TRIP ADVISOR - The Fargo...not a very good experience
Review: "Wonderful Aurora Inn"

October 22, 2008: Cortland, NY

We were graciously greeted everywhere we went within the Inn and attached village market also owned by the Inn. Coffee delivery to our room was a nice, thoughtful touch, even though we didn't really like the coffee. The only complaint we had was that the food was good, although we expected better. ... The Fargo however, a local bar and grill also owned by the Inn, was not a very good experience. The service was OK, the food was alright, the portions tiny, and the prices OUTRAGEOUS for what you got.

I'd also stay away from Dories, if you're in the area. We went to this cute little coffee and ice cream cafe interested in dessert and lattes. We were not greeted when we walked in the door, we waited for at least 5 minutes until the girl working even acknowledged us... An hour before closing time she basically refused to serve us because she was closing soon. We insisted, as this is the only place to get dessert and coffee in town, and she reluctantly gave in. She treated us as an annoyance our entire time here. She made my husbands latte wrong, and our desserts were stale. We will not be returning here.

TRIP ADVISOR - Abhorrent and Legally Actionable?!
Review: "Aurora Inn - Bizarre"

October, 2007: Beaufort, South Carolina

My Step Mother and I visited there on October 3, 2007. Upon arrival we were greeted by a very nice person. We took our evening meal at the restaurant within the Inn. Service was acceptable The food was probably 6 on a 10 scale.

The following morning as we were about to depart for a wine tour planned by Carly, she called me on the phone and requested a meeting in my room. I consented.

She and another lady came to my room and Carly advised that my Mother and I had been abusive to the receptionist. She further advised that we had been likewise abusive to the server at dinner the preceding evening. She went on to let me know that the two of us were banned from the restaurant because of our behavior.

When I inquired about speaking with our accusers Carly informed me that neither was at work.

Since I am a Trial Lawyer with almost 40 years experience, I asked if this was similar to a trial and conviction in abstentia. Carly said she thought so or words to that effect.

We decided we had enough fun for her 85th birthday. A decision was taken to check out.

Tammy the limousine driver inquired as to the reason for the early departure. When she was informed we had verbally abused the receptionist upon arrival, Tammy dissented. Indeed she stated she was present when we checked in and heard no such thing. To the contrary, she advised both me and my 85 year old step mother that we were both pleasant and agreeable.

I can only assume that Carly has a serious hormonal imbalance or perhaps something even more serious. I wrote to the owner Ms. Sue Edinger to no current avail.

Today I learned from my son, Shipp D. Harris, Jr, that he had received a hateful email concerning alleged bad behavior at dinner at the Aurora Dining Room. He has no idea where it came from and deleted it.

I consider all of the above abhorrent and most likely legally actionable. As I consider my options I refuse to take litigation off the table.

A simple written apology to me and my step mother would solve all of these issues.

One should seriously consider if they want to stay at this Inn. There are better options I am told.

TRIP ADVISOR - 30th Wedding Anniversary Ruined
Review: "Stoney silence from the Aurora Inn"

August, 2007: Trip Advisor Member, New Jersey

...I booked three nights in the beginning of August to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary... On our anniversary we arrived back at the Inn in the late afternoon to discover our air conditioning was not working. Our room was very hot. I received a very lukewarm reassurance from the front desk on whether the repair man would come.

The handyman came when we were at dinner... and was still in our room when we arrived. back He attempted to leave on several occassions claiming the air was fixed even though it was clear to us that we still did not have air conditioning. He changed the thermostat and pronounced that the job was complete... He did something to a pump and pronounced the job was complete. He kept on arguing with us when we said there was no air coming out. Anyway, about 9:30 PM he went up into the bathroom ceiling and the air came on.

The whole time this man was in our room not one employee of the Inn came up. We had to supervise the job ourselves and beg this guy not to leave. It was a real circus.

Our 30th anniversary night was ruined. The room was finally cooled off by 11:30PM.

I had discussed with the front desk...that I did not want to pay for the room that night. We did have the room cooled by 11:30PM so I did not expect a full refund, however when we checked out they gave us a $30 credit! The person at the front desk said this was all she could authorize herself but a manager would call me at home...I believed her.

