Walking Tour of Westfield

French-Portage Road
Historical District


 Return to Chautauqua County Gen Web page.

     Text prepared by Mary "Billie" Dibble,
staff member of Patterson Library and

Town of Westfield Historian.

March 1994


A Brief History

The first European settlement of Chautauqua County began when John and James McMahan of Pennsylvania purchased nearly 27,000 acres of wilderness land from the Holland Land Company. The following spring of 1802, James McMahan returned to the Cross Roads, the early name for Westfield, to clear the first land in the county. He planted the first crop, built a log cabin for his family and brought them here to live. Soon, other sturdy pioneers were moving into the area. As early as 1804, mills were being built along Chautauqua Creek. The mills were run by the power provided by this swift flowing stream.
In 1829, the new town of Westfield was formed from parts of Ripley and Portland. Some authorities believe the new town received its name because it was the west field of Portland. Westfield continued to grow with most of the business centered on the east side of the creek. Four years after the town was "erected”, the Village of Westfield, which lies within the township, was incorporated.
Barcelona or Portland Harbor, as it was known in its early days, became a thriving business center. In 1828, Congress passed an act stating that the Secretary of the Treasury should be empowered to provide a lighthouse at a proper site at or near Portland Harbor on Lake Erie. Gas lights were turned on in the new Barcelona Lighthouse in 1830, making it the first light house in the world to be lit by natural gas.
By the middle of the nineteenth century, railroads influenced the decline in lake traffic. The Buffalo and State Line Railroad Company opened a line from Dunkirk to the Pennsylvania line in 1852, thus establishing Westfield’s first connection with railroading.
The Concord grape was introduced to the Westfield area in 1859-60. By the 1890’s, too many grapes on the market made prices drop and the industry threatened to decline. In the summer of 1897, Dr. Charles Welch and his father visited Westfield and selected a building site for their grape juice factory. The grape industry again flourished. Soon other grape juice plants and canning factories were built and Westfield was known as The Grape Juice Capital of the World.
Today, you will be viewing some of the beautiful old homes and buildings in the part of the village designated a few years ago as the French-Portage Road Historical District. Most of them were built in the nineteenth century and are of interest architecturally or historically. Long before the first European settlers came to the Cross Roads, the French had cut a road from the mouth of the creek just west of Barcelona to Chautauqua Lake, hence the name of the historical district.
Westfield retains much of the charm of her past. We hope you will not only enjoy your tour of this part of the village, but also visit the antique shops, eateries and other businesses along our friendly Main Street.
 

1. Patterson Library, 40 S. Portage Street
Your tour begins at Patterson Library, which was created by a bequest of $100,000 in the will of Hannah Whiting Patterson in 1894. The Library was chartered by the Regents of New York State on March 19, 1896 and operated from temporary quarters housed in the current YWCA building. On August 1, 1908, there was a grand celebration when the present building was officially opened and dedicated in memory of Miss Patterson’s parents, George Washington Patterson and Hannah Dickey Patterson. The edifice is of Greek Classic design, built of white marble, granite and gray brick with a cut stone foundation and basement. Patterson Library, known as Westfield’s “magnificent legacy”, has circulated over six million library materials in its history and today serves as a multi-cultural center for Westfield and the surrounding area. The Art Gallery of Patterson Library was established in 1971 and presents eight exhibitions annually.
Millstones: It is proved beyond a doubt that the mill stones lying in front of Patterson Library ground the first grain that was taken to mill in Chautauqua County. John McMahan was the first owner of these stones. The stones served McMahan until the War of 1812.
Bjorge Sculpture: Titled “Form Following Function”, the massive piece of four-inch steel plate with its simple lines to the south of the Library, is the work of John Bjorge. Commissioned by The Committee for the Visual Arts, it was presented to the library at no cost.
 

2. Young Women’s Christian Association, 58 S. Portage Street
The YWCA of Westfield was organized in April of 1894. After operating from rented rooms for several years, the association relocated to its current address in 1910. The board of directors were planning to construct a new building in order to offer additional programming when the present building became available. That, of course, was when the Patterson Library moved to the new location at 40 S. Portage Street. It is believed that the oldest part of the building was once a residence of a son of Deacon William Couch, a weaver, who came to Westfield from Massachusetts in 1815. The building became a part of the Patterson family estate in 1897. In 1941, thanks to an endowment from the will of Dr. W.J. Moore, the YWCA was able to remodel its ‘house' to better serve the community.

