337 Main Street: The Mary Jane Landon house

337 Main Street


he house now standing here was built in 1871 by Mary Jane Landon, who lived in it until her death. She ran a well-known boarding house during that time, and apparently built the place with that in mind.

This lot and the one to the north were joined through most of their history. They were part of a larger plot that William Babcock bought from Morris F. Sheppard in 1814.

In 1824 Babcock sold the lot, with about 60 feet of frontage on Main Street, to Elijah Spencer of Benton. Spencer apparently had no intention of actually living in Penn Yan, as he had an extensive farm in Benton. The interesting thing about this deed is that it is the earliest known document referring to the lane on the south boundary, now called Mill Street. It is known from other records that Jackson Street was opened up at about this same time, referred to usually as Back Street or Second Street (now it's Linden Street). It is mentioned in earlier deeds as a lane that led down from Head Street to Morris F. Sheppard's fulling mill, which lay on the bank of Jacob's Brook. A 30-foot-wide right of way had been reserved from Main Street to the mill as early as 1814; but apparently about 1824 the location of the lane was moved some distance to the south, to where Mill Street now is, in time to form the south boundary of this particular lot.

337 Main StreetSpencer resold the lot in 1830 to Morris Earle, a tailor who had his residence and shop in the old Lewis Vanderlip stand, which stood on the site of 341 Main Street, adjacent to this lot on the north. Earle lived in the old house for the rest of his life, and presumably rented out the one on this lot, which was shown on both the 1854 and 1857 maps of Penn Yan. In the latter year, the house was the residence of N. Tracy; in the former, it is simply shown as a tenant house.

In 1856 Morris Earle sold several lots to Stephen Raymond, including this one (still including #341, where he lived), and another across Main Street. He stayed in his residence, so this must have been something like a mortgage arrangement. It was Raymond who sold this part of the lot to Mary Jane Landon, in 1863. The boundaries and conditions of this sale are quite interesting. The north line was drawn 8 inches north of the house that stood on the lot, only 2 feet 10 inches south of Earle's house. It passed 4 feet north of a well then used by both houses, and Raymond retained the use of this well for his tenant, as well as a right of way to the well and past it to Mill Street. In return, Miss Landon had an easement for access to the part of Earle's lot that he used for a bleaching yard.

Presumably, Miss Landon lived in the old house until she built the one that now stands on the lot about 8 years later. In his notes on Main Street written in about 1874, Cleveland says the house was new in 1872. The Chronicle reported in its issue of 27 July 1871 that "Miss Jane Landon is building a new house on Main street a short distance below Head street. It will be a good improvement in that quarter, and afford her a comfortable home."

In 1898 she transferred the house to the General Conference of Free Baptists, and five years later it became the residence of Zebina C. Griffin, and of course remains virtually unchanged until today.




Above right: Mary Jane Landon's house, built in 1871. The south porch appears to be original but the one on the front (west) side probably replaced a somewhat earlier one; it's in perfect harmony with the scale and general style of the house, but it's about 10 or 15 years younger. The house itself is in a simple Italianate style, and the west porch in a nice simplified Gothic Revival style more typical of the 1880s.

Near right: A second view of the same house from Mill Street. From a photograph in the collection of the Oliver House Museum.

People related to this lot and structure:

     Abraham Wagener
     Morris F. Sheppard
     William Babcock
  Morris Earle

Other related sites:

     341 Main Street

Related history:

     The County Seat