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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The L. Caroline Underwood Museum

Lucy Caroline Underwood was known as a well-loved teacher, an avid collector, and an enthusiastic supporter of local history. Caroline dedicated her life to teaching others.

Born December 11, 1902, the only child of Henry and Inez Cadmus Underwood, Caroline was raised on the Cadmus family farm in the town of Potter. Of Dutch descent, her mother’s family was among the early settlers of Yates County. Her father farmed for nearly 25 years but moved to Penn Yan in the early 1920s when his health no longer permitted him to carry the full burden of farm work. The Underwoods did not sell their Potter farm when they moved and as an adult, Caroline maintained the farmhouse, filling it with antiques she collected. Not until she was in her nineties did Caroline finally sell her cherished home.

As a child, Caroline attended Yates County’s most interesting school structure, the Round-Stone schoolhouse. Located in Potter District # 5, on the Cadmus farm property where she grew up, this unique schoolhouse existed from 1838 - 1921. The building was round in shape with walls two feet thick built of field stone and faced with cobblestones. When she was older, Caroline attended the Middlesex schools and Penn Yan Academy where she graduated in 1921.

With an ambition to become a schoolteacher, Caroline attended Penn Yan teaching class from 1921-22, going from there to Brockport State Normal School the following year. Her first teaching job was in the LeRoy Public Schools where she taught fifth grade from 1923 – 26. Moving to Penn Yan to help care for her parents, Caroline taught both fifth and sixth grades in the Penn Yan Central schools from 1926 – 72, only retiring when she was required to by law on her 70th birthday. She was a substitute teacher in Penn Yan from 1972 – 73. During her 47 years as a teacher in the Penn Yan schools Caroline taught at the Hutton Street school, Liberty Street school, the Middle school and at the “new” Penn Yan Elementary building constructed in 1954. For her 50 years of dedicated teaching service, Miss Underwood was named in the Outstanding Elementary Teachers of America in 1973. She was much admired as a teacher, as the many tokens in her collection from her students attest.

While education was certainly the driving force in her life, Caroline had several other passions. Her principal recreation was travel. She extensively documented her many travels, for instance, her trip to Europe on the Queen Elizabeth in 1951. Her hobbies also included photography. Negatives and prints taken by her exist for an extended part of her life and primarily concern her travels. Caroline loved to shop and to collect antiques and other interesting objects. She also owned an Adirondack-style cottage on Keuka Lake and spent a great deal of time at the lake.

After her parents’ deaths, Caroline built a small cottage style home in the back of her Liberty Street property that she named “The Retreat.” Here, as well as at the Potter farm, it was evident that Caroline was an avid gardener. In town, a garden path lead through a gate from the main house to The Retreat set amid masses of expensive hybrid lilies, irises, lupines and flowering bulbs.

In addition to the permanent display collection, Caroline had accumulated a variety of objects and collectibles such as a substantial collection of ceramic pigs, travel souvenirs, menus, decorative plates, and cup and saucers; family-related artifacts such as furniture and hand-made quilts; a small collection of antique toys; fine clothes and jewelry, and a host of other items from both the 19th and 20th centuries. These artifacts were kept as part of Caroline’s collection and help to make up both changing exhibitions and the permanent exhibits.

Caroline died at The Retreat on December 2, 1998 at the age of 95. In the true light of a teacher Caroline’s mission to educate, lives on in the L. Caroline Underwood Museum.


Examples of Caroline's collections

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

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