PLACES: Two Villages Become One
Penn Yan really developed as two separate hamlets at opposite ends of Main Street.
The first store in Penn Yan was opened in the very early 19th
century at the intersection of Main Street and the stage route to Canandaigua,
as a sideline business in one of the place's several taverns, with others
springing up on at least two adjoining corners very shortly, and Asa
Cole's stage business in one of them. The east-west road was called
Head Street once the village was established, because it was at the
head of Main Street. It was renamed North Avenue at about the turn of
the 20th century.
At Main Street's foot, or south end about three-quarters of a mile
away, were the mills, four in number: two sawmills west of the bridge,
one on each bank; and two gristmills east of the bridge, also one on
each bank. Roads led from this point east along the Outlet to other
mills and settlements, and west to Jerusalem.
The public square, on land owned by Abraham Wagener and in 1823 donated
by him for the County buildings, was about halfway between the two tiny
settlements, and gradually the whole area between filled up, with commerce
about equally divided at first but eventually concentrating near the
mills. A very few of the Main Street commercial buildings from this
early period still exist. The oldest house on Main Street dates from
1817, though in much altered form; it is joined by at least one Federal-style
house from the 1820s and a small number of Greek Revival homes from
the same period.
The first Court House was built in 1824, with a jail attached; it looked
quite similar to the present building, erected in 1835 after the earlier
one burned. It should be noted that the County's records were housed
in a separate building, and still exist from the date of its organization
For a closer look at the earliest known map of Penn Yan, click on the small