the same publication from which the quote in the sidebar on this page is
taken, appears a description of the village in 1841: Wolcott quotes from
Barber & Howe's New York Historical Collections, published in
that year. Penn Yan was "a thriving incorporated village, which is
principally built on a street about a mile in length. It contains a Presbyterian
church, a court house, a Baptist church and a Methodist church. The other
public buildings in the village are an Episcopal church, an academy, a prison,
a bank and a county clerk's office. The place is one of much business, and
has many mercantile stores and about 300 dwellings."
The size of the
village as recorded in Messrs. Barber & Howe's publication is borne
out by a tax roll taken of the village in that year, which is still
extant. On this list are 53 pieces of property described as stores,
shops or other commercial establishments; with about a hundred property
owners. They lived on the following streets: Main, Elm, Liberty, Canal
(now Seneca), South, Benham, Water, Court, Head (North Avenue), Jacob
(East Elm), Wagener, Chapel, Clinton, Jackson (Linden) and Main Street
South (East Main).
The main business district
was by this time firmly settled at the foot of Main Street. There were still
stores at the head of the street and elsewhere, notably the Millard &
Ayres store located where 312 Main Street now stands.
The Wagener Mansion
at the foot of Main Street was a hostelry of which Miles Mariner was
the landlord. Benjamin L. Hoyt ran a tavern. These are the only two
such institutions mentioned on the tax roll in that year. The bank mentioned
above was the Yates County Bank, established during the 1830s in a charming
little Greek Revival temple that stood where the Lown's building is
now. It failed in 1857 during the great depression of that year, ruining
the fortunes of a number of Penn Yan magnates.
The 1840s were, however,
a time of unrelieved growth, nationally as well as locally. The major issue
in Penn Yan was temperance, one that everywhere was advanced by a great
many intemperate notions. It of course gave rise within a few years both
to the women's rights movement and abolition of slavery. The last split
the three Protestant church congregations into abolitionist and non-abolitionist
sections during the 1840s, a wound not entirely healed until the Civil War
obviated the question entirely.
During this decade
the face of Penn Yan, or at least that of the business districts, changed
pretty radically as the wooden buildings were replaced by brick. This of
course did not stop the periodic disastrous fires, but it seems to have
made them a little less widespread. When a fire started in one building
it did not always take with it the whole rest of the block, as happened
in 1836 in the "Brimstone Row" fire that apparently awoke the
village to this technical innovation.
The fire department
was five years old in 1840, having been born at a meeting held in 1835
in the American Hotel. The village trustees directed Thomas H. Locke,
a bookbinder by trade, to go to Rochester and buy the brake-and-suction
engine called Neptune and a quantity of leather hose. Prior to that
the hand engine known as the Cataract and a bucket brigade were used
to fight fires, with everybody in the village expected to turn out.
Neptune was used to fight the Brimstone Row fire, and in fact was used
for 20 years before it was sold to Hammondsport. It lived in a building
on Elm Street; the Cataract was kept in a small wooden shanty on Head
Street, east of Main.