted many tourists. The restaurant was also noted for its fine dining and success. It was also noted that it was located on the way to the Thruway while being near downtown and the airport, a perfect location for a hotel.

A 1962 full page ad in the Democrat & Chronicle advertises the Towne House Motor Inn and Restaurant as a destination for dining and dancing for Valentine's Day with music by Charles "Whitey" Wood. "Complete Hotel Facilities -- with Motel Conveniences."

In 1963, the Towne House was sold to Heritage Inns, which was a new venture by Sky Chef, owned by American Airlines. Heritage Inns wanted to build a network and chain of hotels and the Towne House was its first acquisition.

The Towne House
The year 1982 saw a big change for the property. The University of Rochester aquired the property for an undisclosed amount. They had owned 1/3 of the property since 1976 as a bequest of James Wilmot, who must have bought it back from Heritage Inns. The UR turned the hotel into housing for its own undergrads and graduate students in addition to RIT students. The Democrat & Chronicle article on October 3, 1982 noted that the UR had a critical need for housing space. More students wanted to live in campus housing than was available. The outdoor swimming pool was eventually filled in and turned into more parking lot space. In 1982, UR undergraduate students paid $350 per month for a room, and could be split by 2 students. Graduate students paid $230 per month. The UR also used the lower west end of Towne House for many years to house an IBM computing center.
   
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