Looking At Jamestown In 1856

The Hometown History column is presented by the Fenton History Center and The Post-Journal. Each Friday, a distinct item from the Fenton History Center collections or archival special collections will be featured. Learn about your hometown history through parts of its past.

If one of the items featured brings back some memories or brings up a question, please contact the Fenton History Center at 664-6256 or information@fentonhistorycenter.org to share your memory or get an answer to your question.

An item that has been in the Fenton History Center collection is a large map, about 40-by-48 inches, of Jamestown, drawn in 1856 by cartographer D. McCarthy of Philadelphia. It hung in the entrance hall of the museum for many years to show visitors early Jamestown.

Because it is also a reference tool, it has been moved to the Research Center at the Hall House. But don’t worry, there is not an empty wall space left at the mansion. That has been filled with the display about the members of the Fenton family who occupied the house since it was built in 1863-64, until the death of Mrs. Fenton in 1901.

The map is now hanging in the Research Center where it is not exposed to light except when the lights are on in one area of the stacks. Compared to what we are familiar with today, some street names have been changed, and some streets, particularly limits of the numbered streets, have been realigned. It does not include all of what we know today as the city of Jamestown. Much of the area not included on the map was still undeveloped, although owned by residents of Jamestown. Some of the street names that have changed include: James Street is now Prendergast Avenue; Distillery Street is now the northern part of Winsor Street above Second Street; Henry Street is now Lakeview Avenue; Bridge Street went from Chandler Street near Second Street south to about Allen Street where it became Quaker Street and it is all now Foote Avenue; Warren Street is now South Main Street and Busti Street is now Forest Avenue.

Along the sides and the bottom of the map are drawings of some of the homes and businesses in Jamestown in 1856. With the map we displayed a label containing the information about the location of these buildings along with the information Clayburne B. Sampson added as to what was in each location in 1942. We are now in the process of updating this information to the present day because a number of buildings described in 1942 are now gone, replaced or altered. The top left hand drawing is the Allen House at the southeast corner of Third and Main and other businesses located south along Main Street. This corner is now occupied by the M&T Bank building. Most of the buildings in the drawing were destroyed in the 1861 fire that burned Main Street between Second and Third streets. Drawings of homes on Third, Fourth and Fifth streets are included as are some of the early and successful businesses.

A large wall map of Chautauqua County was prepared in 1854, and in 1867 and 1881, atlases of Chautauqua County were prepared and they all included drawings of some of the homes and businesses of Jamestown or other communities. The 1888 atlas of Jamestown did not have any drawings of homes or businesses but it does show the expansion of Jamestown since the 1856 map.

A series of maps over time can show the development of an area and the changes, both “good” and “bad,” that have taken place. Today with Google Earth and various sites on the Internet that offer maps from many time periods and places, one can trace the changes in their neighborhood or on their continent.

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The purpose of the Fenton History Center is to gather and teach about southern Chautauqua County’s history through artifacts, ephemeral and oral histories, and other pieces of the past.

Visit www.fentonhistorycenter.org for more information on upcoming events.

If you would like to donate to the collections or support the work of the Fenton History Center, call 664-6256 or visit the center at 67 Washington St., just south of the Washington Street Bridge.