17 South Street


This house is probably the oldest in Geneseo with the exception of the Homestead. It was built in 1808 by Master Carpenter Frederick Butler for Joseph Lawrence.

Colonel Joseph William Lawrence was born in Winterbury, Conn., and learned the art of the blacksmith in Hartford. In 1794 he married Sybil Heath, also of Connecticut, and soon after, he and his young bride journeyed to Geneseo in the then wilderness of western New York. Shortly after their arrival, he built a home, still standing today, although altered, in its original location at 17 South Street. At that time, the property included what is today 19 South Street, and 75 and 73 Second Street. Mr. Lawrence had his blacksmith shop on the corner. The lot at 19 South Street was vacant and there was no Second Street at that time.

Colonel Lawrence, who acquired the title by leading the regiment that volunteered from this locality in the War of 1812, was Geneseo's first blacksmith. By honest and steady industry he made a modest fortune and earned a respected place in the community. To give an idea of the importance of blacksmiths in those days – by 1830, Geneseo had a population of 500, supporting four successful blacksmiths. (The statistics on the equine population at that time are not available.) Descendants of the Lawrence family visited Geneseo some years ago. They gave to Miss Anne Patchett, then county historian, a daily record book kept by the Colonel during his years in Geneseo. In it are listed the names of each of his clients, the nature of the work done, and the price charged.

Although Colonel and Mrs. Lawrence had 12 children, the only one about whom much is known is Joseph Lawrence Jr., who was born in 1803 and followed his father's profession. In 1825 he married Miss Susan North of Geneseo and built the frame part of what is now the home at 73 Second Street, which was near his father's residence and shop. About 1836 or 1837 both of the Lawrence families left Geneseo, once again as pioneers, this time to the wilderness of Michigan. The Colonel and his wife were by this time in their sixties.

They sold the property to Hezekiah Ranney, a dry goods merchant. Mr. Ranney in turn deeded it to William Cushing in 1850. In 1853, William Cushing sold the building and lot at 73 Second Street to John Vanderbelt and the remainder of the property to Scott Lord, a prominent attorney who had moved to Geneseo upon becoming County Judge in 1847.

Mr. Lord moved to Utica in 1872 and sold the corner lot to James Adams. He also sold the house and lot at 17 South along with the lot at 19 South Street to Daniel Alvord.

Mr. Alvord, a village lamplighter, two years later sold it to Lambert Root. Lambert Root had for years owned an Avon Road farm, the hostelry known as "Roots Tavern." In 1886, Mr. Root transferred the property to John Chase who had established a successful dental practice in Geneseo. The following year, Dr. Chase sold the lot at 19 South Street to Allison R. Scott who erected a dwelling there. Mrs. Chase died in 1893 and ten years later Dr. Chase sold the 17 South Street homestead to James McIlroy. After his death in 1918, Mrs. McIlroy deeded the property to James Green. The house had many owners from 1918 until the present.

Alterations have taken place, but this house retains the characteristics of the Colonial and Federal period typical in western New York during the early part of the 19th century.