312 Main Street: The James Armstrong house


sa Cole bought this lot in 1815, together with the one adjacent to the south where #310 stands, from James Sears, for $100. Both Sears and Cole were prominent in the commercial development at the head of Main Street, and perhaps wanted to expand such development further south where there was more room. In any case by 1819 two men from Albany, named Joseph Vansandt and George Hanford, erected a store on this lot. They paid $1000 for the land.

Cleveland says a firm named Palmer & Ayrault came in about 1820 or maybe 1822 from Angelica to take over the business, and that Eli Sheldon served as Palmer's clerk and thus arrived in Penn Yan. Cleveland further states that Henry Bradley ran the store for a while, and that James Cooley bought the lot and built the house now at #310. The old store was moved south to Chapel Street and made into a carriage shop which stood there opposite the Methodist Church.

Be all that as it may, the land changed hands a bewildering number of times before 1856, when Stephen Raymond sold it to Ephraim M. Whitaker of New York City for $535. The deed mentions a small building on the premises "about the size of a common smoke house," which Hugh Joynt (Frederick Rhode's son-in-law, who lived at #314 next door) was then using to keep friction matches in. Joynt was given permission to move the said building, presumably onto the adjoining lot where he lived with his widowed mother-in-law.

Whitaker conveyed the lot the following year to James Armstrong, who built this house in fine Italianate style in 1866. He added a little land to the north, but then sold it back to the Board of Education when the Academy was built. Armstrong himself, who was a member of the hardware firm of Armstrong & Gage, died in 1871; his family remained in this house until 1949.


Above right: The Armstrong house, built in 1866, in an elegant Italianate style, with decorative double brackets, bay windows and a large porch; the trim above the windows, the shapes of the porch columns and the double-leaf doors are also typical of the style and era. The carriage house in the rear is contemporary with the main house, and has details such as the molding around the hayloft door, and the carving on the cupola.

People related to this lot and structure:

     Abraham Wagener
  Asa Cole
     The Armstrongs
     Eli Sheldon

Related sites:

    310 Main Street

Related history:

     The return