Needless to say no one from the Aurora Inn contacted me. I have emailed the General Manager twice ... and have never received a response. I even emailed the President of Wells College (since they own a significant share of the Inn) and have not received a response.

Some other service issues...On the night of our anniverary we...we went into the dining room and the hostess lead us to a small table stuck between two side windows. When I asked for a table by the window in the uncrowded dinning room she said they were reserved. I explained that it was our wedding anniversary, we had no air conditioning (she wanted to sit us outside in the humid evening) and she still would not give us the table. We asked to see the manger and she promptly gave us the table. No one came into the dining room while we were there for the other empty window side table...

I also warn you that they do weddings on the weekends with bands outside. This, of course makes your room very noisy until things wrap up.

For three nights we spent a total to $1200 (3 nights lodging and two nights dinner). We are not demanding, fussy people. We just want to be treated fairly and nicely.

I think the Inn is lovely but there are serious service issues. I can not recommend it.

THE TRUTH - Honest rating of Rowland's Aurora Inn
Made before site gets flooded with phony reviews

In unbiased reviews, the Aurora Inn rates"poor" a mere 3.3 out of 10, below Auburn's Days Inn (5.4) and Super-8 Motel (4.5), and far below the area Holiday Inns (6.4 and 7.0) and Microtels (7.3 and 7.2).

PINK CHOICE - Listings
No reviews for Rowland's businesses yet

But Rowland's LLC management team registered both the Aurora Inn and the E.B. Morgan House with Pink Choice, at the site's most expensive advertising level, as "gay and lesbian friendly" properties. So maybe that will help generate some more phony rave reviews. (Or maybe we could hope for more honesty from this quarter, who knows?)

THE REAL DEAL - Not the Pleasant Version
MacKenzie-Childs opens new store

When in Aurora, be sure to visit the new store owned and operated by the original creative artists Richard and Victoria Mackenzie-Childs, HOME AGAIN. It's open Wednesday through Sunday, 11AM to 6PM, and is located 5 miles south of the village in the extraordinary MacKenzie-Childs home at 1671 State Route 90. Several years ago, Pleasant Rowland bought-up the MacKenzie-Childs, Ltd. business headquartered north of the Aurora, and it has floundered ever since. Rowland is now bringing a lawsuit against Richard and Victoria over their right to use their own names!

TRIP ADVISOR - Horrible service at Aurora Inn
Review: "This Place is a Joke!"

April, 2006: A TripAdvisor Member, Upstate NY

After an...awful drive to this hotel, I couldnt believe how BAD the service was. From Check In to Check Out with the mean front desk guy Dan who is like something out of a bad book. to ordering Breakfast, to ordering Dinner it was horrible, the service the food quality EVERYTHING.

The Staff was outright rude, and not only at the hotel, but everywhere. Even when I left the hotel and walked down the street the townspeople were rude, obviously the townspeople do not like the managment of the Inn, I'm not sure what the whole story is but until there are changes with the management and staff I will not be back, and will not reccommend the Aurora Inn to anyone, which is a shame because the place looks very nice, but looks can be deceiving. If things do not change at this hotel I will bet money it will not be open in 5 years.

TRIP ADVISOR - NOT an historic inn
Review: "A crying shame"

August, 2006: A TripAdvisor Member, NYC

Those who know anything about American history, architecture, or preservation will see immediately that this is NOT a restoration or even a rehabilitation. The 1833 Aurora Inn was fully gutted and totally remodeled, with its floor plan re-invented and its facades severely altered with no concern whatsoever for historic reality. Nothing is left of the original structure except some brick and a little salvaged woodwork. The owner's promotion of this senseless vandalism as "restoration" is utterly false and misleading, a cynical attempt to cash in on heritage tourism.

Had we done our research first, we never would have given our business here. We've since discovered that the National Trust for Historic Preservation brought a lawsuit trying to stop this so-called restoration -- that's how bad it was!

