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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 in 1823. 

For a closer look at the earliest known map of Penn Yan, click on the small map here.