127-129 Main Street: Baldwin's Bank

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The Yates County Bank lots

127 Main Streethis is the only building  ever to stand on this site. It was built on a vacant lot in 1872, two stories high with a heavy and elaborate cornice to lend it dignity.

It was raised to three stories later in the century, and a bay added to the north end for the staircase, so the office space could be enlarged. So though this is the original building, its face has changed on a number of occasions. For a long time, the charming facade was even completely submerged.

The lot was sold by Eben Smith to local businessman Joseph Roat in 1829. In 1836 Roat sold this lot to the new Yates County Bank, which stood next door to the north. It remained a vacant lot for 40 years until Mason L. Baldwin, the Rapalee bank's assignee, sold it to Jacob Meserole, a lot 20 feet wide adjacent to the old Bank building, now serving as the Surrogate's office.

Whether Meserole was a straw man or not, in the same year he sold the lot back to Baldwin, who proceeded to build his own bank on it, an attractive little Italianate building with three windows upstairs, two doors and a wider window downstairs. This last, just a slight variation from the symmetry demanded of Italianate buildings, gave this one its cheerful individuality. The beautiful molded and arched cornice completed this impression. It had a slender finial rising from the peak which can be most easily seen in the picture just to the right. The renovation to three stories was probably done in 1888, when Baldwin's Bank 1876the County's Supervisors, at the point of selling the lot they owned next door to John H. Lown, sold to Baldwin a strip ten feet wide adjacent to his bank building's north wall. This alley was floored and roofed over and became an entrance to the Penn Yan Opera House in the rear of both buildings. A rather stately front door was put on this long passageway, and its address was 129 Main Street. It was supposedly under the floor somewhere127 Main Street in this passage that the fire started in 1908 that razed the theater to the ground and killed one man.

The building bore Baldwin's name until 1958, when the company became part of Security Trust Co. Eventually that bank put in an automated teller machine in the mouth of the passage that still remained between this and 131 Main to the north. The machine itself was removed when the bank moved out of this building to Lake Street, but the alcove  remains to show where it was.

The storefront's four openings (three of them still with their Italianate molded arches) replaced by a "modern" brick front, with a single window at the north end, a large square window in the middle, and a double main entrance door at the south end, homely even by today's standards, and completely at odds with the two Italianate upper stories and cornice.

The building was eventually reduced again to two stories, the cornice removed and the whole upper facade sheathed in a "modern" plastic coat. The ground floor front was replaced with the plate glass seen today. When Security Trust donated the building to the village of Penn Yan the plastic was removed to reveal the (nearly) original upper facade beneath. Unfortunately, the village was unable to reproduce and replace the lovely arched cornice.


Top: 127 Main Street as it looks today. When the village acquired it, the plastic facade added by Security Trust was removed; however, the beautiful cornice and the arched windows on the ground floor could not be replaced. The alcove between this and 131 Main once held an ATM; prior to that it was the entrance to the Penn Yan Opera House behind both buildings. The stone moldings above the windows were the sills of the third-floor windows. The rectangular windows at the north end, which lit the stairwell, were bricked up; they had squares of decorative brickwork in between, and one of these remains.

 


Near right: Baldwin's Bank as it looked when it was built. This drawing is from the 1876 Centennial Atlas, only 4 years after construction. It's quite a small building, faithfully following the local commercial version of the Italianate style, with the elaborately decorated cornice, hood moldings slightly modified from true arches, even little cast iron urns atop the corners.

 


People related to this lot and structure:

     David Wagener
   
  Abraham Wagener

     John Dorman
     Eben Smith

Related sites:

     131 Main Street

Related history:

     Looking Backward

 


Far right: The Bank in 1909. This was during its three-story phase. Notice that the cornice and ground floors remained the same, except for the fourth bay with its square sills and lintels. The staircase was in this bay, instead of the one next to it on the south. The bricked-in outline of the second-floor opening in this bay can still be seen on the facade today. The building retained this appearance until 1958.

 

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