The accidents of history



 

ike all well-defined places, Penn Yan is partly an accident of history and nature, partly the considered design of its inhabitants. It began as the arbitrary creature of land speculators, was acquired by a family of dynasts with their own particular personality quirks, and because of its location drew other settlers, each with individual dreams and ambitions.

Like all such places, the village has developed and retained a distinct personality of its own. I hope to trace here some of the ways this personality has changed over time and yet retained its individuality, just as when a woman ages she remains the same person even through profound changes wrought externally and internally.

The boundaries of the modern village extend over parts of three towns. The heart of the villageís National Register historic district encompasses a part of one corner of a single town, and thatís what this history will concentrate on. There will be many references, of course, to areas outside the district and even outside the village, but to set an arbitrary boundary around Lot 37 in the 7th town, first range in the Massachusetts Pre-emption seems a good way to keep the narrative to a reasonable scope, at least at this stage.