173 Main Street: The R.C.C. Bordwell House


173 Main St.

octors apparently loved this house. It was built by one in 1868, and was afterwards occupied by a married team of dentists, and then sold to another physician.

It was Dr. Robert C.C. Bordwell who moved into Penn Yan and built this house on ground swept by the fire of 1867. A carriage shop on this lot was destroyed by the fire, part of Wood & Bruen carriage makers, but long before that, in the fall of 1799, Abraham Wagener built his first house in Penn Yan on this site. Wagener's father David died at the end of August in that year, leaving his land at Penn Yan (of course as yet unnamed) to his two sons. Abraham, the elder, was at that time living on a farm a short distance north of where Himrod is today.

He remarked that his father had left him "a most unpromising inheritance," but he nevertheless built a new house, the first frame structure within the village's modern boundaries, and moved into it on New Year's Day in 1800. Unfortunately there is no known description of this house, though it was big enough to be used as an inn when he moved downstreet in 1816. It was run by Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Cobb and called the Farmers' Exchange (less formally and more frequently simply "Mrs. Cobb's"). Her name was Sarah, and she ran public houses at other sites in Penn Yan after this one burned to the ground in 1841.

George W. Johnson sold the lot to Dr. Bordwell in September 1868, a year after the fire. The deed makes mention of "the brick house lately built thereon." So the house was already there when Bordwell bought it, but Cleveland and everyone else seems to agree that it was Bordwell who built it.

The house was for some years around the turn of the 20th century the combined home and offices of the dentists Hopestill R. Phillips and his son-in-law Robert S. Wrean. Wrean's wife Virginia Phillips Wrean was also a dentist; interestingly, up through the 1920s female dentists were much more common than they were later.

Another doctor, George Leader with his wife Evelyn, bought the house in 1919, and their doctor son still lived there (and practiced medicine) into the 1940s. Leader had his offices in rooms on the ground floor, entered by a side door still extant. Presumably the previous medical and dental practitioners did the same. There were once formal gardens in the rear, sloping down to Jacob's Brook; all that remain are a few trees, a stone bench, and some very determined perennials.


Right: The Bordwell house, 173 Main Street. As far as can be ascertained, this house is (on the outside) nearly identical to the one built by Dr. Bordwell in 1868. There are additions onto the rear that were built in the 20th century, but the main block is unchanged. The style is uncompromising Italianate, with a nearly flat roof, wide eaves, brackets and symmetrical main facade. The eaves conceal built-in copper gutters. Brick was almost always painted in the 19th century; this house was painted dark red until recently.

People related to this lot and structure:

     Abraham Wagener
Miles Benham
     The Bordwells

Related sites:

     The Mansion House

Related history:

     The Return


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