On check-in, we swallowed our disappointment and decided to try and experience the Aurora Inn as modern "luxury" accomodation. We found it fell short in terms of service, food, and comfort. Our room's advertised "village view" was of limited appeal -- the bar across the street -- and noise from the abundant truck traffic made sitting on the balcony porch less than idyllic. The room itself felt very cramped, overstuffed with overly-large furniture. Our one dinner there was mediocre and over-priced with very slow service (even though the dining room was nearly empty). The front staff desk was not welcoming on arrival, and became defensive when later asked a few basic questions about the building's original configuration and the village's history.

The Aurora Inn has a very long way to go before it becomes anything like the high-quality retreat it pretends to be. But NEVER should it be called an historic country inn. Not any more. And that's a crying shame.

TRIP ADVISOR - Nice, but...
Review: "We wondered where the management was"

July 21, 2006: A TripAdvisor Member

We stayed one night at the Aurora Inn...Our room overlooked the village and we had a large but not private deck. Coffee delivery in the morning was a nice touch. We had dinner and breakfast at the Inn. The food was not wonderful and a little below what I had expected but not bad. Overall the experience was fine but there were so many little things that could have been done to make it wonderful that we wondered where the management was.

I felt that the woman doing the check-in was more interested in showing me the details of the restoration than making sure that we were comfortable. At dinner, although there were other tables available, we were seated at a small dark table next to a group of rather noisy golfers. It could have been worse, the next table over was in a doorway and the wait staff kept making a short cut through it, frequently passing within inches of the diners. It rained overnight. When we came down for breakfast it was a beautiful day but the outside tables were not available for breakfast because the staff, who were not otherwise occupied, didnât take the ten minutes it would have taken to wipe down the tables. We were seated in front of French doors that were l covered with mist so that we couldnât see to the beautiful lake below. Again, a little wipe down would have made all the difference. These are all small things but if this inn is trying for a very upscale image, I think that a little more attention to these details and better food is called for.

TRIP ADVISOR - Unfriendly staff at Aurora Inn
Review: "Gorgeous but cold"

Feb 6, 2006: A TripAdvisor Member, upstate NY

We spent one night at the Aurora Inn... Overall, the place was beautiful and comfortable, but the service was chilly -- the staff were polite, but not the least bit welcoming.

Before we arrived, we called to ask about things to do in Ithaca (south of Aurora). The person at the front desk made no effort to help us -- he said he really didn't know much about Ithaca, and I felt that I was imposing on him by even asking. Once we arrived, we were thrilled with our room, which was beautifully furnished, and had a view of the lake (Cayuga). Dinner that night at the Inn's restaurant was very good -- my husband's entree was excellent, but mine was a bit ordinary for the price.

When we left, the staff at the front desk were chatting with each other, and no one said good-bye as we checked out... I felt that the staff was lacking in warmth, and were a bit perfunctory in all their interactions with us.

AURORA INN - Home of the $46 Turkey Buffet!
Are they serious?

An absurdly over-priced "special" dinner in December featuring readings from "the side-splitting Charles Dickens" raised the question of how that author -- not a comedian, but a brilliant observer of human nature and passionate critic of social injustice -- would portray an aloof billionaire who fires parents within weeks of Christmas.

LETTER 11/11/05 - To the Mayor
"They will do exactly what they want and everyone else here can be damned"

...When [Pleasant] took the Fargo away, in the face of such a calamourous reaction against the move, she displayed a very obvious disdain for the residents of Aurora. ...I believe Rowland took the Fargo to solidify her control over this village, to shape the town to her personal mores and tastes, and to remove any enterprise that does not fit her narrow notion of tourist-friendly. ....I dislike being marginalized in my home by a billionaire from another state for the benefit of visitors who come here to stay a night or two. I am not anti-tourist, ...but to tailor the entire town -- every business -- to appeal to and serve tourists is not acceptablee...

It seems that the only thing I have been able to do that has received any reaction at all from the LLC has been to park my [protest] car downtown. ...I have decided to resume parking my car downtown. To not do so would imply that I have accepted the LLC's decisions for our community...and that I believe the LLC is acting in the best interest of Aurora's residents. I do not.

