The Florentine D. Roth Mansion Becomes Home to Sisters of St. Joseph’s Music Conservatory
The Roth mansion which stood on the south corner of Washington and Mullin Street was built by Florentine Daniel Roth about seven years after he moved to Watertown in 1882 with his wife, Emily Santee Roth, from Nazareth, Pennsylvania. After rising through the department store ranks at an early age, becoming store manager before 21, then district manager, he was sent to Watertown to establish a Bush & Bull dry goods branch.
By the end of his first year, Mr. Roth became a partner in the firm, now named Bush, Bull and Roth. On September 1, 1888, he would purchase the mansion on the corner of Washington and Mullin Streets from Richard E. and Harriet G. Hungerford. Roth would raze the old mansion that had stood there half a century and build the Gouverneur marble mansion that would become known as the Roth Mansion in its place.
Within his first decade in Watertown, Mr. Roth had served on the local board of education and was alderman of the old third ward in 1890-1. The following year, he was elected mayor of Watertown by beating out James B. Wise, winning 67% of the ballots. In April of 1897, the Bush, Bull & Roth enterprise would dissolve and Mr. Roth would buy the business with his brother-in-law, Elmer V. Santee, and conduct it under the name of Roth and Santee.
Mr. Roth and Mr. Santee would have much bigger plans in store in the following years. Their new building, initially named the Roth & Santee building, would be the first “skyscraper” in the city of Watertown and the tallest building in New York north of Syracuse. The eight-story building would officially be named by Mrs. Roth who declared it “The Rothstock” after Rothstock peak, the highest of the Riggi mountains in Switzerland. As told by the Watertown Daily Times upon its opening in 1905–
It is from this peak that the most beautiful sunset in Switzerland is viewed by thousands of tourists each year, and the name was suggested by Mrs. Roth, who has visited this famous peak, by the height of the Roth & Santee building and the extensive view of Watertown that may be obtained from its upper floor.
Unfortunately, Mr. Roth would pass away just two years later at the age of 52 in 1907. Prior to his death, he would withdraw from the business which, at that point, had become the F. D. Roth Company. Mrs. Roth would manage the business after her husband’s death for a period of time, but sell it to Frank A. Empsall who formed the F. A. Empsall and Co, later and more prominently known as Empsall’s which many people refer to the building due to its long, successful run at the location.
Mrs. Roth would pass away in 1910, at about the same age as her husband three years prior. Their only child, Roswell, would take possession of the Roth Mansion on Washington and Mullin Street and reside there for a bit before moving to Saranac Lake for some time. The Watertown Daily Times reported on April 28, 1916, that the Roth Mansion, which had been rented out for a several years, would be vacated shortly and that it was sold to become home to a musical conservatory for students of Immaculate Heart Academy.
Mother Josephine Buys Roth Home
Will Be Part of Her School
Roswell J. Roth, proprietor of the Roth Building and owner of the beautiful marble dwelling at the corner of Washington and Mullin Streets, has sold the Washington Street Residence, which was the Roth home, to Rev. Mother Josephine, mother superior of the order of St. Joseph. It has been known for some time that Mother Josephine had been desirous of obtaining a location on the south side of the river for use in connection with the celebrated Immaculate Heart Academy on Main Street, which she and her associates of the order have conducted with such marked success.
The home is an attractive 16 room structure with spacious halls and mosaic tiled floors, carved mantlepieces, etc. It was about 20 years ago at a cost of $45,000 and was occupied by Mr. and Mrs. Florentine D. Roth, proprietors of the well known Roth Store, until their deaths. The son, Roswell Roth, made his home there for a time, until his health failed and he then went to Saranac Lake, where he has been until recently. After Mr. Roth left Watertown for Saranac, the home was rented, and it has been occupied by numerous tenants since then.
The conservatory would operate in the former Roth mansion for 45 years. In 1961, the Savings and Loan Association of Watertown would purchase the 72-year-old mansion from the Sisters of St. Joseph with plans to raze it and erect a modern banking facility on the site. The total estimated costs for the project, including the purchase of the former Roth mansion, demolition and new construction would be $200,000.
Today, the building is home to Retina-Vitreous Surgeons of Central New York.
2 Reviews on “Roth Mansion – Sisters of St. Joseph Music Conservatory (1889 – 1961)”
So, the Brighton Hotel was once The Rothstock?
Yes, one and the same building.
My great-grandfather, David Dell Kieff, was the architect for the Roth mansion as well as the Rothstock “skyscraper “. He, like Mr. Roth, also served as Mayor of Watertown (1937-1940).