hen Charles V. Bush died on 26 November 1907, two weeks before his 88th birthday, his life's work surrounded him. An article in the Penn Yan Express only a few years before was able to point out that he had by then built every building on the east side of Main St. from the third door above Morgan's corner (105) to the Engine House (143) except Knapp's Furniture (121). The west side was his from the Arcade (144) to Craugh's Confectionary (118) except Hamlin's Metropolitan (126), and this last he remodeled from a meat market to what it (still) is today, having put in the first plate glass front in Penn Yan. Penn Yan Academy and the county jail were also his handiwork, a fairly sweeping achievement for one man, even if the town was small.
He was not closely related to the numerous Bush family who lived near Bellona. He arrived in Penn Yan in the spring of 1848, driving in from Canandaigua. With him came his first wife Elizabeth (Shipley) Bush and their son Charles H. In his middle age he married again, to Jane C. Stark, and they had another son, Austin F. Bush.
Apparently his first act upon arrival was to join the Methodist Church; he was a superintendent of the Sunday School from 1848 through 1863. He also served as a trustee, and was so well respected that the congregation presented him with a memorial silver water cooler.
Bush began business in February 1848 in part of the "Old Red House," John Dorman's old Spanish-red dwelling which stood behind where the Benham House was built. A fire started in the old building (it dated from about 1800) in 1857, and caused some damage to the structure and another neighboring one. Bush had been working on the county's new jail -- it stood facing Liberty Street about where the new Court House is now -- and much of the finished woodwork went up in smoke as well. The other part of the shop was used by a relative named Miles Bush, whose trade was the manufacture of fine wood chisels. Both continued in business on that site until the Benham House was built a year or two later. Bush moved his shop farther upstreet, to about the site of 173 Main, where it was finally destroyed by the great fire of 3 July 1867.
At that time Bush bought yet another business, a lumber yard belonging to Robert F. Conklin at the foot of Main Street opposite Jillett's mill on the south bank. He took John S. Sheppard in as a partner, and sold the whole thing to Sheppard a year later.
Meanwhile he had been able to disassamble the old (1826) Methodist Church on Chapel Street and used the timbers to build another shop on the Outlet, on the north bank just upstream from the Liberty Street bridge, the future site of the Angler Boat Company. Bush set up a lumber yard there and a planing mill, until the Crooked Lake Navigation Company was organized. The new concern bought the property and built their steamer William L. Halsey there.
Towards the end of his life, in 1901, Bush completed the new facade of the old Eli Sheldon store, by then called the Cornwell Block, and the only four-story commercial building in Penn Yan (121 Main). This was one of the few buildings he didn't actually build, but as with the case of the Metropolitan across the street, he made this one his own, using brick, stone, arched and rectangular windows and flamboyant terra-cotta panels to celebrate the new century.
There's no record whether he traveled later in his life, but it seems as though the old man would have embraced the new technology. In his lifetime two railroads were built through Penn Yan, the electric railroad went up Elm Street to Branchport, he could have had rides in an automobile, and perhaps he even saw one of Glenn Curtiss' flying machines on the lake. When he first arrived in town its only link with the world was the Crooked Lake Canal, a six-hour trip between Keuka and Seneca Lakes.