157 Main Street: The Ira Raplee House

157 Main St.
pparently the first house on this lot was also the last, although it was changed profoundly in appearance and footprint. According to Cleveland it was built by Nelson Thompson, who ran the American Hotel farther down Main Street until it burned in 1857. Thompson bought the lot from John L. Moore in 1841, which is congruent with the house's original Greek Revival style.

Thompson sold this house to Oliver G. Bryant, a jeweler, in 1863, the year he became proprietor of the new Benham House hotel next door. The 157 Main Streetactual deed was made out to Bryant's wife Sarah, who sold the house in 1871 to her son-in-law Ira Raplee. The Raplees lived there until the end of the century, so it was probably they who added the small Italianate porch that led up to the front door.

The house belonged to Herbert J. MacNaughton, a dentist, in 1906 but in 1909 it was a family named Turner who owned it, sold the lot to the United States of America, and moved the house to Elm Street, where it stood until recent years, razed finally to provide more room for a drug store and parking.

The house was photographed at the time it was moved in April 1911. It must have been fantastically expensive, as this was the period when downtown Penn Yan was forested with utility poles, and shaded by the attendant wires and cables. The picture makes it obvious that the house was too high to fit under these, so they had to be removed. The picture shows the substantial crowd drawn by the spectacle, and the b157 Main Streetanner across the front of the house, reading "MURRAY is doing the electric work." The motive power was a single dejected-looking team of horses. There is also a chain visible in the street (which was of course unpaved) which no doubt was used to help inch the house along.

Another picture shows the house about to make the turn onto Elm Street. It shows clearly that there was only one team involved, and a whole system of chains on the ground. It also shows the apparatus supporting the house from underneath. At least one man is actually standing under the building.

Moving the Turner HouseThese two photographs are the only ones found showing the house after the octagonal tower and wraparound porch were added. It would have been nice to see it in its original position next to the Benham House. The row must have been very impressive.

The federal government built the new Post Office in 1912, replacing two houses on three lots. It was and is a handsome building in a dignified Colonial Revival style that had not, at that time, become as bland as it would later. This was an era when buildings were still designed one at a time to fit the site, and it was in fact added to the National Register by the Federal government itself in a separate action during the mid-1990s.


Simpson Buck plot

Top, far right: The Penn Yan Federal Building, a handsome Georgian Revival structure built in 1912.

Middle, near right: An enlargment of part of an early picture of the Benham House hotel, showing 157 Main Street next door. It was a simple rather late Greek Revival dwelling, built in 1841 by Nelson Thompson. The photograph was taken by Dr. Horace C. Mills and is in the Oliver House collection.

Middle, far right: The Turner house being moved from its site to Elm Street. There is no record of a new house ever having been built at 157 Main, so this is evidently the original 1841 house transformed. In 1897 it was still as shown in the earlier photograph, a rather plain side-gable main block with a wing on the east (back) side; in 1903 the total footprint was nearly the same, but with the octagonal tower now at the southwest corner and the large wrap-around porch across the whole west (front) side and about a third of the way down the south side. The bay window on the north side, visible in the later picture, was added at the same time.
           Note also on the far right of the picture the beautiful front of what is now the village's Maxwell building; it had three stories with an elaborate cornice, arched windows and an entrance on Main Street, also arched. It was still Baldwin's Bank at this time.

Bottom, near right: A picture taken the same day as the one just above it, a little farther down Main Street, about to make the corner onto Elm Street. On the left side of the picture is the round-cornered Bordwell's drug store, 100 Main.

People related to this lot and structure:

     Abraham Wagener
     John Dorman

Related sites:

159 Main Street

Related history:

     Boom Town
     Looking Forward
     Another Boom



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