The Homestead

Courtesy of Joan Ballard

Much has been written about the Homestead and its occupants. This account is not intended as a history of this branch of the Wadsworth family, but is a history of the house and some of its major changes. Information obtained has been taken from micro­films of newspapers in the County Historian's office, a speech made by the late William P. Wadsworth in 1978, and from the Wadsworth family papers.

When the pioneers James and William Wadsworth first came to the Genesee Valley in 1790, they lived in a log cabin and later in a small stone house. James began the erection of the Homestead about 1801 and it was completed in 1804, the year he married Naomi Wolcott of Connecticut. It was a typical square two-story New England house, spa­cious but simple, designed around a central hall with rooms off either side. The main entrance was on the east; on the west overlooking the valley was a long piazza or porch. About 1820 a kitchen wing was added to the south and shortly after a brick office was built about 50 feet northeast of the house.

James and Naomi were the parents of two sons and three daughters. Naomi died in 1831 and James in 1844. By tradition the house would have passed to the eldest son, James; but James had married in 1834 and built his own house, Hartford House, at the north end of the village, which he preferred. Therefore, the Homestead passed to the second son, William Wolcott Wadsworth.

William Wolcott Wadsworth married Emmeline Austin of Boston in 1846 and they became the par­ents of three sons: William Austin, Livingston and Herbert. William Wolcott died suddenly in 1852 and thereafter his widow and children spent a part of the time at the Homestead, but the greater part of the year in Boston. In the late 1860's, Emmeline Wadsworth sold the house to her late husband's nephew, Craig (son of James). Interior repairs were made at this time since it had been largely unoccupied for several years. After Craig's death in 1872, William Austin Wadsworth, then 25 years of age, purchased the house, and he and his mother took up residence. Livingston had died in 1865 and Herbert, who had married Martha Blow of St. Louis, had built a large house in Avon called Ashantee.

In 1874 Emmeline Austin Wadsworth directed that the house be moved about 350 feet up the grade, south of its original location, because she was disturbed by the noise of traffic. In 1878 she engaged the Boston archi­tect John Hubbard Sturges to make plans for extensive exterior and interior alterations, which were carried out between 1878 and 1884. A porte-cochere and a third floor were added and the roof changed from hip to mansard. The interior was improved by a new stair­case, paneling, wainscoting, fireplaces and wall paper. In 1885-87 new plumbing and central heating were installed. Emmeline Wadsworth died in 1886 and for the next 15 years William Austin lived there alone. In 1901 he married Elizabeth Perkins who transformed the interior from the bachelor quarters it had become into a handsome house in the fashion of the day. 

c. 1885
Courtesy of Milne Library

It was during the ownership and residence of William Austin Wadsworth that many of the barns, stables and other out-buildings were added to the estate. In 1878 a greenhouse and conservatory were built. A cattle barn was erected in 1891 "among the trees south of the gardener's house." The following year a new horse barn was built and in 1893 a ha-ha (sunken fence) was constructed across the lawn from the end of the garden to the stone wall on the Mt. Morris Road. A partially covered exercise ring (300' x 100') was added in 1896 in order to exercise the 82 horses in winter. In 1911 he employed Edward Forbes, a local contractor, to erect a handsome gateway at the entrance to the estate.

William Austin Wadsworth died in 1918. His widow and their only son, William Perkins Wadsworth, born in 1906, continued to reside at the Homestead. W. P. Wadsworth eventually took over management of the estate comprising thousands of acres. In 1929 he married Martha Scofield of Geneseo and they took up residence at Cornerways on the corner of Center Street and Highland Road in the village. After his mother's death, he inherited the Homestead where he and Mrs. Wadsworth raised their four children.

During World War II some of the purely ornamental woodwork on the house was removed and the garage was turned into a carpentry and repair shop for the farm. In 1956 two small garages and a swimming pool were added and later a tennis court. They also lightened the atmosphere of the interior with fresh paint, wallpaper, etc.

Martha S. Wadsworth died suddenly in 1958 and in 1959 W. P. Wadsworth married Penelope Crane of Buffalo, who shared his love of horses and the valley. W. P. Wadsworth died in 1982. After Penelope Wadsworth's death in 1986, the Homestead was inherited by William and Martha's only son, Austin, who presently resides there.


c. 1977
Courtesy of APOG

c. 1977
Courtesy of APOG

2006 (North face)