The history of Casowasco is as interesting as the site is beautiful. Purchased by the Central New York Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church (now the Upper New York Annual Conference) in 1946, for a fraction of the asking price, the Case property fulfilled the dream of a place where lives could be changed.
Casowasco is the former summer estate of the Theodore Case family. The property then included 73 acres of land, much of it wooded. It also included a mile of shoreline, a freshwater stream, a beautifully landscaped delta on which stood three large residences, a barn, a boathouse, a clay tennis court, and a small single lane bowling alley. A railroad, following the path of the old Auburn to Moravia plank road, ran along the shoreline. The building we now call Galilee was built in 1896 and served as the actual residence of the Case family and its many distinguished guests. The Emmaus Commons is the oldest of the three residences and served as the Case summer home before and as Galilee was being built. The third building, called “Nazareth”, was a simpler, three story guesthouse near the stream that divides the property.
The Case family had acquired its wealth over several generations: Erastus, an officer of Auburn’s bank in the mid 1800’s invested extensively in railroads and real estate; Willard was a scientist and inventor with many patents to his credit; Theodore Willard Case was also an inventor. He developed, at Casowasco and Auburn, the techniques and equipment necessary to successfully bring sound and motion picture together on film. From this invention came Movietone sound motion pictures produced by the 20th Century Fox-Case Corporation.
Evidence of Ted’s inventive mind were scattered about Casowasco; remnants of a hydroelectric system fed by an elaborate drainage system, incandescent light bulbs, and notations along the margins of books in the library. Bottles of all colors, many of them used in his experiments, washed up on shore during the following years, after Mr. Case’s death. Gertrude Case, Theodore’s wife, was the woman to whom the estate was left.
Gertrude was ultimately the Case family member who made the decision to sell the property to The United Methodist Church. Mrs. Case added two conditions to the purchase:
1.) The site carry on the “Case” name. (Case / Owasco = Casowasco)
2.) That the land be used in ministering to youth and children.
She stated as much in her acceptance letter, “It is my greatest wish that Casowasco in leaving the Case family shall serve the high purpose of God and I am thankful for that opportunity”. Since 1946 the site has operated in coordination with both of Mrs. Case’s wishes and with the church’s dream of providing a place to retreat to, and to minister to youth. In over 60 years of providing these ministries, Casowasco has carved out its own unique history of affecting lives for the sake of Christ. Our dream has been and will continue to be to “serve the high purpose of God.”