144-50 Main Street: Struble's Arcade



150 Main St.
his magnificent Victorian commercial building bears its name on the front. It was built in 1869 by Charles V. Bush.

Bush was something of a local phenomenon. He was born in Orange County in 1819 and apprenticed as a carpenter and joiner to William H. Ellis in Canandaigua. In 1848 he arrived in Penn Yan, and spent the rest of his life in the village, building so many of the commercial buildings on Main Street that it definitely bears his distinctive stamp.

The Arcade was built in so-called "General Grant" style or more properly Second Empire, a reflection of the popularity of French Imperial fashion in the United States at the time; it also led to "Eugenie" becoming a very popular girl's name, after Louis Napoleon's beautiful Empress. The building's most distinctive feature is the mansard roof; in this case there is also a mansard tower in the center, with the characteristic round and hooded dormer windows. The mansard roof was quite a practical innovation of the time, as it allowed an extra story with more light than would have been available otherwise, in residences a perfect area for the servants' quarters, and in stores a very usable attic for storage or for additional rooms.

The Arcade in 1876The lot itself was part of a two-acre parcel that John Dorman left in his will to his granddaughters, Susan Miller and Betsy Nichols. They were the daughters of Elizabeth Dorman Wagener, John's daughter and the first wife of Melchoir Wagener. The girls' grandfather Dorman died in 1821, when they were still minors. In 1826 the elder of the girls, with her husband Robert Miller, sold this part of the lot to Samuel S. Ellsworth, and he in 1834 to Alexander Cole. It wasn't until 1844 that Betsey and her husband Robert Miller signed a quitclaim to Ellsworth; the deed specifically states that this part of the property by then belonged to Alfred Brown. One interesting aspect of this deed is that "School House Alley" formed its southern boundary. This was before Maiden Lane got its present name; its namesake was the school, which stood on the south side of the lane directly opposite the present 14 Maiden Lane.

The lot was owned by Brown all during the 1840s and '50s and most of the '60s, during which time the village post office was housed in a small wooden building that stood on the site, at its southeast corner, along with at least two dwelling houses. It was Brown who sold the lot to C.V. Bush in 1867, who then commenced to build the Arcade. The post office, incidentally, remained in the building until 1912, when the present village Post Office was built across the street.

The Arcade was what we would call today a kind of indoor shopping center. An astonishing variety of businesses and services occupied rooms in the building, and the G.A.R. and American Legion used the vast third floor for a hall. The second floor was occupied by the draft board during the two World Wars, and the village's first A & P and its first telephone exchange were located on the ground floor.

There was actually more room on the lot than was needed for the Arcade. In 1887 Mrs. J.M.P. Brooks owned a lot north of the Arcade that she was contemplating developing. However, Charles D. Welles, who had purchased her lot and the Arcade lot at the same time, decided against building another store there and instead sold it to William H. Fox, owner of the old Judge Oliver house next door, for $2000.

Above far right: 144-150 Main Street, Struble's Arcade, is a well-preserved commercial building in Second Empire style. Built new in 1869 by local architect Charles V. Bush, it was (and is) the only extension of the village's commercial district north of Maiden Lane on this side of Main Street. It was meant to be and remains an elegant and bold statement of American commercial power in the post-Civil War period. An addition was built onto the rear of the original 60-by-110 foot brick structure during the 1880s.

Right, The Arcade as it was in 1876, less than ten years after it was built. The first floor was about 21 inches above the sidewalk, so the basement was quite accessible. On the far left of the picture two men descend the stairs to the oyster bar that is advertised on a little marquee in the alley beside it. There were three flights of stairs into three different establishments. The first and second floors were full of shops, the Post Office and so on, and the third was a single immense room used at this time as the press room for the Penn Yan Democrat. Notice the intact iron cresting on roof and tower and the decorated glass in the first floor windows.

People related to this lot and structure:

     Abraham Wagener
     John Dorman
     Samuel S. Ellsworth
     Charles V. Bush

Related structures:

     Cornwell Block
     Bush's Hall

Related sites:

    Penn Yan Academy

Related history:

    The Return


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