325 Main Street: The first Cornwell house

 

rank Swann in his work on Main Street referred to this place as "a new house on an old frame," which is about as good a description as one could readily find.

The house on this lot is the one William Cornwell, Jr., built after his marriage. He was the first physician after John Dorman; and one of the first lawyers, a remarkable member of a remarkable family.

Cornwell bought a five-acre lot from John & Sibyl Dorman of Benton in 1815, and soon afterward built this house. It was described some years later as a "large story& a half house ... well calculated for two families to reside in it. Also has a barn and other out houses attached to it." He was living in it by 1819 when he bought the lot immediately to the north; in the same year he bought another 3-acre parcel to the south, and by 1824 when he sold the 5-acre lot with this house to John VanPelt, Jr., he and his family were living in a second house on that lot some distance down the street, where he died in 1848.

This first lot was part of the property that VanPelt sold to John Plaisted, and his daughter Rachel, wife of Samuel Crawford, lived here for many years, after which Mary Jane Seymour lived in the house. Swann told and retold an old story alleging that for decades the two Plaisted sisters, Rachel Crawford and Sarah Scott lived next door with nothing but a wide lawn between them, but never spoke to one another; this is manifestly impossible, because the Vosburgh house was between them long before 1834, when Plaisted bought his lots from VanPelt. The case does illustrate the truism that the truth is always getting in the way of a good story.

The house has always been attractive to doctors, apparently, and a number of them have lived here since William Cornwell moved out. In 1925, when the renovations were done that changed this from a vernacular Federal-style house to Dutch Revival, it belonged to Dr. Charles B. Scudder. Scudder sold it to Dr. Bernard Strait some years later, and in more recent years yet the house has belonged to Dr. Wilfred McCusker and his widow.

 

Plots


People related to this lot and structure:

     Abraham Wagener
     Meredith Mallory
     John Dorman
     William Cornwell, Jr.

Related structures:

     311 Main Street

Related history:

     Pandemonium

 


Above right: The house William Cornwell built soon after his arrival in Penn Yan in 1815 as a young physician. It is, as Frank Swann pointed out, a "new house on an old frame". It was pretty much completely rebuilt in 1925 by its current resident, Dr. Charles Scudder, who essentially turned a Federal style building into a Dutch Colonial one. The only obvious sign of the original house is the Federal-style doorway in the west entrance.