348-50 Main Street: The southwest corner

350 Main Street

 

he southwestern corner of Main and Head Streets was the oldest commercial location in the village, with the Seeley & Baldwin store erected there in 1805.

The land was occupied by a succession of inns and stores until after the turn of the 20th century, when the two houses now on the property were erected in 1906.

The Tavern

The corner lot was part of the 2 acres or so Morris F. Sheppard sold to Abner Pierce in 1805. Pierce kept most of this land for himself, but he immediately sold a lot at the corner to Samuel S. Seeley and William Baldwin, who thereupon built the first store within the modern village limits.

It is said that after Robert Chissom died so suddenly in 1806, Pierce took over his function and ran a tavern at this location until someone else could take it over. Whatever the truth of this assertion, it is on record that Seeley, then of Hector, sold the corner lot with his store to Ezra Rice in 1809, who definitely 348 Main Streetran it as a tavern. These institutions were more than a bar and grill in those days, they were necessary adjuncts to travel on the horrendous roads of the time. Local people used them as meeting and drinking places, of course, and they usually sold a more or less small stock of general goods; but they provided overnight and other temporary shelter to those who needed it, and this was perhaps their most important function.

We have the word of an anonymous traveler in about 1810 that Rice's tavern in "Snell's town" also known as "Pen-yang" was just a day's journey (about 12 miles) by stage from one in Barrington (then part of Wayne) and an equal distance to Bethel (now Gorham). He apparently thought highly of none of the places he stayed, but reserved some special venom for Rice's, which he thought was dirty.

In any case Rice sold the property to Joel Dorman in 1810. It passed rather confusedly back and forth among Dorman, Zachariah Wheeler and John W. Hedges. But apparently it was Luman Phelps who ran the actual business there. Dorman became preoccupied with his farm in Jerusalem about 1813, Wheeler had other property nearby (for a while he owned the Chissom place; Susannah Wheeler Chissom, Robert's widow, was his sister; he is best known for owning a barn north of Head Street, on the west side of Main, where the village's first "show" was held, in the person of an elephant exhibited there), and Hedges moved to Wayne.

Commerce

Within a few years commerce took over carousing (and elephant-viewing) in the area around the intersection. William Babcock bought the lot on the northeast corner soon after his arrival from New Hampshire in 1813. Asa Cole had the tavern on the northwest corner, a rather respectable stage-stop. Stores went up on the southeast and the southwest corners, to be taken down again by one or more of the numerous fires that swept through the village's cramped wooden buildings. They were nearly always immediately rebuilt.

In about 1832 William and John Brooks built a block of stores which lasted until the summer of 1846, a pretty much unprecedented run, particularly at the head of the street. The Brooks Block was rented out in single parcels to a number of different stores, some occupied by the Brookses off and on as well. They sold part of the block to Henry Bradley in 1833, who resold it in 1834 to Charles C. Sheppard, who in 1840 sold it yet again to Francis M. Potter, who built a brick block across the street and briefly owned both corners.

Industry

The Brooks Block burned in 1846, and stores are shown there on the 1855 map. However, soon afterward the carriage factory across the street in Cole's old stand began to expand, and was then sold to Hiram Birdsall of Genoa in Cayuga County. Birdsall bought this corner in 1860, after it had again been swept by fire, and he put some of his manufacturing buildings here. He also allowed William Comstock to put a grocery store in, and matters stood thus for some time.

Dwellings

Comstock's grocery lasted until the late 1880s, and Birdsall's works until after the turn of the century, when yet another fire again swept the corner clear. William N. Wise acquired the lot and built #350 in 1906. He never lived there, apparently regarding the place as investment property. He sold it in 1907 to Harriet Mosher, and it has remained essentially unchanged since.

The other house on the corner lot is #348, also built in 1906, by Wise's associate Clinton Struble. By the early 20th century, then, the only commercial building left at the head of the street was Henry Carley's on the southeast corner.

 

Plots


Top far right: 350 Main Street, built in 1906 on the village's earliest commercial site. Its style is early Classical Revival, which was just then edging out the older dominant Victorian styles. Evidence of this style is the classically-columned front porch, the paired windows and the squarish front window with the vertically-asymmetrical leading.


Middle near right: 348 Main Street, built in 1906 to replace commercial and industrial buildings. The style is very late Queen Anne, with its asymmetrical massing and spindled front forch, but without the flamboyant decoration that would earlier have been demanded.


People related to this lot and structure:

     Abraham Wagener
     Morris F. Sheppard
     Abner Pierce
     Eli Sheldon
     Joel Dorman
     Ezra Rice
     Henry Bradley
     William Babcock
     Cornelius Masten
     Charles C. Sheppard

Related sites:

    The southeast corner

Related history:

    Lot 37