photographs exist of the house that stood at 227 Main Street before it was
razed in 1973 to build a new County jail and sheriff's office. The long
beautiful iron fence survived World War II, but was auctioned off like the
rest of the property. The house could justly be called a showplace, certainly
the most elegant place in the village, though of course less so by the time
it was taken down.
The house stood on
the site of an earlier structure, a three-story hotel called the Washington
House, built in 1824 by a man named Eliah Holcomb. The legend persists that
he was an English sea-captain; he may have been a mariner of some kind,
but he was certainly not English. He was one of a family that came into
Benton and farmed there for several generations.
The Washington House
did not last too long as an institution, but the house itself performed
many more years of honorable service. It was the first Penn Yan Academy
(the words "and Female Seminary" were added later), and attracted
a number of well-known academics to the village between 1829 and 1842.
Eventually it passed
by foreclosure into the hands of Samuel S. Ellsworth, and Ellsworth sold
it to Ebenezer Brown Jones, son of the Joseph Jones who lived at #225, and
namesake of the County's sheriff and postmaster, who built the house at
#218. It was
Jones who built the house most people remember on this site, in about 1848.
In 1871, after his
own house at #213 burned, Stewart Ellsworth, son of the elder Ellsworth,
bought this house and moved into it. It was his wife Hebe Magee Ellsworth
who added the fountain, the conservatory and the iron fence. When Ellsworth
died her brother George Magee was his executor, and he sold the property
to Charles C. Sheppard, who in his 1887 will bequeathed it to his son John
Another private owner
of the house was Oscar G. Murray, who was President of the Baltimore &
Ohio Railroad when he died in 1917. His will left a life interest in the
old house to his cousin, a Mrs. Allen, who already lived there, and continued
to live there for years. When she died it reverted to the Railroad Employees'
Benevolent Association, who sold the place and used the proceeds for its
In 1932 the house was
again made over into a hotel, named after its new owner Walter Wagner. It
is under this name that nearly everyone remembers the building; it was transferred
to another site when this one was razed, to continue business as a restaurant