y far the largest portion of John Dorman's estate comprised land, both inside the modern limits of Penn Yan and outside. By and large he was meticulous about recording deeds to document his purchases; only two parcels lack a deed of purchase in the land records. One is the very first one, supposedly given to him on his arrival about 1795 by David Wagener; the other is this plot, two acres across from his homestead. Both can be traced only by their deeds of sale.
The two-acre parcel apparently still had no buildings on it when Dorman bequeathed it to his granddaughters. They were both daughters of his deceased daughter Alpha Dorman Wagener, and both were already married before the will was written, Susan to Robert Miller and Elizabeth (known as Betsy) to Josiah G. Nichols.
In 1826 Susan Miller sold her interest in the property to local merchant Samuel S. Ellsworth, who undoubtedly planned to put a store on it. He probably did not, and sold his interest to Alexander H. Cole in 1834. Cole built and operated a stable there.
It was 1844 -- nearly 20 years after Susan signed over her interest -- before Betsy Nichols signed hers, in the form of a quitclaim to Ellsworth. This deed was for the entire two-acre parcel, which by that time was bordered on the south by School Alley (now Maiden Lane). The north boundary was William M. Oliver's south line, which was about 30 feet north of where it is now.
Some years later this southerly strip was joined to Oliver's property. Several successive owners had made and announced plans to put a store there, but none was ever built.
The property was sold before 1844 to Alfred Brown, probably by Ellsworth, which is why he needed the quitclaim from Betsy Nichols. Brown paid taxes on the property, which contained two houses and the post office. The latter was at the southwest corner of the property, right on the corner of Maiden Lane.
In 1869 Brown sold part of the lot to Charles V. Bush, the builder. Bush intended to erect a large commercial structure there and that is what he did. The result was the Arcade, a 19th-century indoor shopping mall that is nearly a unique survival (there's only one other extant, on Long Island. As soon as it was built the post office moved back into it, and stayed there until 1912 when the present post office was built across Main Street.