351 Main Street: The Delila Chapin house

351 Main Street


he lot on which this little house stands was sold by Nehemiah Higley to Cornelius Masten in 1818. Higley was a partner with Elijah Haskell and Morris F. Sheppard in a fulling operation using Jacob's Brook for power and water source. Fulling was the cleaning and finishing of woven cloth, usually combined with dying.

Masten was a newcomer to the settlement, having arrived only the previous year from Kinderhook in Columbia County at the eastern edge of the state. He was a lawyer and a speculator, and within a few years he owned quite a number of village lots, along with farms outside its bounds. There's no evidence at present that he built anything on this lot, except possibly the fact that he bought it for $500 and sold it with other land adjacent on the north for $2025; however, the sale wasn't until 1842, and changes in value over so many years are quite hard to calculate. The adjoining land was that on which #355 and #357 stood, and the latter certainly had a store on it in 1842, part of the new brick block of Francis M. Potter.

The house now standing on this lot is said to have been built by Henry Bradley soon after his purchase of 1842. What can be shown is that when Bradley sold the property in 1857 there was a "small white dwelling house" on this lot, which no doubt had also served as a storefront. It's important to remember that this area was the first commercial heart of the village, and most storekeepers lived behind or above their premises.

It’s possible that this is the lot Morris F. Sheppard’s so-called “yellow house” (built originally at #346) was moved to at about the time the Brooks Block (on #358 and 360) across the street burned to the ground, or maybe before that, in 1830 when Sheppard built his stone mansion (at #342). If so, then this house is the oldest in Penn Yan, having been built not by Henry Bradley but by Sheppard in the first or (more likely) second decade of the 19th century.

When Masten had to sell his extensive property in 1842, George Youngs bought this lot, which included #355 to the north; along with #357 adjacent, the southernmost store in the brick block of stores at the corner. He immediately sold it to Bradley, who held on to the whole thing until 1857. In that year (which was a time of economic depression) Ebenezer Lewis of Geneva paid Bradley half what he had paid to purchase the three adjacent lots 15 years earlier. Lewis subdivided, and sold this lot to Thomas Dunn of Penn Yan in 1862 for $300. It passed through a number of hands over the following decades, D.W. Corcoran and Delilah Chapin, and Melissa Brown who sold it to Emma Belle Nugent in 1886. Miss Nugent sold it to the sisters Margaret and Anna Gavin in 1898. The Gavins, who owned the store in Henry Carley's building on the corner (#359-61), retained it well into the 20th century.

The house had a porch across the front as late as 2002, and it’s thought this was added in the early 20th century to the original much simpler building. The dormers were probably added about the same time as the porch, which has now been enclosed, so the footprint is probably much the same as when it was built, though probably larger. It was undoubtedly a simple rectangular story-and-a-half structure.



Above right: This photograph was taken during the winter of 2004, and shows what the house looks like at present. Until quite recently the dormers sat above a full front porch. When the new clapboard was applied, the porch was enclosed. This probably brings the house more into line with what it originally liked like, since both the dormers and the porch were added in the early 20th century. When it was built about 1842, the house was also a store front, and no doubt a simple side-gable structure with the entrance probably in the middle.

People related to this lot and structure:

    Abraham Wagener
    Morris F. Sheppard
    William Babcock
 Henry Bradley

Related sites:

    346 Main Street
 The southeast corner

Related history:

    The turn of the century