306 Main Street: The Henry Welles house


n 1888, when this lot finally passed out of the Welles family, it was the same size and shape as it had been in 1817 when Abraham Wagener sold it: one acre, nearly square. The man he sold it to was John F. Ellsworth, for $150. At that time the lot to the north was still owned by Asa Cole, and presumably Ellsworth wanted this property also for commercial purposes.

However, he sold it very soon to a cabinetmaker named Amasa Holden, who apparently never recorded the deed. Holden had just brought his large family to Penn Yan, and began immediately to craft the beautiful sideboards and other furniture for which he is known (at least two of his sideboards are in museums). In 1819 he sold this place and moved to a different one north of Head Street, and apparently lived there until he died.

The man he sold the property to was William Babcock, and there was again no deed recorded, but Babcock makes reference to the transaction in his deed of sale in 1823, when he resold it to a man named Samuel Babcock, probably a relative, . The price was $1200; obviously there was a structure of some kind on the lot, no doubt the combined dwelling and workshop that Holden had used.

By 1830 the lot had again changed hands without anyone bothering to record the deed: Samuel Babcock sold it to John and Robert Rumney, and they in turn sold it in that year to Henry Welles.

Welles was a lawyer (one of several who bought or built houses along Main Street; it must be remembered that Penn Yan was the county seat), and he became a County Judge, so he is generally called "Judge Welles" in narratives about his life and times. His only son, Samuel H. Welles, also became a lawyer and lived in a house on the same lot which is no longer extant. In 1866 Welles and his next-door neighbor James Armstrong created a mutual right of way between their lots which led to the rear where Samuel's house was.

A few years after Welles' death in 1868, his widow Margaret made the property over to their daughter Mary Welles Robbins. She resided there until she sold it to Laura Struble in 1888. It was Mrs. Struble who subdivided the lot and sold the land on which stand #s 304 and 308.

The house now standing on the lot was built by Welles soon after he bought the property, in 1831. It shows what is often called Transitional style, a hybrid between Federal and Greek Revival that shows traces of both but is distinctively neither. The semi-elliptical fanlight, the very deep porch and the general lightness of the design show the Federal influence; the elaborate and beautiful entrance along with the entablature and pediment with dentil work above the porch are all typical of Greek Revival. The house is a happy mixture of both.



Above right: the Henry Welles house shows a transitional style with elements of both Federal and Greek Revival. The bay window and the third-floor porch on the south wing were added later in the 19th century. the south porch, steps and handrails were added during the 20th century.

People related to this lot and structure:

     Abraham Wagener
  Henry Welles
     William Babcock
     Amasa Holden

Related sites:

    304 Main Street
    308 Main Street

Related history: