162 Main Street: The David B. Prosser House

162 Main St.

avid B. Prosser's beautiful brick high-style Italianate house was built in 1871, on the site of an earlier house. He was so proud of it that he had his monogram placed in the keystone over the doorway arch, where it can still be seen today.

The architects were Jacob Allington and William P. Capell, two local men whose skill is abundantly displayed here.

The lots between Main and Liberty Streets on this block were laid out by Abraham Wagener in a standard size, 4 by 17 rods (66 by 280.5 feet), with an alley behind, running north and south midway between the two streets, that served as a kind of service entrance. Mention is made of it in many of the earlier deeds, but it doesn't seem to have lasted very long; the right of way went eventually to the adjacent landowners.

The first use of this lot was in 1827 when Samuel F. Curtiss built his chair factory here. Curtiss' first factory was at the head of the street, and this was the second location. His house was to the rear of the lot, facing Liberty Street. Curtiss also bought the alley between this location and Chapel Street, and his wagons ran along this route loaded with the chairs he made in his factory.

The property was sold in 1831 to the hatter Ebenezer Jenkins; in six years its value increased from $300 (Wagener's standard price for these uptown lots) to $1200. Jenkins resold it in 1833 for another handsome profit: $1875. It changed hands twice more in a relatively short time, until Samuel Lawrence, who owned the lot immediately to the north, acquired it in 1836.

Lawrence quickly turned it over to Henry P. Sartwell, a physician and well-known local naturalist. Sartwell didn't own the place long and in fact probably never actually lived here. He sold the property to Peter Embury of New York City in 1840, and in the following year Embury's son Edmund sold it to a consortium of local business men led by William M. Oliver. The lot presumably still contained the old factory building and was thus ripe for speculation.

Be that as it may, in 1852 the property was sold for $1900 to Rachel, wife of Leander Reddy. The couple already owned some other lots on both sides of Main Street, but it is known that they actually did live on this one, and that Reddy probably built the house. They are listed as the taxpayers on this lot in 1850, and it is shown as their residence on the maps made in 1857 and 1865.

Just south of where the Prosser house now stands was a schoolhouse that dated back at least to 1819. Mrs. Reddy ran it as a one-room private school for some years. In 1868 this little building was the office of Dr. Henry J. Jackson.

In early 1870 Rachel Reddy sold the property (for $5000) to Maria Prosser, the lawyer's fourth wife, reserving the right to move the buildings elsewhere. This remarkably high price was thus paid for the land only, in the best residential neighborhood in Penn Yan. Ten years later Emmet C. Dwelle sold his house across the street and bought the Prosser mansion for $9000. The place was later occupied by H. Merton Smith, who had a very popular boot and shoe store downtown.



Far right: 162 Main Street, built in 1871 by the lawyer David B. Prosser. It's a nice example of Italianate style, lightened by the Victorian sympathy with asymmetrical massing. The east facade is simple and dignified, with its elaborate double-leafed door and hooded portico, topped off with a broken flattened pediment and a round window. The shift towards the right of these details is balanced by the jog to the south with its well-preserved porch. Note also the rhythmic placement of the doubled brackets under the wide flat eaves.

People related to this lot and structure:

     Abraham Wagener
Samuel F. Curtiss
Samuel Lawrence
William M. Oliver
David B. Prosser

Related structures:

     342 Main Street

Related sites:

     177 Main Street
     167 Main Street

Related history:

     Looking Backward



1857 view1865 view1874 view1876 view1896 view1931 view2008 view  
Click a button for an overview of the whole block.