Nor do others in Aurora -- no small number of whom, because of the LLC's stranglehold on employment and commerce here, fear exhibiting any public opposition to Rowland. I have been told by numerous people how grateful they were that I am speaking out, because in their position, they felt they could not...

I hold a deep conviction that resisting this sanitization and homogenization of our village is in the best interest of the village of Aurora. ...I do understand that nothing stays the same, and that change is inevitable with the passing of time. But the style, pace, and scope of the changes Rowland has wrought are disturbing and disheartening to me, so I have decided not to give her "vision" my tacit endorsement by remaining silent about it. ...

TRIP ADVISOR - Left Aurora Inn Thoroughly Unsatisfied
Advice: "Get it in Writing!"

August, 2005: A TripAdvisor Member, Philadelphia PA

Would I stay at this location again: no way!
User Rating: 1 of 5

I made a reservation at Aurora Inn over a month before our scheduled trip. We reserved 3 nights: Wed, Aug 10 - Sat, Aug 13. I specifically requested a lakeside view and agreed to stay in the nearby "French House" (also owned & operated by Aurora Inn) because the inn itself had no lake-view rooms available. One week before our trip, I called the inn and confirmed our reservation and the lake-view room.

When we arrived, we were told that our reservation was for a village-view room. I insisted on having a lake-view room and repeated the story of making the reservation and confirming it. The innkeeper informed me that they had changed computer systems twice since the time of my original reservation. She assured me that even though she had to manually re-enter all of the reservation info at least two times, she was sure her data entry matched the original records completely.

I asked when a lake-view room would become available and was told that 2 rooms were vacant at the moment, but we could not have either of them because they were reserved by other couples! I asked her to verify whether those reservations were made before ours, and she refused to look up that information. She would not allow us to have one of the rooms because she would not be able to justify it to those other couples or have a paper trail for the change -- as if she WAS able to jusify it to us or show us a paper trail!

We suspect that our reservation was conveniently changed by the inn, perhaps because the other visitors would stay for more nights (i.e., more money). The innkeeper was uncooperative, unable to give us any documentation of the original reservation, and seemed to be convinced that her establishment was so fabulous that they could pull a bait & switch. She did offer a 10% discount on the village-view room ($180 instead of $200; lake-view was $250). But I informed her that we would have booked elsewhere had they not guarenteed & confirmed the lake-view. We left thoroughly unsatisfied.

Fortunately, we were able to find a room for those 3 nights at the Glass Magnolia Inn in Interlaken, NY. It may not have been quite as elegant or snooty as Aurora Inn, but it was much more convenient to the wine trails, and it was less than half the price!

If you must stay at the Aurora Inn, insist on getting your reservation confirmed IN WRITING. Even then, it might be smart to have a back-up!

Letter to Inn Management

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Good Morning!

Since I'm unable to find a General Manager's name, I'm forced to address this in a general fashion....

When phoning you for accommodations, I requested availability on the King Suite in the main inn. Bonnie said it was not available and I was offered "similar" accommodations in the French House. There is, of course, no suite in the French House. Secondly, I was not informed that there was no internet access nor an elevator in this building. Yes, the setting is grand and the view spectacular. Indeed, I'd have probably have taken the accommodations anyway, but would have appreciated being informed about the lack of certain facilities.

...We enjoyed the staff's attention and cuisine. However, yesterday morning at 7:45 am there was no one in the dining room to serve breakfast or even present a menu. We gave up and had breakfast in Auburn. Iâm also a bit amazed that, while you claim to be a "luxury inn", the orange juice was poured out of a small soda bottle and the scones were "dead".

The turndown service in French House was inconsistent. Some evenings, towels were changed, some not. The light in the shower remained out during our entire stay and the colony of spiders between the bathroom window and screen remained as well as cobwebs in one lamp. Needless to say, opening the window was not an attractive option...

The front desk was helpful in allowing me to access my e-mail and the internet for a short time each afternoon. This all ended on Thursday when Cindy rudely informed me that I could not access the internet due to "security issues". This is, to put it mildly, malarkey. There was also much scurrying at all times plus the desk was left unattended. The Sunday "New York Times" was out upon our arrival, but no other paper, except the "Times" synopsis, was available during the rest of our stay...

