Archeology on East Elm

John Christensen
A sinkhole repair became an impromptu archeological dig last week, exposing some of Penn Yan’s earliest public works.

DPW dig reveals some village history

Beginning the week of July 13, the Village of Penn Yan’s DPW started working on a sinkhole that opened the previous on East Elm Street at the Main Street intersection. Street Supervisor Tim Marcellus says the cause of the sinkhole was a collapsed storm drain. He expects the repairs to continue this week, with intermittent closures as they progress. He warns driver to expect congested traffic on Main Street and to please be aware of flaggers and workers at all times in work zones.

As unexpected as the sinkhole was, what the excavation revealed was even more so. As the DPW crew began to dig, it became an exploration of Penn Yan’s earliest public works. The storm drain, Marcellus says, was some of the last of the original brick arch-work tunnel put down before Main Street was paved with brick and even before the Penn Yan & Keuka Park Railroad’s trolley line was laid down from the Penn Yan railroad station on East Elm (then Jacob Street) all the way out to Branchport until it closed in the 1920s.

The dig revealed the original 1910s era brick street paving below the layers of asphalt, as well as the ties of the trolley line that were left in place after the rails were removed. Getting deeper showed the height of a brick manhole, an old iron main of unknown use crossing the intersection diagonally, and even the abandoned electric cable that once powered and controlled the traffic light that once stood in the middle of the intersection.

The collapsed brick arch drain was replaced with a modern plastic pipe from Main to a newer storm drain under East Elm. But Marcellus says one mystery remains. Coming from Main St. is still one section of the arched brick that no one is sure from where it originated or what its purpose is. Just to be safe, it was tied into the new pipe as well.