3. Octagon House, Corner of S. Portage and Chase Streets
Although this house is not a true octagon, it attracts attention. Its history is sketchy, but in 1877 a map of the village indicates the owner to be Mr. Harris. William Vorce came into possession of the Octagon House in 1889 when Mr. Harris took the Vorce farm as part of a real estate agreement and when Mr. Vorce bought Mr. Harris’s interest in the Westfield Grist Mill. In 1908, the local newspaper reported that Miss Alice Kent made improvements to her new purchase. The house has changed hands several times since Miss Kent’s time and is currently divided into a number of small apartments.

4. Hathaway House, 75 S. Portage Street
The Hathaway House was built around 1850 on property that was part of the James McClurg Allotment. The home is an example of modest Greek Revival architecture as evidenced by the gable roof, front door with sidelights and transom, Doric pilasters and entablature surround, mitered arch window surrounds and cornice returns. The property was purchased by Mary E. Hathaway in 1863, and remained in the Hathaway family until sold in 1965.

5. Byron Fenner House, 81 S. Portage Street
This house is noted for its stick style architecture, one of the most distinctly American styles of the nineteenth century. It was built in the 1870’s by Byron Fenner. Mr. Fenner was a pharmacist who wrote the Fenner Formulary, a technical work dealing with the formulation of medidnal substances and, eventually, 15 revised and expanded editions were published of the title. The rooms of the home were once filled with the apparatus needed for the preparation of medications and chemical experiments. Later the Fenner House became the home of Carl Nordell, a well-known visual artist.

6. Eason House, 97 S. Portage Street
The Eason House stands on the site of a log cabin built by pioneer David Eason when he came to Westfield in 1808. The house is an example of Eclectic Architecture because its design is a blend of several different styles. The steep roof with the central gable and window with pointed arch suggests Gothic Revival. The brackets under the wide eaves are Italianate in flavor. The doorway is definitely Greek Revival. The three styles in one building suggest that it might have been constructed when all three styles were popular, circa 1850.

7. Eber Stone House, 100 S. Portage Street
The Eber Stone House, a fine example of Federal Architecture of the early days of the Republic, was built between 1815 and 1820 by one of the first mill owners on the Chautauqua Creek. Eber Stone came to Westfield in 1813 from Connecticut to join his brother-in-law, Amos Atwater, in the milling business. Mrs. Julia Fenner bought the house in 1876 and owned it until 1907. During most of that period it was occupied by Charles Fosdick, who wrote most of his famous adventure books under the pen name of Harry Castlemon while living there.

8. The York House, 108 S. Portage Street
The red brick mansion was built in Civil War times by George P. York, who was one of the most important tool manufacturers in the tri-state area. His iron works was for years the biggest industry in Westfield. The last member of the York family died in 1928 and the house was sold by her heirs to Anna Christine St. Germaine Rider. Anna Christine, as she was called, was a member of the Metropolitan Opera Company in New York City. She was a clairvoyant and often held seances and readings in this house.

9. G.W. Patterson II House, 10 E. Second Street
This large white house was the home of George Washington Patterson II, brother of Hannah Patterson the benefactress of Patterson library. George II has been called “the architect of modern Westfield”. He devoted his time, talents, leadership and money to the town. His wife, Frances Todd Patterson, also had an impact on the village as an organizer of women’s groups. The 22 room home of the Pattersons was a center of village social activity, with its dining room to accommodate 60 guests and a ballroom on the third floor.

10. Stephens-Kent House, 12 First Street
This Federal style home is located on land purchased from the Holland Land Company in 1809 and 1811. The home appears on the National Register of Historic Places. It was once occupied by local citizens L.P. Stephens and Darius Kent. It is considered to be one of Westfield’s most beautiful homes.

11. Carl Kingsbury House, 55 Elm Street
This fine example of Queen Anne Victorian was built in 1893 by Harry E. Wratten who was the builder of some fifty Westfield homes. The house is an irregular plan with a many-sided corner tower. The intricacy of the porches is another Queen Anne detail. Mr. Kingsbury was a member of the bar and also established an insurance business.

12. St. Peter’s Episcopal Rectory, 22 First Street
St. Peter’s Rectory was built about 1860 and shows Italianate and Italian villa influences. It was the home of Dr. Thomas David Strong until his death in 1911. Dr. Strong was a prominent physician who served this community for almost sixty years. During the 1920’s the home was purchased from D.K. Falvay to serve as the St. Peter’s Episcopal Church Rectory.

13. Presbyterian Manse, 54 Elm Street
The Presbyterian Manse, completed in 1906, is an example of Neo-Tudor style. The most obvious charac-teristic of this style is the use of half timbering, a wood-frame construction in which the members are exposed on the outside of the wall. The architect for the house was E.E. Jarolemon of Niagara Falls, who also designed the Patterson Library.

