The Warner Observatory may, perhaps, be the best graphic representation of the rise and fall of the Warner’s Safe empire. I wrote about it in two parts back in May and June, 2008. It was both a symbol of Warner’s success and, ultimately, of his downfall and destruction, although the Observatory lasted far longer than Mr. Warner.
Recently, with the help of Jack Stecher, I was able to find some old photographs of the Observatory housed in the Monroe County Library. The photographs are part of the Albert A. Stone Collection of vintage Rochester images. Although I had seem some of the images before, including the one above from 1883, when the Observatory first opened, there were several others that I had not seen.
The Observatory was opened in 1883 and the photograph from that year shows a gleaming new facility with a manicured landscape. A decade later, Warner filed bankruptcy and lost control of his medicine empire. By 1910, the Observatory was beginning to show its age and signs of neglect. It had ceased to a functioning facility and vines had begun to appear on its outer walls.
By 1926, the Observatory is essentially abandoned. Its windows are boarded up and it appears to exist as but a shell of its glory days. By that time, both Warner and its former resident astronomer, Lewis Swift, were dead. It seems as though the observatory itself was waiting to be dispatched and in 1939 that is exactly what happened. The last photograph shows the demolition of the structure with workers stacking the stone and lumber is it is removed from the building. The life cycle of the Warner Observatory was complete. Although it outlasted the Safe Cure business and both Warner and Swift, it ultimately met the same fate. Special thanks to the Monroe County Library for the use of these images.