Four Keuka cottages now National Historic District

Gwen Chamberlain The Chronicle-Express
The four cottages at Central Point near Keuka Village are now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Without looking at the sign designating the nearby structures as historically significant, anyone driving past a series of classic cottages on Keuka Village Road on Keuka Lake’s eastern shore can tell there is a wealth of memories in those walls.

The cottages, a neat row of four cottages — Ultimatum, Marijean, Central Point (aka Villula), and Sans Souci — some that have been owned by the same family for generations, were recently identified as a historic district on the National Registry of Historic Places.

Kay Thomas, of the Town of Wayne History Group, says the architect and builder of the cottages was Jeptha A. Potter,  a locally prominent farmer and businessman and a native of the Town of Potter.  He was also a descendant of Judge William Potter, one of the first settlers of Yates County and a great nephew of Jemima Wilkinson, the Public Universal Friend.

The cottages, built in 1882, were the center of summer life for many families, and served as a steamboat stop where visitors were known to carve their names in the boards of the docks.

Many family members gathered by the side of the road recently for the long-awaited unveiling of a sign designating the four cottages as a National Historic District.

Within the coming months, an interpretive sign will be installed where the Sackett’s General Store was located at Keuka Landing. Back in the day, the keys to each of the cottages hung on a hook at Sackett’s, according to Jane Chapman, who has spent nearly every summer of her 92 years at Villula.

“I can’t think of words to describe how this feels,” she said after watching Wayne Supervisor Stephan Butchko unveil the historic district sign. “My father’s whole life centered around this place,” she said

Her father, Clifford Young, was one of four children in a family who would visit the area from Elmira by taking a train to Hammondsport and then a steamboat to Central Point. To get groceries, they would often travel to Penn Yan by boat she explains.

A Presbyterian minister, and although he and his wife were raising their own family on Long Island, the family found a way to visit Keuka Lake each summer except during his service in World Wars I and II. They rented cottages until they were able to buy the cottage that has remained in the family since.

Jane became a teacher in Sayre, Pa., so she was able to bring her own family to the lake each summer.

The process to designate the Central Point Cottages as a historic district began in 2007, according to Butchko, who praised the efforts of the Wayne History Group and the cottage owners for their work in securing the designation.

During the brief, informal ceremony to unveil the sign, Wayne Town Supervisor Stephen Butchko said, “It’s not really about saving an old building, but it’s really about people. It’s about the community. and our cultural heritage. It’s about our economy, our environment and our well-being. Mostly it’s about learning about our past. Historic preservation is not just about blue-haired grandmothers saving mansions. It’s about places — everyday places — places that really played a role in a community.”