14. Eason Hall, 23 Elm Street
When Miss Clara Eason died, she left the bulk of her estate to be used to erect a municipal building honoring her parents, David and Margaret Eason. Three years later the roomy Backman’s Rink was purchased from John Backman and at a time when the village was sadly in need of new quarters. Arrangements were immediately made for the remodeling of the building. The four pillars still stand, bidding welcome to all who enter by the front door, whether to pay a bill or tax, attend a meeting, entertainment or athletic event, or cast a vote on election day. The building just north of Eason Hall was Westfield’s Fire Hall for many years before the new one on Clinton Street was built.

15. Main Diner, Corner of Main and Elm Streets
In the 1920’s, shortly after Miss Macomber’s Shop which stood at the corner of Main and Elm was moved south on Elm Street to become a residence, Harold Washburn and Walter Moore opened a diner on the vacated lot. It was the last word in modern dining cars, “a first class hotel on wheels”. The “lunch car” on the corner has been a favorite gathering place ever since . It has changed hands a number of times during the past sixty-five years and in February of 1993, an adjoining building was annexed thus increasing the capacity of the building. While maintaining the old-fashioned atmosphere of the original diner, it has been decorated in a bright and cheerful manner and is still a pleasant and popular place to meet for dining or chatting.

16. The Westfield Republican, 39-41 Main Street
Although the building at 39-41 Main Street is not the original location for The Westfield Republican, our local weekly newspaper, this might be a good time to note that The Republican was the first Republican Party paper organized in the country and is now the oldest Republican newspaper in the United States. It was established in 1855.

17. Chautauqua-Erie Telephone Building, 30 Main Street
The beautiful architecture of Westfield’s Telephone Building has enhanced the Main Street since 1970. Old timers know, however, that the Brewer Block or the bank building stood on the site for more than a century.

18. Old Stone Tavern, 35 Main Street
The oldest building on the business row at the jog was once known as the Stone Tavern, so named for the material from which it was built. The answer to the question as to how it happened that the building projects so far out in front of the building adjoining it on the west is undoubtedly the fact that in the old days, Gunnard’s was not in existence, but the space it occupied was then an alley at the end of the business row. The alley was used to reach the barns of one of the old stage companies in the rear of the stone building whose offices were located in the tavern.

19. The Spencer Block, North East Corner of Portage and Main Streets
The Spencer Block was built in 1872 by Dr. John Spencer. The top floor of the block was named Virginia Hall in honor of Dr. Spencer’s daughter. The Hall was at one time the social and entertainment center of Westfield. At the present time, the upper floors of the Spencer Building house Das Puppenspiel, a group of professional puppeteers who are known for their artistry both nationally and internationally.

20. Portage Inn, 24-30 N. Portage Street
When Westfield was a busy little railroad center, several fine hotels were located in the village. Portage Inn was one of these. Remodeled from the old paper warehouse of H.L. Kent in 1908, the change was so complete that it practically became a new three-storied brick building, one of the most modern hotels in Western New York. In addition to its beautiful dining room, there were 27 sleeping rooms on the second and third floors. It has been sometime since the Portage Inn has offered sleeping rooms for rent, but the restaurant is still famous for its delectable meals served in warm and friendly surroundings.

21. Old Grand Theater Site, Corner of Main and N. Portage Streets
The old Grand Theater stood at the northwest corner of Main and Portage Streets for many years. It was a sad day in 1993 when it was demolished after standing empty for sometime. The space left after the demolition is the proposed site for a larger-than-life bronze statue of Abraham Lincoln and Grace Bedell, the little Westfield girl who wrote Mr. Lincoln suggesting that he might get more votes if he were to grow a beard. Told the world over is the story of the president-elect calling the young miss to the platform when an inaugural train stopped in Westfield, kissing her and showing her his new whiskers. A statue marking Westfield as the place where the event happened would surely be of interest to travelers approaching the center of town from any direction.

22. Main Street Viaduct
Probably the greatest change in the appearance of Main Street came about when the little bridge crossing Chautauqua Creek was replaced by a viaduct at a higher elevation. This construction placed many of Westfield’s businesses under the viaduct including the old trolley station of the JW and NW Line which ran from Jamestown to Westfield. The first Buffalo and Lake Erie Trolley crossed the new viaduct on New Year's Day in 1909, making it possible for travellers to ride the street car from Buffalo to Erie, PA, without having to walk across the little bridge spanning the creek. In the late 1980’s, the first viaduct was rebuilt resulting in the present bridge.