In conclusion, we hope that the issues detailed above can be addressed. It's even more puzzling that with one of the world's premier hotel schools, Cornell, about a half hour away that the Aurora Foundation can't or won't take advantage of this resource for training....

Letter in local newspaper, spring 2005

The village of Aurora has become, in the classic economic sense of the word, a monopoly -- that which inhibits economic freedom by denying individuals alternatives to exchange.

Five years ago, Aurora had an independent grocery store, an independent newspaper and ice cream shop, a local hardware store, a masseur, a gift shop, a locally owned dress shop, a flower shop owned and run by a town resident, a bar run by a local proprietor, and Mackenzie Childs, a nationally recognized pottery and home furnishings manufacturer founded and run by two local entrepreneurs.

Other than the hardware store and dress shop, almost all other economic transactions within the village must be now be made with the Aurora Foundation, which runs the Inn, the grocery store, the ice cream shop, the flower shop, the local bar, and Mackenzie Childs. This is a fact. In a recently published letter, George Farenthold, Aurora Village Trustee and husband of Wells College president Lisa Ryerson, wrote that the statement that there had been a "corporate takeover" of Aurora was "ridiculous on its face." The facts show otherwise.

The other significant economic entity in town is Wells College. The Aurora Foundation and Wells College have a very intimate association. Mr. Farenthold called the relationship between the College and the Aurora Foundation a "unique partnership," but others might call it a cartel, or a business combination.

Regardless of what you call the relationship between the college and the Aurora Foundation, the combined entities control almost every business, nearly of all of Aurora's real estate, and are the source of virtually all of the jobs available within the village. So what if Aurora is a company town? Why does it matter if power is tightly consolidated in a small village? It matters because it impinges on the economic, political, and individual freedoms of its residents.

...What if you are a town official and you also work for the Aurora Foundation LLC or Wells College and the LLC or Wells college puts forth a proposal that they desperately want to get passed and you feel is not in the interests of the village? Should you be concerned for your job?...What if a resident wants to rent property from the College to start a business that competes with the Aurora Foundation LLC? Would the College rent to you?...What if your opinions about what is going on in the town are contrary to those of the Aurora Foundation LLC? Well, Pleasant Rowland might ban you from all of the LLC facilities...As things stand now in Aurora, Ms. Rowland has that power....

Email from a "disgruntled bride"

Last year in June I contacted the Aurora Inn about having my dream wedding at the Inn. I was told to speak to the events coordinator who at the time was Scott Merrick. Scott was wonderful...so I went ahead and made plans to have me wedding with my date on hold.

At the time Scott was unable to send me the menu options I requested, I was told that the menus were being changed for the new year...I should have been concerned at this point but I thought, this is a year off I can wait. Scott was wonderful at keeping me notified and holding my hand and helping me and my mother remain calm.

So as summer turned to Fall my future husband and our parents planned a trip to Aurora to do a walk through with our parents... Scott had agreed to come in on his day off to meet with us. When we arrived on Sunday and asked the front desk woman to let Scott know we were here, we were rudely told by her "Mr. Merrick doesn't work here anymore." When we asked who we would speak to since this was a complete shock to us, we were told that the position wasn't filled yet but that the general manager would be in on Monday and we could call her then.

I said that this was unacceptable and that we wanted to speak to someone now! After waiting for a half hour (and by now I was in tears), a very poised but COLD woman named Jennifer came to the front desk and explained that Mr. Merrick is no longer employed by the Inn but she would answer any questions. This is not what I wanted to hear. I had developed a relationship with Scott, and I wanted to know where he went and what happened, was he okay could I contact him?

Jennifer told us if we could locate his number we could call but she would not give it out. All she would tell me was that Mr. Merrick was not a "good fit" for the Aurora Inn and that someone more to the Inn's "level of service" would be hired.

I was heartbroken to find that Scott was gone, but the date was on hold and I loved this Inn so I figured we would make it work. Well, after Scott left I NEVER, received any other information, and no other phone calls from the Inn. I called on five seperate times and left messages, with no return calls. I left messages for Sue Edinger the GM, even to Katie Waller and NEVER got a call back.

