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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Oliver House Museum

Flood Anniversary Through Photographs

The newest exhibit at the Oliver House commemorates the tenth anniversary of the 2014 flood in Yates County. On May 13-14, 2014, Yates County was devastated by a flash flood. The exhibit contains a selection of photographs by Nancy Peek and other local photographers and includes some images from the floods of 1935 and 1972.


Lakelife: Communities Shaped by Water

Visitors can come explore and learn about Native American history, the history of transportation and recreation, lake legends, and more. Lakelife is a study of how the Finger Lakes, particularly Keuka, Seneca and Canandaigua have been used by the people of Yates County for thousands of years and how the lakes have shaped the history, lifestyle, and culture of Yates County communities. The exhibit will continue throughout the 2024 calendar year.

This exhibit is funded by a Humanities NY Quick Grant with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities and a kind donation from our friends at Barrett Marine in Waterloo.


Children's Room

The youngest visitors to the Yates County History Center now have a fun filled room just for them. The children’s room at the Oliver House Museum is now open for everyone’s enjoyment.

Executive Director Tricia Noel noted that past visitors to the History Center had asked about child friendly activities in Yates County. “We are very pleased to offer a fun learning experience for our youngest guests. The agricultural theme is a salute to our farming friends and neighbors.”

The dedicated room on the second floor of the Oliver House Museum is painted a colorful blue and decorated with images of young farm animals. Children are invited to come and meet Betsy the cow and harvest apples off a tree. Betsy, a holstein dairy cow, stands four feet tall. A raised bed veggie patch is filled with carrots for kids to harvest and apple tree for picking apples. Puzzles, books, a chicken coop and barn are all available for visitors to play with.

Betsy The Cow

Betsy the Cow was handcrafted and donated by Oak Grove Woodworking and students from Penn Yan Acdemy constructed and donated this vibrant apple tree.


Little Yates

Two million years ago, glacial sheets cut deep gashes in the western New York land, forming eleven Finger Lakes ... The story continues!

Explore Yates County's origin in the newest exhibit in the Oliver House Museum.

Little Yates


Irish Domestics

Irish DomesticsThe Great Hunger or the Great Irish Famine of 1845 - 1851 caused mass migration, as about 1.5 million people fled Ireland, mostly to North American eastern coast ports.

By 1850, there were just over 300 Irish-born people living in Yates County with the vast majority living in the village of Penn Yan. Ten years later the number of Irish-born people in the county more than doubled to over 700 or about four percent of the total population, the greatest concentration still in Penn Yan.

They brought much needed unskilled labor to the area that was rapidly developing agriculturally and industrially. The 1860 census reveals that 80 percent of the 302 Irish-born men listed "farm laborer" or "day worker" as their occupation and that all but two of the 125 Irish-born women listed "domestic servant" as their occupation.

Early Irish immigrants to Yates County were considered foreign and their Catholic religion in a strongly Protestant area was met with disdain. Eventual acceptance came only after their participation in the Civil War.

The Oliver family employed several female servants throughout their years on Main Street. Visit the Oliver House Museum and learn what it must have been like for Mary Finnegan, age 19, or Kate Sweeney, age 15, to be servants in the Oliver household in 1860. See a few small artifacts that made the journey with these young ladies across the Atlantic.

The above was taken in part from the article "The Irish in Yates County" written by Richard MacAlpine that was originally published in "Yates Past."


The Doctor Is In

For 100 years the Oliver doctors treated injuries from train, sawmill and farming accidents, burns, and diseases such as dropsy, catarrh and apoplexy. The exhibit focuses on their training, treatments and daily life as highly respected members of the Yates County community. On display are Dr. Andrew Oliver’s desk with daily ledger, the medical library, and examples of tonics and treatments used to heal the sick. The doctors’ legacy as noble benefactors of a suffering humanity lives on in this extensive display.

Visit this exhibit online.

& More

Five major rooms in the house, many with original furnishings and portraits, are maintained as Victorian period rooms on permanent display. One room is dedicated to Native American history. Creative staff and volunteers continue to design new displays to showcase artifacts from the collections of the YCHC.


L. Caroline Underwood Museum


Yates 200: Exploring Two Centuries of Yates County History

Explore interesting facts and images of each town in Yates County as we celebrate our Bicentennial with this new exhibit! It features artwork made by local artists, artifacts and photos that celebrate our history and culture. Open Tuesday-Friday, 9-4. $5.00 suggested donation.

Funded by a Humanities New York Action grant with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities.


Scherer Carriage House Museum


The Scherer Carriage House, located behind the L. Caroline Underwood Museum at 107 Chapel Street, Penn Yan, is home to a permanent exhibit on the Public Universal Friend, minister and founder of the Society of the Universal Friends. The exhibit includes the Friend’s portrait, bible, hat, saddle and coachee. The Public Universal Friend (born as Jemima Wilkinson) is historically renowned nationally and in Yates County.

Locally, the Public Universal Friend and a group of followers, the Society of Universal Friends, formed the first non-native settlement in what is presently Yates County. Coming from New England and Pennsylvania, the Society founded the first mills in the area. Consisting of almost 300 members in 1790, this community was the largest of its kind this far west in New York State.

This building, renovated to house the Wilkinson Collection, was named for Mrs. Doris Coates Scherer, a generous benefactor of Yates County History Center.

Sherer Carriage House MuseumPublic Universal Friend


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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Friday, April 26, 2024 | Copyright © 2024

A community museum where every story matters!

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