AUBURN — Patrick Collier Connelly was sold by the time he got to the staircase.
The Scipio native was looking for a summer house in the Cayuga County area in May when someone posted a picture on his Facebook page with the words, "You should buy this house haha."
The house: 45 Owasco St. However, it's not known as a house, but as a castle — "The Auburn Castle." And after closing on it Wednesday, Connelly is its new king.
Built in 1870, the 3,400-square-foot Gothic revival structure began as the home of Auburn Woolen Mill Superintendent Samuel Laurie and his family.
Auburn woman Kathy DeJoy-Genkos, who's helping Connelly fill in the history of the house, said the mill built the house specifically for Laurie. Then living in Rhode Island, the Scotland native sought some incentive to move to Auburn and take the superintendent job there.
"He had made a comment that he wanted a house built like a Scottish manor, like a castle, and they did just that," DeJoy-Genkos said.
The house was designed by Nelson Hamblin, who also worked on the Faatz-Crofut Home for the Elderly and the State Street armory. It also sports masonry by Henry Smith Cragg Sweeting, whose roughcast bricklaying bears some resemblance to his work on Iviswold Castle in Rutherford, New Jersey.
When Laurie passed away in 1895, DeJoy-Genkos said, he was succeeded as the head of the household by several mill superintendents: Thomas Clark (1895-1926), Henry Buttery (1926), Howard Wood (1926-1928) and Joseph Booth (1928-1929). Then, through an intermediary, "The Auburn Castle" was sold to the Pastushan family.
While living in the red brick Owasco Street house, Nicholas and Mary Pastushan expanded its neighboring carriage house into an auto painting shop and gas station, Quick as a Wink Oil Co., in the 1930s. They claimed to be the oldest active car pinstripers in New York state by the time Nicholas passed in 1969 and Mary in 1983.
The Pastushans left the house to their daughter Virginia, DeJoy-Genkos said. Like her parents and the Auburn Woolen Mill superintendents before them, Virginia and her husband, the late Vernon Dewey, didn't alter the house much. Virginia left it a few years ago, and now resides at the Auburn Rehab and Nursing Center.
"The Auburn Castle" was on the market for less than a month when realtor Todd Post was contacted by Connelly in May.
Touring the house through a video call with Post, Connelly said he agreed to buy it by the time the realtor got to the curving stairway just feet away from the main entrance. Though the nearly 150-year-old structure will need a new roof, electrical work, plumbing, heating and more, Connelly continued, he was sold on the beauty of its unaltered bones.
"It needs everything, but it's structurally sound," he said. "It's a castle. It was built to last."
Connelly had been living in Gainesville, Georgia, for 23 years, running a chandelier cleaning and restoration business, when he began looking for a summer home near his central New York birthplace. With three children, four grandchildren, five brothers and a sister, he mainly wanted "a place where all the family can meet," he said.
When Connelly bought "The Auburn Castle," however, his project became bigger than that.
Restoring the house will take approximately five years, he said. Though he purchased it for about $40,000, it comes with a price tag of up to 10 times that amount in renovation work. Connelly also purchased the neighboring millhouse, which he'll repair and then reside in while completing the castle's restoration.
Like the house's previous occupants, Connelly doesn't plan to change "The Auburn Castle." He wants to be "as original as possible" in restoring its four main bedrooms and two servants' quarters, one bathroom, a library, a parlor, a kitchen with a butler's pantry and its own stairway, and the rest of the red brick house.
Andrew Roblee, of Auburn, led a day of work on the house in October with Cornell graduate students in the university's chapter of the Association for Preservation Technology. The students repaired some windows and counterweight systems in the walls that day, and Roblee continues to provide Connelly advice, he said.
Roblee supports the house's restoration because it's significant not only architecturally, he said, but economically. As the vantage from which Laurie and other Auburn Woolen Mill superintendents looked over its operations, it represents a more industrious time in Auburn's history.
"It's unlike anything else in the city or anything even in the region," Roblee said of the house. "The whole configuration of the building and the building style is really significant and very interesting. It's not something you expect to see in that neighborhood."
As for the carriage house, Connelly plans to strip the Pastushans' 20th-century additions from it and convert the structure into an antique shop. He may operate it with his partner in Two Old Dogs, a similar shop Connelly owns in Cumming, about 20 miles from Gainesville.
Converting "The Auburn Castle" into a commercial property, such as a B&B, was also discussed, Connelly said. However, code requirements and other concerns led him to decide on keeping it a private residence. For that reason, he continued, he won't qualify for much of the public and private funding made available to most historic restoration projects.
However, Connelly has found a windfall of support from the community.
Since posting about his project on a new "The Auburn Castle" Facebook page, as well as community pages, Connelly has been buoyed by the chorus of Auburnians past and present who want to see the house restored. Some have even stopped by the property to share their stories with him, such as the family whose grandmother came from Ireland to work for the Laurie family.
At the top of the project's Facebook page are two five-star reviews of Connelly's efforts to save "The Auburn Castle" — the authors' names are Laurie and Pastushan.
"This was my dream," Connelly said. "I'm just fortunate I have the support to do it."
On the web
For more information about "The Auburn Castle," as well as updates on its restoration, visit facebook.com/theauburncastle.