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...

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A Walk Down Memory Lane
a.k.a. Main Street, Penn Yan, 1945

Yates Past - August 2006

The following article appeared in the December 20, 1945 edition of the Chronicle-Express. It was written by Cecyl White at a time when men who served in World War II were returning to the area. Along with a large photo of Main Street was this headline....”G.I. Joe Asked For It- Here’s Your Hometown”.


Several months ago a very homesick soldier who had been overseas for about three years wrote to the Chronicle-Express and asked to have a picture of Penn Yan’s Main Street printed because he had begun to forget what the hometown really looked like. Since then he has returned to Penn Yan with an honorable discharge, but for his three brothers still in uniform and for the many other Yates County men and women who have been away from home so long that Penn Yan gleams as a place of promise to which they long to return, here is the picture.

Many small changes have occurred in the Yates County seat, but in spite of the rationing and car breakdowns, parking space is at as much of a premium as ever. For many of the older men and most teenagers, today’s high style is a shirttail worn on the outside, but there are still too few of your age group on the streets. Jim Moody is still top man on the police force and the patrol car has it’s usual parking place at the corner of Elm and Main streets. The familiar name of Hollowell and Wise has been painted out over the corner hardware store and now reads “Pinckney and Son”. On the east side of Main Street Robbins Furniture store has replaced the Peck Hardware store. The genial Charles Wilkins, whom many of you remember as advisor of sportsmen on questions of hunting gear and fishing tackle, is now a deputy sheriff. The restaurant owned by Charlie Stratton has been purchased and operated by Mr. and Mrs. David Heath. Gene Hagerman is running a Firestone store in the Odd Fellows block where the Red Cross rooms were for a time. Red Cross headquarters are now in the back rooms of the Oliver house at the corner of Main and Chapel Streets. Some other parts of that building, deeded to the village when the last owner died, are being used by other organizations. On the lawn set across the corner and flanked with artistic plantings of evergreens is the Penn Yan Honor Roll. Erected by the Rotary Club, this roster carries the names of all the men and women in military service who have addresses in Penn Yan or on the Penn Yan rural mail routes. One soldier walked along this section of Main Street a couple of times before he realized what made it look so odd-- the iron fence by the Allen Wagener place was gone!....sacrificed to the wartime need for metal. Prouty’s drug store, formerly at the corner of Main and East Elm streets, has moved to the space between Corcoran’s Furniture store and Baldwin’s Bank. The corner spot is now occupied by Gorton Coy’s, a swanky women’s shop where suave gals of paper mache wearing stylishly exclusive garments display attractive limbs behind the plate glass. Mrs. John Orsino and her daughter Margaret (now Mrs. Antonio M. Gigliotti) are running a beauty salon next to the Knapp Hotel which has been purchased by Tony Terpolitti and his two brothers-in-law and is being completely redecorated. Kenneth Eaton, just discharged from the Navy, is opening a watch repair shop in the hotel building, next to the beauty shop. Ted Lane has opened a lunch and poolroom in the space where you may have seen Maxie Goldstein’s “Playland”. The Commodore Restaurant, managed so long by Mr. and Mrs. Floyd Stryker, has been purchased by Frank Terrin. Ill health compelled Percy Griffiths to sell the Smoke Shop which is now owned by Albert Colanco. The coffee shop, long managed by Peter Coates has been sold to Bogoyvich and Carrasas and Mr. Coates is devoting his entire time to the real estate business.

At the southern end of the Main Street bridge across the outlet, the former Lampson laundry has been remodeled and redecorated and now bottled beverages are retailed there by Leslie Cook . Next to the composing room of the Penn Yan Printing Company, Victor Bellis is vacating his tire and repair shop so the new owners of the Grady Building, Llewellyn Blakeslee and son Raymond (recently out of uniform) can take over for their plumbing and heating business. On Water Street, at the rear of the printing company, Erving A. Towner of Pulteney has opened a typewriter repair store. Pete Bodine, out of the Navy after five years service, is operating the Triangle Service Station. On Wagener Street, Clifford Decker and Jack Hughes have purchased the garage formerly occupied by the Pierce Trucking business, giving 24-hour service with Fred Orr handling the mechanical jobs.

Up toward the north end of “Broadway” the Penn Yan Creamery has established an ice cream store where Reilly’s Music store was and the Reilly brothers, after being out of the selling business for quite a while, are opening another store in the space on Elm Street formerly occupied by Baker and Stark. Also on that street is the new downtown office of the Keuka Dry Cleaners next to the Jolley garage. Across the street Carl and Dorothy Plubell operate a “Snack Bar” where George MacDougall once dispensed sodas and sundaes.

The corner spot in the Arcade Building next to Maiden Lane is vacant except as a storage place for Corcoran’s Furniture and is a popular spot for the successive rummage sales put on annually by various organizations. Next door to that is a store selling baby’s wear-- a really new innovation at the county seat. Mrs. Clark Weldon is the owner-operator. Her husband is associated with the Corcoran Undertaking business. Genial Henry Merton Smith has passed on and Conrad Tunney owns and manages the shoe business there with Jake VanBuren, who has received his discharge from the army, helping out. Harry Sutherland has opened a store selling paint, insulation, and similar materials and services on East Elm Street where formerly the fly-specked items of a second-hand store were familiar. At 111, Victor Bellis has moved his tire repair business. Over on Seneca Street, the big showroom once filled with farm machinery has been converted into a popular roller skating rink. George Smith has moved his farm machinery to the garage building on the southern side of East Elm Street next to the Railway Express office. Arthur Wright has a small darkroom and studio at the back of the space formerly used by Surplus Commodities on Seneca Street. At the front, James Finnemore has a showroom and repair shop for refrigerators. Walter Ingraham, ex-navy, and Gladwin Allen are opening a photo studio on Seneca Street next door. Manley H. Smith having moved his woodworking shop to the building at the rear of the post office.

It was Lawrence Carey, home for the first time in four years after serving in Iceland, the British Isles and Europe, who got off the train, walked down East Elm Street and commented that he was “lost”. There was the new brick facade and awning at Archie Thayer’s....the farm machinery instead of cars across from Jewett’s ....the gaping ruin where the Ames Purdy Block burned....and the new Hanson and Clark grocery next door....Tears Market moved across the street under Harry Cole’s Universal building leaving Gorton Coy a shipping and receiving room in the location that had been a meat market for nearly a century. Rocked to his toes by these changes in a hometown which he had visioned as waiting for him just as he had left it, Lawrence dropped round the corner to the left into what he expected would be Prouty’s drug store where his brother used to work and where he intended to pick up a coke to boost his morale. He was stopped in his tracks by the sudden colorful display of ladies’ apparel. He quickly retreated with a mumbled “Pardonez moi, Mademoiselle.” Larry is quite acclimated now however, having become manager of the North Main Street Market Basket store.

Here is Penn Yan as it looks today.


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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