Standing proudly on Main Street in Penn Yan is the anchor building of the Yates County History Center, the Oliver House Museum, one of three buildings comprising the YCHC. The Center, formerly Yates County Genealogical & Historical Society, is one of the oldest in NYS, has been actively collecting, preserving and interpreting history since 1860. Continue reading about us...

Open Tuesday - Friday 9:00 am - 4:00 pm
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Esperanza was completed in July 3, 1838, Esperanza was built by John Nicholas Rose, son of Robert Seldon Rose and Jane Lawson Rose, wealthy landowners who journeyed to Seneca County from Virginia in 1804 with a mighty train of wagons and carriages and a retinue of slaves. The older Roses built a small home on the current site of the Rose Hill Mansion overlooking Seneca Lake near Geneva. Upon completion of their home, the elder Roses freed their slaves.

John Nicholas Rose set out for Yates County in 1823 and there purchased over one thousand acres from Captain John Bedoe, paying $8 per acre for his land. In 1829, he married Jane E. Macomb, niece of the late Major-General Alexander Macomb. His brother, Henry, and a nephew, Robert Rose, each built a mansion near Esperanza, Henry building "Hampstead", a short distance north, and Robert building "The Chestnuts", razed in 1967 to make way for the Keuka Lake State Park. At one time the Rose family owned all the land around and between the family mansions.

In addition to the Roses, principal owners of Esperanza included George Clinton Snow from New Jersey, noted vineyardist and authority on grape culture, who bought the farm from the Roses in 1873 upon the death of John Rose several years earlier. Wendell T. Bush, financier from New York City, took possession in 1903 and used the home for his summer residence. Mr. Bush is known to have been responsible for extensive renovation and landscaping. It was Mr. Bush, who, at the time of the opening of the Sampson Theater in Penn Yan, presented a drop curtain designed with the likeness of Esperanza. Mrs. Bush launched the Yates County Women's Suffrage campaign from Esperanza in June 1911. Clinton Struble of Penn Yan purchased the property in 1912 and in 1922 it was sold to Yates County and converted into a County home. The County completely renovated the interior, installing plumbing, heating, electric lights and dividing rooms. Fire escapes were added as was an annex.

By 1948, the County's money for operating the home was depleted. Purchased by Garrett Bacorn, Esperanza stood vacant for about twenty years during which time the interior was severely vandalized. In 1967, Mrs. Betty Bader purchased Esperanza with the intent of establishing an art gallery for local talent. Before restoration was complete, Mrs. Bader died. In 1979 Esperanza became the home of Chateau Esperanza Winery.

Constructed in the massive style of the colonial era, visiting members of the family were not impressed by its size. Fact or fancy, the story is told that the owner's mother, coming from Seneca County to visit her son's new home for the first time, commented that it was nice but rather small. Large numbers of slaves are said to have been imported from the south to assist in its construction and tradition has it that they spent two and one-half years gathering stone for the mansion only to discover that there were hardly enough for cellar walls. When Esperanza was remodeled for use as a county home in 1923, boulders weighing up to 1400 pounds were found in cellar walls. One boulder was so big that workmen, instead of trying to remove it, dug a hole and buried it.

Timber was cut on the property. Huge hand hewn cantilever beams support the roof. Typical of the era there were seven large fireplaces in the old mansion. In those days of barter the skilled artisians were paid in produce, wheat, potatoes, etc.
Outstanding architectural features of the building include magnificent two story Ionic columns on the front portico facing the lake, an open staircase extending from first floor to attic and a cavernous attic with its network of structural beams. There are 19 rooms covering more than 6,000 square feet of space.

Esperanza is built on a simple center entrance floor plan. Construction is all masonry - stone walls and brick pilasters covered with original stucco. Main interior partitions are solid masonry from cellar to attic.

The two-story columns on the portico are built around huge tree trunks which were encased in brick and then stuccoed. The balcony was added by Yates County in 1923 during the renovation of the old mansion for use as a County Home. The front steps today are a reproduction of the steps in place when the building was purchased in 1967. A landing platform at the lower step designed to accommodate those stepping from carriages or dismounting from horseback is still in evidence. Earliest photographs show no steps to the front of the portico but steps to either side. The original driveway was a gigantic horseshoe following approximately the present entrance and dipping around the front of the mansion to exit about where the little dirt road enters the highway below.

Stucco covering the building is original. Sand for this mortar is said to have been brought by Indian canoe from the tip of Bluff Point (the dividing peninsula of Keuka Lake and also the land area directly in front of Esperanza), eight miles away.

Open Tuesday - Friday 9:00 am - 4:00 pm
107 Chapel Street, Penn Yan, NY 14527
Phone 315.536.7318 | Fax 315.536.0976
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Wednesday, April 5, 2023 | Copyright © 2023

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