23. Welch Office Building, Corner of S. Portage and Main Streets
The Welch Building was constructed in 1909-10 by Dr. Charles E. Welch. This imposing structure in the Academic Revival style was designed to have four stores on the first floor, offices on the second and an auditorium called Welch Hall on the third. Welch Hall was large enough to accommodate 400 people. In 1911, a fine restaurant known as Motor Inn was opened on the first floor. Later the Westfield Post Office was located in this building. In 1921, the company bought the Welch Block from Dr. Welch and moved the offices from the factory on the west side of North Portage Street into this building. Much later in 1966, the row of old buildings south of the Welch Block were removed and a large addition to the Welch building was constructed

24. Moore Park
A out 1815, James McClurg, one of Westfield’s early pioneers, decided to build a permanent home to replace the little combined house and store made of logs which stood at the southwest corner of this beautiful park. He chose a site back from the road on the southeast corner of Main and Portage Streets and presented the Village with a plot of land in front for a permanent open public meeting ground. Later he donated land on the west for a Presbyterian Meeting House and on the right for an Episcopal Church. For many years, an ornamental iron fence separated the McClurg mansion from the park. In 1938, the will of Dr. William Moore, a grandson of James McClurg, who had resided in the mansion for many years, offered the residence and grounds to the village for a park. The gift was accepted and the fence was removed. Moore Park was enlarged considerably.

The Gazebo: Dedication of the Gazebo, the Deutchmeister Memorial Bandstand, honoring former band members took place in 1985. Alva “Mattie” Mathews, one of several deceased members of the Deutchrneisters, was specially recognized in the dedication ceremony. Organized about 1965, Westfield’s famous Deutchmeister Band has played to audiences locally and in Florida, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Canada, and Germany.

Memorial Monument: The memorial monument, a lasting tribute to all who served their country in time of war or conflict, was placed just in front of the flag pole in Moore Park on Sunday, May 23, 1971. Sheldon A. Greene, Westfield’s mayor at the tirne, made the dedication. The inscription carefully chosen for the marker was, “In loving and perpetual memory of those who answered the country’s call in time of need.” In 1993, American Legion Post #327 placed the bronze plaque on the monument listing the names of those who made the supreme sacrifice in twentieth century wars.

The Grape Vine: The Grape Vine in the park marks Westfield as the center of the grape-growing area and reminds visitors that the Village was once known as “The Grape Juice Capital of the World”.

The Peace Pole: The Peace Pole sponsored by the American Association of University Women, was dedicated in 1993. The Peace Pole joins thousands of others in the U.S. to remind all to strive toward a peaceful world and expresses the thought, “May peace be in you, May peace be with you.”

25. St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, Bordering East of Moore Park
St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, which was built during 1831-32, is an example of the Early Gothic Revival style. An ambitious group of citizens joined in January of 1830 to organize the parish. The following year they decided to build the church and by August 1833. the first service was held in the unfinished structure. Since that time there have been several additions to the structure.
 

26. Presbyterian Church, Bordering West of Moore Park
The First Presbyterian Church of Westfield was constructed during the years 1878-79. It was built in the High Victorian Gothic style. A church building, dedicated in 1874, had been destroyed by an unfortunate fire, and the new church was built almost immediately. The church dedicated on February 27, 1879 was nearly an exact reproduction of the one that burned. In 1962, an addition to house the Christian education program brought about the demolition of the south wing and the side steeple. Of the remaining towers, one is 176 feet in height and the other 98 feet.
 

27. McClurg Mansion, Center of Moore Park
The McClurg Mansion here on the village common was builtin 1818-20 by a Scots-Irish merchant, JamesMcClurg. It is said that the owner baked the bricks, prepared the lumber and brought bricklayers from Pittsburgh to construct this beautiful building which was known as “McClurg’s Folly” because of its large rooms and high ceilings, so much in contrast to the crude log cabins around it. The mansion was occupied by William H. Seward from 1836 through 1838. He used the octagon room in the mansion as the Holland Land Company office. In 1950, the Chautauqua County Historical Society obtained a seventy-five year lease from the Village of Westfield to inhabit the mansion. The Society has restored it and furnished it in nineteenth century style. It is now a fine museum, open to the public. Many groups, especially school classes, visit the mansion each year for a taste of fascinating local history. We invite you to do the same as this walking tour ends here.



This walking tour is meant to be a small sarnpling of Westfield’s places of interest and is not meant to be all-inclusive. The Patterson Library plans to publish other walking and driving tours for residents and visitors.