“50 Years Gone: Yates Castle Remembered”

Yates Castle

In September 2004 the University Archives mounted an exhibition in remembrance of the former University building, Yates Castle. The exhibition ran in the Goldstein Alumni and Faculty Center until January 2005.

In 1852 Cornelius Tyler Longstreet, a successful clothing manufacturer, purchased 49 acres on the outskirts of Syracuse in a district known as "The Highlands". He hired the architect James Renwick, later the designer of St. Patrick’s Cathedral and the Smithsonian Institution, to build a “substantial, beautiful, and distinctive” home. Renwick Castle was Tudor Gothic in style and was modeled after the supposed ancestral home of Mrs. Longstreet.

In residence from 1855-1867, the Longstreet family eventually became disenchanted living “far out in the country, cut off from town” in the castle that had become “Longstreet’s Folly” to them. Fortunately, Alonzo Chester Yates, Sr., a clothing merchant who had made his fortune in the Civil War, wished to upgrade his fine James Street home to a larger one reflecting his higher station in life. In April of 1867 Mr. Longstreet and Mr. Yates traded houses and the castle was renamed after its new owners.

Improvements were lavished on Yates making it a center of social life with the balls and entertainments the hospitable Alonzo Sr. was known for. His son, Alonzo, Jr., carried on this tradition of extravagance after his father’s death until the million-dollar fortune was gone. In 1898 the house was emptied of its treasures and left deserted, standing vacant until 1900.

In 1900 Mr. A. Lincoln Travis, the head of a private school for boys, changed Yates Castle into the Syracuse Classical School which ran until 1906. In 1905, after Syracuse University trustees voted to acquire the Yates Castle property, trustee Margaret Slocum Sage donated a sizeable sum to renovate the castle. In 1909 the Margaret Olivia Slocum Teachers College settled into Yates where it remained until 1934.

In 1934 the new SU School of Journalism was moved into Yates Castle, which now became known simply as The Castle and the first Journalism Kastle Kids made the building their own.

Time finally caught up with The Castle when, in 1953, the University of the State of New York, which had taken over operation of the SU Medical School, announced plans for a new wing of the Medical School to be built. The Castle was to be demolished to make way. On April 25, 1953 a farewell ball, complete with period costumes, was held at The Castle to say goodbye.

By the spring of 1954 The Castle history ended.

~ Exhibit curated by Mary M. T. O'Brien