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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Samuel Fosdick Curtis

Samuel Fosdick Curtis was born in Wethersfield, Connecticut in 1799. He left home at 17 to undertake a chair making apprenticeship with his older brother, Roswell Curtis, in Auburn. In 1824, he arrived in Penn Yan with a wagonload of stock goods and applied to Sheldon & Babcock to rent a room in the second story of their store to begin his business career. Mr. William Babcock offered the young man no encouragement. To the contrary he told young Curtis that another individual had already started a furniture company and would give formidable opposition. Mr. Curtis replied that he had “come to stay” and had no intention of being dissuaded from his purpose. Mr. Babcock was pleased with the young man’s spirit of independence and self-reliance and leased him shop room in a building at the southwest corner of Main and Head Streets. Young Samuel Curtis set up shop and began manufacturing and selling chairs. Thus began the business he worked in for nearly 46 years.

He moved his shop several times, each time increasing its size. In 1836, he built a four-story shop with a sales room on the south corner of Main and Clinton Street – an undertaking so risky that it was known by many as “Curtis’ Folly”. In this building he manufactured and sold furniture for nearly 30 years. In 1858, his son, Perley Phillips Curtis, joined his father’s business and the Clinton Street building was nearly doubled in size. Six years later, a separate factory was built on the premises. On July 3rd 1867, all of these buildings were destroyed by fire. Within a few weeks, Samuel Curtis purchased a three story brick building known as “Sheldon’s Block”. He added another story and his business was up and flourishing again in a very short time. In 1869, Curtis & Son purchased the Boot and Shoe Store that was then run by his son, Perley. Samuel Curtis remained active in business until 1870 when ill health forced his retirement. At that time his was the longest continuous business in Penn Yan.

Samuel Curtis married Amelia Boyd of Benton. She died leaving him one son, Charles B. Curtis, who grew up to own Boyd Farm (lot 48) in Benton. His second wife, Amelia Lewis (daughter of John L. Lewis) died shortly after their marriage. In 1831 he married his third wife, Mary Phillips Peck, with whom he had two children, Perley P. and Mary E. Samuel Curtis died at his home, on the corner of Clinton and Benham Streets on February 24, 1871.

Throughout his adult life, Samuel Fosdick Curtis was a strong supporter of the anti-slavery movement and was equally faithful to the cause of temperance. Active in local organizations and government, Curtis’ name was associated with much of the growth and advancement of the village of Penn Yan.

Perley Curtis continued his father’s businesses until 1882 when he became a partner of William H. Fox in a paper mill on the outlet.

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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Sunday, November 26, 2023 | Copyright © 2023

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