My wedding was NOT held at the Aurora Inn this summer, in fact it was not even held on Cayuga Lake, we moved the wedding to Kueka Lake instead. I want everyone who reads this to know, that Mr. Scott Merrick was a consimate professional whos sense of humor and delightful personality sold me completely on the Aurora Inn. With him gone I am sure the Inn is still a beautiful shell with absolutely no heart inside and that is a true shame.

Scott if you see this and I hope you do, you deserve so much more then the Aurora Inn could offer you, much success to you.

Amanda (and Michael), Boston MA

[Maybe the Pleasant Management decided this couple wasn't a "good fit" for the Inn, either, and will provide receptions only to "approved" individuals who fit the strange LLC customer mold, like Hoffman Institue grads...?]

Email from an Aurora resident

I've been banned from the Inn. So says the dining room manager and a front desk clerk.

Well, maybe not banned YET (says Sue Edinger, the manager) when I demanded an explanation from her, but "things don't look like they are working out".

I am one of the few town people who go to and have supported the Inn. They have been keeping a dossier for the past year and a half on my behavior, and recording "overheard conversation". It is obvious that some of the waitstaff spies on customers and reports back to the Foundation LLC.

They read to me from the dossier on Saturday, putting me (their customer) on the hot seat. It was all fabrications and exaggerations. In some cases they had me mixed up with other people. Fortunately I have witnesses to support my words.

Why should a paying customer be treated this way? Why should I have to defend myself to them?

I'll tell you why: because it is not about being a paying customer. The money doesn't matter. The only thing that matters is that Pleasant Rowland be able to control our behavior. It is about control and ego not money. That kind of business won't work......but then again in this case - in a financial sense - it doesn't have to.

Pleasant Rowland has been playing with dolls for too long.

Yes, I am furious.

PS "Things don't look like they are working out" here in town, for the LLC, either.

[Is this an attempt to annoy, intimidate, and/or humiliate a gal who has been involved with the Vehicular Protest? Compiling a "dossier" from eavesdropping on a customer? Where, when, and to whom are LLC employees listening? What information is being collected? Are staff told to eavesdrop in all LLC locations? Are the guest rooms at the Inn and French House bugged -- that would be logical -- or do the chamber maids just lurk outside the doors and listen at the keyholes?]

reported by in Madison WI, summer 2005

President George W. Bush has Cindy Sheehan, the grieving mother camped outside Bush's Crawford, Texas vacation retreat, who would like to talk to the president about the war in Iraq. Pleasant Rowland, the Madison businesswoman and philanthropist, has Elizabeth "Lili" MacCormick, a 74-year-old grandmother who for the past month has parked her 1989 red Chevrolet pickup in front of the Aurora Inn in Aurora, N.Y., in hopes of having a word with Rowland, who in the past few years has invested heavily in the tiny village, to the delight of some residents and dismay of others.

Sunday's Syracuse Post-Standard had an article (Bumping Heads in Aurora) about MacCormick, an Aurora resident since 1958, and her truck, which has bumper stickers on it that say, "Aurora was Pleasant before" and "May your community never be turned into a corporation-run theme park." Rowland, a graduate of Aurora's Wells College, has set up a foundation that has bought or refurbished various Aurora buildings and businesses, including most recently the Fargo, a funky local pub that some locals feel has been gentrified to its great detriment.

"The bumper sticker war is kind of silly," MacCormick told the Syracuse paper, "but it's a statement. It seems to be the only way to get their attention. I have written letters, but they're not responded to. Her attitude is, 'The locals don't matter.' It would be lovely to have her actually talk to people, let us know what she has in mind and listen to our concerns. It would make an enormous difference."

A COMMUNITY TORN APART - "Deep Pockets, Deep Divisions"
Feature in the local paper, May 2005.

Much more press about the village's destruction may be found on this web-site, and on a site which recounts Pleasant Rowland's earlier failed attempt to redesign the entire campus of Wells College.

Leave a message in our guestbook, or use our feedback form for longer comments.

Site last updated October 27, 2008