Saturday, November 27, 2010

History of a House

During my formative years, I lived in an old house located at the corner of Conklin Avenue and Mary Street on the South Side of Binghamton, New York. The property consisted of two lots totaling about an acre of land. A house and a two story barn stood on that land. A search of Broome County deed records revealed an interesting history.

The area that became Binghamton was a part of a land patent deeded to William Bingham of Philadelphia in 1792. Bingham had extensive land holdings in northern Pennsylvania and the Southern Tier of New York. This land was first visited by troops of the Sullivan Expedition in 1779. The first settlers arrived in 1802 and the community was called Chenango Point, since it was situated around the confluence of the Susquehanna and Chenango rivers. The last will and testament of William Bingham was probated on 17 September 1805 in Philadelphia. A William Stuart bought the property from the estate of William Bingham on 12 July 1826 (Liber 9, p. 464).

In 1834, this area was a village in the Town of Binghamton. There were several transactions in the deed book between 1836 and 1846. 

The first platting of the land took place in 1850. The property had been purchased by a man named Sackville Cox in 1849. He called the development Cox Place. According to the 1850 Census, Sackville Cox had been born in England and his wife, Mary in Ireland.
 Cox sold lots 6 and 8 to Henry Eldredge on 26 December 1849 who then tendered them to Hugh Hart on 30 September 1850. A subsequent land transfer took place in 1853, with the land going to William S. Beard. 
According to an old Binghamton map, there was no house on lots 6 or 8 in 1855. The earliest town directory, published in 1857, shows a Darwin Felter, a millwright, living there at the corner of South Water Street and Mary Street. Therefore, a house was built on the property sometime between 1855 and 1857. The land that my home stood on was identified as lot 6 of that plat. A two-story 3 stall barn was situated at the west edge of lot 8, facing Mary Street.

In the 1860 Census, Darwin Felter and his wife Sarah and children Nellie, Willie and Mary were enumerated at the corner of South Water Street and Mary Street.  In 1861, deed records indicate that Sarah Ann Felter bought the property from William S. Beard (Liber 58, p. 105).

Binghamton became a city in 1867. The Felters were enumerated at the site in the 1870 and 1880 censuses. Darwin Felter was identified as Superintendent of the City Water Works. In 1890, according to the city directory, the address had changed from South Water Street to Conklin Avenue. Darwin Felter was still living in the house in 1900, as shown in the 1900 census. In that census, his wife of 10 years was listed as Margaret. The house stayed in the family after Darwin's death. In 1910 and 1920, Nellie and her husband David Munro and her brother William were living at 30 Conklin Avenue. The Felter descendants owned the property until Nellie and William sold the property to Alexander S. Williamson on 28 November 1928. In 1936, according to the Binghamton City Directory, Charles Baker (non-owner) was living there. On 26 October 1936, Dr. Charles F. and Mary E. Hawley purchased the property (Liber 468, p. 298) from the Williamsons. Doctor Hawley establish his office on the first floor in the rear of the large house, with therest of the structure devoted to living space for the family, which consisted of Dr. and Mrs. Hawley and their infant daughter. This was the Hawley residence and Dr. Hawley's office for nineteen years. In 1955, the State of New York confiscated the house and land to build the State Street Bridge across the Susquehanna River, a sad end to the life of a beloved old house. 

Family legend has it that the house was a stop on the Underground Railway during the Civil War. However, no records have been found to verify that claim.

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