Postcards of Stella Maris, seen from the lakeside. In the center, you can see the outlines of the original home, Roseleigh. In January of 1879, Mary and Frederick Roosevelt purchased land in Skaneateles from Henry Latrobe Roosevelt. In March, they had a summer home designed by New York City architect William Rutherford Mead. The house was built in pieces in New York City, shipped to Skaneateles and assembled here in 1880 and 1881; the interiors were designed by Stanford White, who had recently joined Mead’s firm, which became McKim, Mead & White.
Roseleigh had 10 bedrooms, 4 baths, a billiard parlor, den, dining room and living room, with a fireplace in every room. It included a stable, a boat house and a generous expanse of shoreline. It is the only building in Skaneateles with a proven claim to touches by Stanford White.
After Frederick Roosevelt’s death in 1916, the home was rented to Mr. & Mrs. Burns Lyman Smith of Syracuse for the summer of 1917. In October, the Smiths purchased the house and used it as a summer getaway until Burns Lyman Smith’s death in 1941. The house passed to his sister, Flora Bernice Smith of Syracuse; she already had a home on East Lake Street, with 1,000 feet of lake frontage, and so she rented Roseleigh out to others. In 1952, she sold the house to the Sisters of St. Francis of Syracuse, and they renamed it Stella Maris. For the next 60+ years, it was a retreat center and home to many of the Sisters.
In 2015, the Sisters, with profound regrets, placed the property on the market. It is currently for sale.