29 South Street


The original part of this house was built for Owen P. Olmsted shortly after he arrived in Geneseo from Connecticut in 1819. Mr. Olmsted started one of the early mercantile estab­lishments on Main Street in the village and carried on a successful business for several years. He returned to Connecticut in 1835 with his wife Frances after losing two children in infancy.

The property changed hands a number of times before Dr. Daniel Bissel became the owner in 1841. At this time, the property extended as far north as Center Street. A veteran of the War of 1812, Dr. Bissel practiced medicine in Geneseo for many years. In 1855, he sold his dwelling on South Street to Charles Colt, Jr., who lived there until his death in 1860. It was left to his widow who sold it to Mrs. Rebecca Backus the same year. Rebecca Backus was the former Rebecca Fitzhugh who married Dr. Frederick Backus in 1818 at her family's handsome estate, Hampton, in Groveland. Dr. Backus had died in 1858 and Mrs. Backus resided here during the Civil War with her grandson, Montgomery, whose father was an officer serving the Union Forces. The father died before the end of hostilities, and in 1866 Mrs. Backus and her grandson left Geneseo, having disposed of the property to Mr. John Dickey.

John Dickey came here from nearby York where he had been a successful farmer. When he died in Geneseo in 1875 he had survived six wives and was survived by the seventh. The year before his death the house and lot had been sold by him to Robert J. Patterson, the proprietor of a tailoring establishment on Main Street. Mr. Patterson made many repairs and alterations to his residence and lived there until 1888.

The next owner was George K. Whitney in whose family the property remained for the next three generations. The late Mrs. Harry Ritchie was Mr. Whitney's granddaughter. A year or two before her death she related some recollections of her years spent in the house to the new owners, Mr. and Mrs. Fennell, who wisely recorded them. Mr. Whitney, during his lifetime, made many changes in the dwelling. He added the porch (or stoop) across the front, lengthening the front windows at the same time. (These were later shortened and filled in with decorative inlaid paneling on the interior.) He also enclosed the rear (north) wing in 1900. In the 1890’s a large stone was transported up Dewey Hill from Cuylerville by Mr. Whitney, using six horses, and put in place as a mounting block. The original decorative work on the wide porch was removed in the 1900’s but has been restored.