house was built at just about thesame time as the Sheppard mansion next
door, soon after its builder, Francis M. Potter, acquired the land. Like
a number of its neighbors, this house was originally in Greek Revival style
and remodeled later as an Italianate mansion. This is one of the handsomest
houses on Main Street, while at the same time being one of the oldest, a
testament to the families that have lived here since 1832.
This lot has a bit
more than 150 feet of frontage on Main Street. The line between the two
sections of Morris F. Sheppard's purchase of land on this side of Main Street
goes right through it. The northernmost 50 feet was on Abner Pierce's land,
in fact it was the site of Pierce's blacksmith shop; and the 100 feet or
so south of this was on John O'Brien's land, all of which eventually ended
up in the hands of Cornelius Masten. In fact, this lot was the site of the
law office of Abraham P. Vosburgh (Masten's brother-in-law), which housed
the village's first separate post office when Vosburgh was postmaster.
The builder of the
house now standing on the lot was Francis M. Potter, who also built a brick
commercial block on the corner across Main Street a few years later. He
acquired the land on which Abner Pierce's old shop had once stood, in 1832
from his uncle William Pitt Potter. He added a piece with about 100 feet
of frontage from Cornelius Masten in 1833, then another small piece to the
west of the blacksmith shop lot from Morris F. Sheppard the same year. Later
on in 1835 he made a boundary agreement with Masten that made his lot still
bigger, and then in 1836 he did the same with Sheppard. The result is one
of the largest lots in Penn Yan.
Potter sold his lot
and beautiful house in 1840 to Charles C. Sheppard, son of Morris F. Sheppard
who lived next door. It stayed in his family until his daughter sold it
to George R. Cornwell in 1905. It was C. C. Sheppard who made the Italianate
alterations to the structure in 1855, including a full-front porch which
was removed in 1931. Charles died in 1888, and it was afterwards occupied
by his son Morris F. Sheppard (named for his grandfather). After his death
it was his sister Sarah who sold the 22-room house to Cornwell.