158 Main Street: The William M. Oliver House


158 Main St.
owadays this is one of the grandest houses on Main Street; when it was built it was one of a very few. When William M. Oliver bought the lot (nearly two acres in 1818, with another acre added behind, to give access to "the back street" now Liberty Street, in 1824), the Stewart house stood some distance south, and only the Reddy house, the Lawrence house and the Gould house between this spot and Chapel Street. The site was a dry knoll where whortleberries grew, and apparently there was some feeling about the other residents being now deprived of their picking.

Oliver bought the lot so early because he wanted to run for public office and had to be a freeholder to do so. He evidently waited some time before he built the house that now stands there, perhaps as late as 1825. The architect was David G. Keywood, and the original color scheme was as it is now, the brick painted yellow and the woodwork white. At the northeast corner of the lot stood a smaller version of the building, a little two-room office which lasted long enough to turn up on some of the 19th-century images. This was where Oliver practiced law; he was Yates County's first First Judge in 1823, and in the 1830s the Yates County Bank was housed here until it got its own little Greek temple on the east side of Main Street.

In Cleveland's day the house was sold by Oliver's heirs to George R. Youngs, a local man who gave his occupation quite frankly as "speculator." William M. Oliver's son Andrew had met with financial disaster when the Bank failed during the Panic of 1857, and the family's fortunes never really recovered. Youngs resold the place almost immediately, after subdividing it. The lot on which this house and the Edson Potter house next door now stand was sold to Peter S. Oliver in 1866. Youngs paid $11,000 for the entire three-acre property in February, and sold the part of it with frontage on Main Street to Oliver in April.

Peter Sutfin Oliver was the son of Dr. Andrew F. Oliver, Judge Oliver's twin brother, and had just married Anna Maria Clark Brown, the widow of James Brown Jr. of the Universal Friends. Maria had been raised in the Friend's household, married Brown when he was in his sixties and she still a teenager, and inherited much of the Friend's property either directly (she was an heiress through her mother of Rachel Malin) or through her husband. Many years later her daughter Elizabeth Friend Brown (one of four raised by Maria and her second husband in this house) married Edson Potter and they built the house next door at 160 Main Street. At about the same time the little brick office disappeared.

Cleveland says the house had recently been repainted, with the woodwork a "light drab" and the brick body "red and pencilled with appropriate decorative painting in contrast to the wood work and front."



Above, far right: 158 Main Street, built by Yates County's first Judge, William M. Oliver, about the same time the County was organized in 1823. It is a classic temple-front Greek Revival dwelling, with the typical heavy cornice and entablature, closed pediment, and trabeated gable-front entrance; and enhanced with four beautifully-proportioned Ionic columns.

People related to this lot and structure:

     Abraham Wagener
     William M. Oliver
     Andrew F. Oliver
     The Potters

Related structures:

     160 Main Street
     204 Main Street

Related sites:

    Yates County Bank

Related history:

     County Seat



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