Dansville landmark tagged for $2.5 million from NY

Bob Clark

The Castle on the Hill - an imposing, vacant reminder of Dansville's medical past on the side of East Hill - will finally be getting a makeover with the help of a $2.5 million grant announced Tuesday.

Gov. Eliot Spitzer announced the grant as part of a $100 million effort to help upgrade and revitalize historic buildings and districts across the state. Of the funds, $74 million is being allocated to upstate projects, including $750,000 to work on the Klugo building in Corning and $2.3 million to revitalize Church Street in Elmira.

The plan for development, according to Dansville Mayor William Dixon, will be a complete overhaul of the building.

“It's going to be totally revitalized,” he said. “They are going to have to replace the roof, and the windows and generally clean it up. They have to work on the electric and heating and get air (conditioning) in there.”

According to Dixon, a number of medical professionals have expressed interest in working out of the Castle if it is restored.

“I've heard from chiropractors, doctors and even dentists that would be interested in moving in there,” Dixon said.

One local chiropractor, Donald Wilcox, grew up in Dansville and would enjoy opening an office in the building.

“It's steeped in history,” he said. “It's exciting they're going to revitalize it.”

Wilcox said he has heard a massage therapy school is interested in renting space, and officials at the New York Chiropractic School have expressed interest in offering classes at the facility.

The facility is a strong reminder of Dansville's history of alternate medicine, Wilcox added.

The first treatment center built on the site was erected in 1854 by Nathaniel Bingham of Rochester. The facility featured treatment by hydropathy, or water cure, that would bathe and shower patients in multiple ways and have them drink large quantities of water from the spring to clean their systems. The center was operated by James Jackson after 1858 until it was destroyed in a fire in June 1882.

The current building, the Jackson Sanitarium as it was originally known, was built in 1883, according to an article written by David Gilbert with the Dansville Area Historical Society on the Dansville Public Library Web site.

The building changed hands many times in the early 20th century, finally coming into the possession of Bernarr Macfadden in 1929, a former professional wrestler who was an early advocate of body building. Macfadden ran the Physical Culture Home until his death in 1955. The Castle remained open as Bernarr Macfadden's Castle on the Hill until it closed in 1971.